The Malik Report
by George Malik on 03/18/12 at 07:30 AM ET
The Red Wings chose not to incur a fine for flying out of San Jose at a late hour, but given the toll going 0-2-and-1 on their West Coast road trip took upon their chances of harboring any hopes of avoiding a first-round match-up against the Nashville Predators, who the Wings lead by two points in the Central Division standings thanks to a favor from the Los Angeles Kings, and given that Darren Helm (left knee), Joey MacDonald (back spasms, possible disc issue), Nicklas Lidstrom (bone bruise on his left ankle) and Johan Franzen (back spasms) will form a long line at an MRI machine at the Detroit Medical Center instead of a line to do drills at the Wings’ practice on Monday morning…
You’d think that the Wings, whose distressing 3-2 overtime loss to the San Jose Sharks was nothing more than an exclamation point upon a road trip which included losses to LA and Anaheim, would want to get out of dodge as fast as possible. The Wings have gone 3-8-and-2 since defeating the same Sharks on February 17th, and given the revolving door that’s been placed in front of the trainer’s room…
Even I’m starting to worry whether the Wings have the bodies necessary, never mind the will, resolve, or determination, to salvage something out of their last 10 regular season games. At least seven of those will be played at home, though the Wings haven’t been able to win there recently, either.
Lets’ get the issue of most importance, perhaps result included, take care of first. MLive’s Ansar Khan lets us know about what happened to Darren Helm after he left the ice during a TV timeout, having sustained a knee-on-knee hit, albeit an inadvertent one, from Sharks forward Dominic Moore:
Helm isn’t certain how long he will be out, with what appears to be a left knee or leg injury suffered in Saturday’s 3-2 overtime loss to the San Jose Sharks, but it doesn’t sound like it’s a day-to-day situation. Helm said he is concerned as he limped out of the dressing room. The team called it a lower-body injury.
“A little bit (concerned), more than I want to be right now,’’ Helm said. “Pretty close to the end of the season, I was hoping I’d be healthy and playing my best going into the playoffs. That obviously is not going to be the case. Hopefully, I’ll be healthy and excited to play the first game of the playoffs. Hopefully I’ll be ready before that. I don’t know how long it’s going to take. We’ll find out on Monday.’‘
He will have an MRI Monday. The team is flying back home on Sunday. The speedy center was injured with 8:37 remaining in the third period. Helm hit Dominic Moore, but the Detroit player got the worst of the exchange.
“I was going to hit Moore, kind of took not the best angle on him,’’ Helm said. “He kind of jumped out of the way a little bit, trying to avoid the hit and we just kind of collided. I was trying to hit him pretty good and he got out of the way. It was just one of those funky collisions. I was in pain right away.’‘
On Twitter, the Free Press’s Helene St. James and Fox Sports Detroit’s Trevor Thompson reported that Helm couldn’t bend his leg very well and appeared to be in a significant chunk of pain, and Helm didn’t deny it:
“As soon as I jumped on (the ice) I knew right away I couldn’t go,’’ Helm said. Asked if this is more than just a day-to-day injury, he said, “I don’t know. Maybe I’ll feel good tomorrow. We’ll see. I don’t think that’s the case, but we’ll find out Monday when I do some tests.’‘
He added, “I’ve had similar injuries. This is more painful than other times.’‘
Wings coach Mike Babcock’s less than delighted with, and, I want to get this right, the absences of Jonathan Ericsson (wrist), Johan Franzen (back), now Helm (left knee), Jakub Kindl (strained oblique muscle), Nicklas Lidstrom (ankle) and Joey MacDonald (back), nor is he happy that the team’s had to deal with playing without Datsyuk (knee), Bertuzzi (groin) or Howard (groin, broken index finger):
“We need to get a break with some injuries here,’’ Babcock said. “Get Mule and E and Nick back and be the kind of team we’re capable of being, because we’re not as good right now. It’s gone on long enough; we need to get rolling.’‘
Helm told St. James that he simply hopes he’ll be back by the time the Wings’ regular season ends in three weeks:
“It’s a disappointing development, all the more so considering there are only 10 games before the playoffs. “We’re pretty close to the end of the season,” Helm said. “I was hoping to be healthy and playing my best going into the playoffs, but that’s obviously not going to be the case. Hopefully, I’ll be healthy and excited to play for first game of the playoffs - but, hopefully I’m ready before that, too. I don’t know how long it’s going to take. We’re going to have to find out Monday.”
But even Helm doesn’t want to panic just yet, either, as he told DetroitRedWings.com’s Bill Roose:
Helm tried to remain confident when he was asked if he thought the injury was beyond a day-to-day status. “I don’t know, maybe I’ll feel good tomorrow. We’ll see. I don’t think that’s the case but we’ll find out Monday when I do some tests.”
Now I’m gonna apologize to Sharks fans who read this in advance, because I’m simply too tired and simply too pissed off about the Wings’ spate of play and injuries of late that I’m not going to be very objective this morning. In the other locker room, the Sharks believed that rallying to win the game in overtime and remain not only in 8th place, but stunningly, all of one point out of third place in the Western Conference, was justice done, as they told Comcast Sportsnet Bay Area’s Kevin Kurz:
The Sharks took a 2-1 lead into the third period before Detroit tied it on a controversial non-call. Valtteri Filppula broke in after what looked to be interference by Henrik Zetterberg on Marc-Edouard Vlasic at the blue line. Filppula’s wrist shot beat Antti Niemi at 8:12, though, and the game was knotted at 2-2.
“If you want to call it getting tied up, we’ll leave it at that,” Vlasic scoffed. “But, we came back and got the win.”
“We saw it, basically, the same way you did,” McLellan said, when it was suggested that there should have been a minor penalty on Zetterberg. “It’s a fast game, they chose not to call it, and it resulted in a goal. I think there was some frustration. But, we settled things down and got reorganized, and away we went.”
On the winning goal, Havlat took the original shot from the circle after a nice dish from the slot by Dominic Moore. Justin Braun poked for the rebound, which popped out to the side of the net, where Havlat gathered it in. Howard was already out of position at that point, and Havlat easily fired it past Ian White defending in the crease.
“On the rebound there, I just had to beat the D,” Havlat said.
Yeah, “out of position.” That’s what happens when Justin Braun all of feels Justin Abdelkader rumbling in behind him and does a belly-flop onto Jimmy Howard, because that’s what it looked like he did before Abdelkader ended up doing the dumb thing that forwards do as Havlat scored—ending up falling on Howard himself to shove Braun away while Ian White futilely attempted to play goal as Havlat fired the puck into an empty net.
Never mind the fact that, from a Wings fan’s perspective, Vlasic was doing a lovely job of twisting Zetterberg to keep him offsides (Zetterberg’s skates did hit the blueline to tag up just before Filppula pulled the puck off the blueline and carried it into the offensive zone) after what looked like an inadvertent collision, too…
That being said, the Wings may have gotten lucky given that they went 0-for-2 and the Sharks went 0-for-3 on a night where the refs only called “ticky-tack fouls,” and no more—including yet another bizarre goalie interference because he was near the crease call on Tomas Holmstrom—and especially given that the Wings gave up a goal on the game’s first shift:
The Sharks jumped out to a 1-0 lead after a long opening shift by the top line to start the game. Standing behind the net, Joe Thornton passed in front to Joe Pavelski at the bottom of the circle. Pavelski’s shot through traffic, including Logan Couture standing in front of the crease, bounced right back to the winger and he deposited his 25th goal at the 48-second mark, tying his career high.
“Jumbo was able to settle it down behind the net. He makes a good play. Obviously the first one doesn’t get there, Coutch keeps it alive, and we get rewarded and it finds a hole,” Pavelski said.
Havlat gave the Sharks their first two-goal lead in nearly three weeks at 18:23, when his 40-foot wrist shot through the legs of Brad Stuart beat Jimmy Howard.
“I’ve got to have that,” Howard said. “Even though it’s a nice shot, nice play by him—using [Stuart] as a screen—they’re still far enough out that I can come up with that.”
Again, the Sharks are in a very different position than the team which might as well book a block of hotel rooms off in Nashville starting around the third week in April right now:
San Jose (36-25-10, 82 points) now trails the Pacific Division-leading Dallas Stars by a single point, with one game in hand. The Los Angeles Kings, who beat Nashville on Saturday, also have 82 points and have played one more game than the Sharks.
The Blues are now 8 points ahead of Detroit for the Division lead thanks to a 3-1 victory over Tampa Bay on Saturday, and the Blues lead the Wings in both overall wins (46 to 44) and regulation or overtime wins (42 to 37—for the record, the Predators, who are 2 points back of Detroit, have 37 “ROW’s” as well), and for the Sharks, they’re getting healthy at just the right time, as the Mercury News’s David Pollak noted:
Throughout their month-long struggles, the Sharks talked about the importance of getting Marty Havlat back in the lineup. Saturday night he showed why. Havlat—in only his second game back after missing 39 contests following hamstring tendon surgery—scored his second goal of the night with 1:37 left in overtime to give San Jose a hard-fought 3-2 victory over the Detroit Red Wings at HP Pavilion.
“He’s a very dynamic, top-end forward,” captain Joe Thornton said. “I didn’t think he’d make this much of an impact in two games, but he just looks fabulous out there.”
The two points moved San Jose to within one point of the Pacific Division lead with 82 points and into a tie with the Los Angeles Kings for the final playoff spot in the Western Conference, with the Sharks holding a game in hand. Havlat scored after Red Wings netminder Jimmy Howard made an initial save, but then got caught up in traffic as Justin Braun crashed the net.
The overtime hero who delivered that win spent 20:07 on the ice—about 90 seconds more than he did Thursday in his first game back. And while he was obviously happy with his performance, Havlat said he actually felt a little better after the first game.
“I was dying since the middle of the game tonight,” Havlat said, citing tired legs. “It doesn’t matter how I do, it’s just that we win as a team.”
Colin White, Jim Vandermeer and Michal Handzus were healthy scratches, and McLellan said TJ Galiardi was kept out of the lineup for an unspecified health reason. Tommy Wingels missed his third game with an upper body injury.
While the Sharks gushed to NHL.com’s Eric Gilmore about how darn swell their win turned out to be…
“You can begin passing judgment,” Sharks coach Todd McLellan said. “He’s such an important part of our hockey club. And I don’t even think we realize yet how much of an impact he can have. He worked very hard when he was hurt. I think we were all anxious to get him back. He’s played two very good games. Now the key is, the emotional part of returning, he’s got to maintain that level, and I’m pretty confident he can do it.”
Joe Pavelski scored San Jose’s other goal, as the Sharks sent the battered Red Wings to their fourth straight defeat and wrapped up the season series, 3-1. Sharks goaltender Antti Niemi made 26 saves and improved to 8-2-1 lifetime against the Red Wings. Pavel Datsyuk, in his first game back since undergoing knee surgery on Feb. 21, scored for the Red Wings in the fourth and final game of their winless road trip. Valterri Filppula also scored for Detroit, and Jimmy Howard stopped 32 of 35 shots. On his game-winner, Havlat got to a rebound in front of the Red Wings’ crease and flipped the puck past Howard.
“I didn’t know it was going to be like this,” Havlat said of his return. “I feel a little better (tonight). The first night I was dying in the middle of the game. Not tonight. It’s not how I do right now. We just have to win games as a team. It doesn’t matter who scores the goals. We needed two points and we got them.”
After a scoreless second period, Filppula tied it 2-2, ripping a shot past Niemi from the left circle at 8:12 of the third. Moments earlier, Sharks forward Dominic Moore lost his stick and raced to get off the ice, but Filppula struck before the Sharks could readjust. McLellan thought the Red Wings got away with an interference penalty that led to the goal, but his team rallied to win its second straight game, two days after beating Nashville 2-1 in a shootout.
“Back-to-back is nice, but it’s going to take three, four, five, six sometimes to get it done, and we’re just starting,” McLellan said.
Pavelski scored just 48 seconds into the game, knocking his own rebound from close range past Howard for his 25th goal of the season, tying his career high. The Sharks scored in the opening two minutes for the third time in their past four games, gaining seven points during that stretch.
“It gets the crowd into it, obviously,” Pavelski said. “(It) gets the guys into it and establishes our game. We know we’re ready and we know we can play with them all night. If you score early you definitely have a little extra jump.”
The Associated Press’s recap more or less summarizes the disconnect between the Sharks’ perspectives and those of the Wings’ players and coach, thus its usage as a pivot point:
“It was a heck of a game,” McLellan said. “It feels like it’s late-March hockey right now. We’re going to have to keep playing tight games and try to find ways to win them.”
Pavel Datsyuk and Valtteri Filppula scored for the Red Wings, who have lost four straight. The Red Wings fell to 16-20-2 on the road this season and if they don’t fix those issues soon, might end up starting the playoffs away from home for a change. They lead Nashville by only two points for fourth place in the Western Conference.
“It was a better effort tonight, but not the start we wanted,” defenseman Brad Stuart said. “We found a way to get back into the game and get it to overtime. We still have to get better.”
While the Red Wings got Datsyuk back after missing 11 games because of right knee surgery, they were far from full strength. Defenseman Nicklas Lidstrom is back home nursing an ankle injury and leading goal scorer Johan Franzen missed the game with back spasms. Datsyuk did make an immediate impact, scoring off a seemingly impossible angle when he lifted the puck over Niemi from the bottom of the faceoff circle for his 17th goal with 1:14 left in the first period.
“He looked like a player who has been out but you know he’s going to get better,” coach Mike Babcock said. “That was a big deal for us to have him out there and give us some swagger.”
Babcock wasn’t exactly thrilled with the Wings’ first shift, as he told the Detroit News’s Gregg Krupa...
In the first period, the Sharks launched and immediate attack on the Red Wings, keeping the puck in the zone. The Wings got it out briefly, but brought it right back in. Then, at one point, the puck was close to Danny Cleary at the side boards, but he could not gather it. Several seconds later, it was in the back of the net behind Howard, and Joe Pavelski had his 25th goal of the season on a shot into the upper right corner of the goal. Howard never saw it, behind three bodies.
“Obviously, our first shift, we didn’t get the puck out of our zone,” Babcock sad. “We brought it back in the zone and dug it out of our own net. The second goal, we turned it over in the neutral zone.”
Late in the period, a Wings turnover in the neutral zone ended up on Patrick Marleau’s stick. He got it in quickly to Havlat, who scored only his third goal of the season on a rising shot. Havlat used Brad Stuart as a screen, but Howard, playing in his second game after recovering from a groin injury, did not like the goal.
“Even though that’s a nice shot, a nice goal by him using Stuie as screen, he’s still far enough out that, you know, I need to come up with that save for the guys,” Howard said. “But, as the game progressed, I started feeling more and more like myself, out there, again,” Howard said.
But the Wings answered 23 seconds later when Datsyuk fired a wrist shot from an extreme angle that beat Antti Niemi on the short side. It was the sort of goal Henrik Zetterberg has perfected, scoring from a seemingly impossible angle. Datsyuk said he was not shooting at a hole, but just firing the puck on the net.
“It’s hard to make a good decision in the corner,” Datsyuk said.
Datsyuk told DetroitRedWings.com’s Bill Roose that he felt no ill effects despite having missed almost a month of hockey…
“Usually first game back it feels like everybody flying and they are tougher than me, but this plan, every game is better,” said Datsyuk who logged is usual 19-minutes of ice-time in his return.
Twenty-three seconds after San Jose grabbed a two-goal cushion and seemingly had a stranglehold on the game, Datsyuk went to work, making a dazzling play in the corner to the left of Sharks goalie Antti Niemi. After making the Sharks’ All-Star center Joe Thornton look like a pylon in the corner, Datsyuk zipped a 27-foot snap shot from an unimaginable along the goal line that somehow beat Niemi over the shoulder.
“Really hard to make it good decision in corner,” Datsyuk said. “At least I have one shot when I come back and just shoot it in net.”
Datsyuk finished with one shot, three hits, a takeaway, a blocked shot and he won 12-of-19 face-offs.
“Just his presence out there, you know, that shot on the goal is amazing and just having him back out there just gives that whole line a boost,” goalie Jimmy Howard said.
The Wings picked up the pace in the second period and finally tied the game courtesy of a Sharks’ mistake in their own zone. Defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic attempted to clear the zone by sending the puck off the glass. However, Doug Janik was there to pick-off the pass with his hand and shoveled the puck to Valtteri Filppula, who regained entry into the zone, made a move to create separation from a Sharks’ defenseman and fired a rising shot which beat Niemi on the blocker side. The assist was Janik’s first as a Wing this season, and his first NHL point in 26 months, which, ironically, came in a 4-1 win over Sharks at HP Pavilion.
“I just tried to stay up there and keep it in and just chipped it to Fil and he did all of the work, he made a nice play,” Janik said. “It was rather an easy assist for me. It was just a play where I was trying to get the puck to the forward as quick as you can.”
“It was a good play by Havlat, just scooping it out there; there’s not much you can do when you have two guys laying on you,’’ Howard said. “It was just a battle out in front and they were able to get the loose puck and put it home.”
Said Babcock: “We had good opportunities and in the end, they slid by us, our sort out there, (Justin) Braun slipped by (Justin) Abdelkader going to the net and Abby ended up pushing him on top of Howie.’‘
Overall, Babcock said his team battled hard.
“Real good game out of (Brendan) Smith. Z’s line (Henrik Zetterberg with Filppula and Jiri Hudler) was dominant,’’ Babcock said. “I thought our game tonight was a step in the right direction.’‘
Said Stuart: “It’s hard to feel good about a game that you don’t win, but we can take some positives away from it. The puck management was better, and aside from the first 10 minutes, I thought we were right in it.’‘
That was the theme for the Wings, and I guess it’s hard to blame them for trying to take as many positives out of their loss as possible while speaking to the Free Press’s Helene St. James:
“It was a better effort, definitely,” Brad Stuart said. “Obviously, not the start we wanted, but I thought we battled back hard and found a way to get back it to overtime. You’d like to find a way to win, but I think it’s a step in the right direction, definitely. We’ve got to have those types of efforts more consistently.”
Havlat converted a rebound with 1:37 left to play, taking advantage of Howard being pinned in his crease.
“It was a good play by Havlat to scoop it out there and there’s not much you can do when you’ve got two guys laying on you,” Howard said. “It’s part of the game. It was just a battle out in front and they were able to get the loose puck and put it home.”
“This is probably the best effort of the road trip for us, so we can take some pride in that,” Howard said, “but we can’t just be satisfied with getting a point. We’ve got to find a way to establish ourselves and start winning games again.”
“I thought we battled hard,” coach Mike Babcock said. “I thought we did a good job. We’ve been on the road here, we’ve only gotten one out of a possible eight points. I thought our game in Nashville was in good game. I thought our game here was a step in the right direction. Our two previous games, we didn’t play hard enough, organized enough or committed enough to have any kind of success, so ideally, this is a step in the right direction.”
Make of that what you will.
Highlights: Comcast Sportsnet Bay Area posted a 2:26 highlight clip;
And the Red Wings’ website posted a slate of game highlights narrated by Ken Daniels and Larry Murphy:
Post-game: Comcast Sportsnet Bay Area posted a 1:55 video of the 3 stars being named and Martin Havlat speaking on ice, a four-and-a-half-minute clip of Sharks coach Todd McLellan’s post-game presser and a 2:18 interview with Martin Havlat;
The Detroit News posted an 11-image gallery;
Yahoo Sports posted a 12-image gallery;
NHL.com posted a 16-image gallery;
The Sharks’ website posted a 16-image gallery;
And the Red Wings’ website posted a 16-image gallery;
Shots 35-28 Sharks overall. The Wings out-shot San Jose 9-8 in the 1st, were out-shot 12-11 in the 2nd, out-shot 10-7 in the 3rd and out-shot 5-1 in OT.
The Wings went 0-for-2 in 4:00 of PP time; the Sharks went 0-for-3 in 6:00 of PP time.
Jimmy Howard stopped 32 of the 35 shots he faced; Antti Niemi stopped 26 of the 28 shots he faced.
The 3 stars, per the Sharks’ Dan Rusanowsky, were Niklas Kronwall, Joe Pavelski and Martin Havlat.
The Wings’ goals: Datsyuk (17) from Kronwall (19);
Filppula (23) from Janik (1).
Faceoffs 25-25 (50% won by both teams);
Blocked shots 19-18 San Jose;
Missed shots 17-12 San Jose (total attempts 70-59 San Jose—and if you’re keeping score at home, the Wings fired 28 shots on the net and another 30 wide or into Sharks players);
Hits 23-20 Detroit;
Giveaways 16-8 San Jose;
Takeaways 12-8 San Jose.
Faceoffs: Datsyuk went 12-and-7 (63%); Helm went 4-and-8 (33%); Zetterberg went 6-and-5 (55%); Emmerton went 1-and-3 (25%); Filppula went 1-and-1 (50%); Abdelkader won his only faceoff; Cleary lost his only faceoff.
Shots: Zetterberg led the team with 5 shots; Hudler and White had 4; Filppula had 3; Helm and Bertuzzi had 2; Smith, Cleary, Datsyuk, Miller, Quincey, Mursak, Emmerton and Holmstrom had 1.
Blocked attempts: White, Stuart and Zetterberg had 3 attempts blocked by Sharks players; Smith and Hudler had 2 attempts blocked; Cleary, Miller, Quincey, Janik, Helm and Bertuzzi had 1 attempt blocked.
Missed shots: Datsyuk and Mursak missed the net 2 times; Smith, Cleary, White, Stuart, Hudler, Quincey, Zetterberg and Kronwall missed the net 1 time.
Hits: Abdelkader led the team with 4 hits; Datsyuk, Helm and Bertuzzi had 3; Smith and Cleary had 2; Miller, Stuart, Janik, Filppula, Kronwall and Holmstrom had 1.
Giveaways: Datsyuk and Mursak had 2 giveaways; Stuart, Janik, Zetterberg and Bertuzzi had 1.
Takeaways: Smith, Datsyuk, Miller, Janik, Mursak, Zetterberg, Bertuzzi and Filppula had 1 takeaway.
Blocked opponent shots: Kronwall blocked 5 shots; Miller and Stuart blocked 3; Quincey blocked 2; Abdelkader, Datsyuk, White, Bertuzzi and Emmerton blocked 1.
Penalties taken: Abdelkader, Filppula and Holmstrom took minor penalties.
Plus-minus: The Wings finished at a collective -4. White finished at -2; Abdelkader, Cleary, Stuart and Kronwall finished at -1; Smith and Janik finished at +1.
Points: Datsyuk and Filppula had goals; Kronwall and Janik had assists.
Ice time: Kronwall led the team with 27:37 played; Stuart played 26:48; White played 23:04;
Quincey played 21:33; Zetterberg played 20:48; Filppula played 20:05;
Datsyuk played 19:10; Bertuzzi played 17:11; Cleary played 17:09;
Hudler played 16:56; Miller played 14:37; Smith played 14:09;
Janik layed 13:35; Abdelkader played 13:18; Helm played 12:28;
Holmstrom played 10:40; Emmerton played 10:08; Mursak played 7:56.
Part II: In the AHL and ECHL: The Grand Rapids Griffins salvaged their weekend via a 5-3 victory over the Hamilton Bulldogs, and in doing so, Gustav Nyquist’s 2-goal, 1-assist performance and 57t and 58th points tied and broke the Griffins’ rookie record for scoring.
• In the ECHL, Andrej Nestrasil scored a goal in the Toledo Walleye’s 4-3 shootout win over the Kalamazoo K-Wings. The Walleye’s and K-Wings’ websites provide recaps, as does the Kalamazoo Gazette’s Pam Shebast.
Part III: Red Wings notebooks: Ironically, MLive’s Ansar Khan spoke to Danny Cleary about his knee issues…
Detroit Red Wings forward Danny Cleary has undergone several forms of treatment in the past six weeks, trying to manage the discomfort in his left knee. He has had it drained four times and will have his third pain-killing injection on Thursday.
“It’s been the same since December,’’ Cleary said. “Some days it’s better than others. I’m hoping this (next shot) helps. I’ll know the first week of April if it’s settled in.’‘
It has been a difficult season for Cleary, who estimates he has been healthy a total of three weeks. He will have surgery on the knee after the season. For now, he must trudge forward for a team that has been riddled by injuries the past month.
“I don’t know where I’m at, it’s touch and go, day-to-day,’’ Cleary said. “It’s getting better. Some days are better than others. Nothing I can do right now.’‘
Cleary had gone 14 games without a goal heading into Saturday night’s game in San Jose. He had four points (all assists) in 11 games, after missing five games for treatment, which included a cortisone shot.
And the Free Press’s Helene St. James mentioned Cleary’s injury in light of the Wings’ attempts to fill a Johan Franzen-sized hole in the lineup…
Cleary played with Pavel Datsyuk and Todd Bertuzzi Saturday in what would be Datsyuk’s first game back since missing 11 because of knee surgery, and Bertuzzi’s second game back after missing four because of a groin injury. Cleary took the place of Johan Franzen, who is sidelined by back spasms, making for one barely healthy line.
“We think they’re good players,” coach Mike Babcock said. “We expect that they’re going to play well. We need them to play well if we’re going to be successful. We’d have liked to have the Mule, but those are the things that happen. Let’s just play hard. I think what happens when you have injuries is, it’s great, because you get to evaluate what you have. And you get to see who can do it by themselves, and who is a support player. Obviously we’ve seen some support players. When you are a dominant player like Pavel is, you can drag people along. He makes a line go by himself.”
Babcock acknowledged Cleary “has had a tough season with injuries; in saying that, we expect, and I think he expects, to be a good player. Bert’s no different. You need everyone going to be successful.”
While noting why Joey MacDonald’s having an MRI on Monday:
Backup goaltender Joey MacDonald is schedule to have an MRI exam Monday to see if a disc is causing the shooting nerve pain down one leg that has bothered him since Wednesday.
Cleary also spoke to the Detroit News’s Gregg Krupa about his injury...
Cleary said there is some improvement, at times, with four drainings and the lubricant shots, which Tomas Holmstrom also occasionally receives to comfort his dicey knees.
“I’m going to have surgery anyway,” Cleary said. “The jell is to settle it down so it doesn’t hurt so much. I’ve had two already and one more to go. And a few weeks after, if it settles down, it will alleviate the pain. And we’ll see.”
And while Babcock tossed a significant amount of hockey philosophy off after the Wings’ practice on Friday regarding the team’s numerous injuries…
“I think what happens when you have injuries is it’s great because you get to evaluate what you have, and you get to see who can do it by themselves and who’s a support player,” Babcock said, with a facial expression that showed he has enjoyed at least that aspect of the adversity. And, I mean, obviously, we’ve seen some support players.”
With three of six starters missing on the blue line, Babcock spent some time Friday huddled with defenseman Ian White in the dressing room after practice. In his first season with the Wings, White is proving one of the best acquisitions of the offseason. But when not playing at Lidstrom’s side, White’s role is much larger, particularly on the penalty kill. Some forwards’ roles may be reduced with Datsyuk’s return. But the loss of Franzen creates new challenges.
But 11 games from now, when the Wings seem destined to face the Predators in the first round of the playoffs, it is critical to either have all hands on deck or everyone feeling good about themselves.
“You need everyone going to be successful,” Babcock said. “And I think when you get to the critical time of the year and you talk about the playoffs, number one, you have to get in and, number two, I think you have to be feeling good about yourself when you are up against it.”
Babcock also pointed out that the injuries that Wings fans didn’t think were such a big deal in the losses of Jonathan Ericsson and Jakub Kindl have in fact “hurt” the team much more than anyone realized:
“I don’t think it’s just Nick,” coach Mike Babcock said when asked about problems on the back end. “I think it’s easy to say Nick’s missing, but so is Big E and so is Kindl. We haven’t moved the puck as good. If you watched our last game (4-0 loss to the Ducks), we turned the puck over coming out of our zone multiple times, just on half-wall turnovers and lack of execution. And when you’re a team built like we are, you’ve got to move the puck on the back. So, it’s been a challenge for our guys, that way. We got a lot of guys that I think are battling and trying like crazy. And actually we’ve been fairly good defensively in the fact that we cut our shots against down, I think we are down to something like 24 per game. But the reality is that we’ve made enough mistakes that they’re scoring and we’re not.”
Cue the irony alert’s reinforcements thanks to DetroitRedWings.com’s Bill Roose:
“We haven’t moved the puck good. If you watched our last game we turned the puck over coming out of our zone multiple times just on half-wall turnovers and lack of execution,” Wings coach Mike Babcock said. “You have to execute better and when you’re a team like we are, built the way we are, you have to move the puck on the back, so it’s been a challenge for our guys that way.”
With three players missing the only defensive pairing not affected by injuries has been the Niklas Kronwall-Brad Stuart tandem, who are a combined plus-1 in the last 11 games. Together, the other four blue liners – Ian White, Doug Janik, Kyle Quincey and rookie Brendan Smith – are a combined plus-2. One way that hasn’t been very difficult for the Wings in this injury-depleted stretch is limiting the number of shots that their goaltenders have had to face. Overall, the Wings are surrendering 26.8 shots per game, second in the league to the St. Louis Blues at 26.3 shots this season. However, since the injuries began to decimate the roster in late February, the Wings have allowed one fewer shots per game in the past 11 contests.
“We’ve got a lot of guys that are battling and trying like crazy, actually fairly good defensively in the fact that we’ve cut our shots down,” Babcock said. “But the reality is that we’ve made enough mistakes that they’re scoring and we’re not putting enough pressure on the other team.”
Babcock wants to see the Wings be harder on the puck and maintain possession through the neutral zone and gain access into the offensive zone with more regularity.
“When you’re not putting pressure on the other team, this neutral zone is just something that you just get through,” Babcock said. “You’re either playing in your zone or playing in their zone and it’s way more fun playing in their zone.”
And this is just an overload, again, per Roose:
Without Datsyuk in the lineup the Wings have posted a 3-7-1 record with a plus-5 goals differential at even-strength. The power play has also suffered in his absence, going just 3-for 44.
“We need other lines starting to score and contribute, to,” Bertuzzi said. “The Zetterberg line’s been playing very well. We just got to get our other lines working and producing and playing smarter, so he’ll just bring more depth.”
Datsyuk has work diligently to get back into playing shape with an eye on being back in rhythm for the playoffs, which begin in the second week of April.
“It’s enough time to get back in my kind of shape and everything, but we see,” Datsyuk said Saturday after the Wings’ morning skate. “It’s hard to say. Sometimes it’s enough, sometimes it’s not enough. I hope so I’ll be 100 (percent).”
• And if you didn’t think that the game-day updates and the Mercury News’s David Pollak’s story hammered home the point that Brad Stuart’s got two feet out the door, the Free Press’s St. James popped the water bottle off the net for emphasis’ sake:
When he re-signed with the Wings his wife, their two young sons and his teenage stepdaughter relocated to Detroit, but the transition didn’t go well.
“For my stepdaughter, it was too hard,” Stuart said. “She was 14 at the time; it was too hard to rip her away from everything she knew. It didn’t work out. We decided she should go back, that that would be best for her. So that changed things for us.”
She has one year left of high school now. Having his family so far away has been hard on Stuart; the boys, 5 and almost 4, learned to walk and talk while he has been working in Detroit. Visits aren’t a quick affair, even using direct flights from San Francisco. Playing for a California team—and it’s a safe bet both the Sharks, who drafted him and used him to trade for Joe Thornton, and the Kings, where he played before being traded to Detroit, would welcome him—would be much more ideal.
“Family is a priority,” Stuart said. “It’s just a matter of, I guess, what’s going to be the best for everyone. Right now, I don’t really have that answer.”
Stuart has been upfront with the Wings about this. Sometimes a team, when it knows a high-value player won’t be coming back, opts to trade him near the deadline, but general manager Ken Holland didn’t want to do that because, he said, “we’d only have to go out and replace him. Guys like him don’t grow on trees.” They still have the option of trading his rights before his contract expires, giving another team the inside track on negotiating a deal. His teammates hope he’ll stick around.
“I think that he is one of the best trades that’s been made since I got here,” Henrik Zetterberg said. “The force he comes in with, he plays so solid every single night. And he plays through everything—the amount of injuries he has played through is crazy—it’s almost like he doesn’t have any pain level. Hopefully we can find a way to keep him. It all comes down to he and his family.”
“I love playing here, everything about it,” Stuart said. “It’s a great culture, a great franchise. It’s just been hard on the family side of it.”
Part IV: Also of Red Wings-related note: According to the Tennessean’s Josh Cooper, the Predators can overtake the Wings in the standings if they win today in Anaheim. They’d have played the same games and would have fewer wins (44 versus 41), but would have 38 regulation or overtime wins to the Wings’ 37, which is the tiebreaker in terms of the standings;
• “If you missed it,” the Free Press’s sports department repeats USA Today’s Kevin Allen’s suggestion that Kris Draper, Brendan Shanahan and Jim Nill could become very good GM’s;
• Of note from the Sunday notebooks, part 1: the Toronto Sun’s Steve Simmons offers a little blather...
Speaking of Ilitch, if the Red Wings don’t come up with nine points in their final 11 games, they’ll miss out on a 100-point season for the first time since 1999. The Red Wings last missed the playoffs in 1990
• Of note from the Sunday notebook,s part 2: the Edmonton Journal’s Jim Matheson tossed off several quips of at least marginal Red Wings-related note, starting with Chris Osgood weighing in on the fact the goalies under 6 feet tall just don’t get drafted anymore:
Scouts will look at junior or European goalies under six feet, but how closely? Under quick feet, good glove, competes hard, there’s the but ... he’s under-sized.
“I don’t know if I’d have been drafted,” said Chris Osgood, who won 401 games and was only five-foot-10 and 180.
Hands up, how many people thought Matt Cooke would be in the Lady Byng running this year? The kinder, gentler Cooke has had 15 minors and not one fighting major. Thirty penalty minutes. And he’s got 31 points, 16 goals in Pittsburgh. That’s the same number of goals as Pavel Datsyuk. OK, Datsyuk also has 43 assists.
Which ignores the fact that Datsyuk’s missed a month, but Matheson also spends the chunk of his column after the following quip suggesting that the Blackhawks might not be able to win without Matheson’s choice as the best player in the game, Crosby included, in Chicago Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews:
Funny how the Red Wings can’t beat anybody now without 41-year-old Nick Lidstrom, who is still in considerable pain with that bone bruise on his ankle that pains him every time he puts his foot in a skate boot, never mind takes a stride. Is this what we have to look forward to if he ever hangs up his skates? OK, they haven’t had Datsyuk (knee) either. He’s the second-best player in the league after Crosby in most recent players’ poll for The Hockey News. The Wings are going to draw Nashville in Round 1 (worst-case scenario), unless they get No. 4 seed and start at home where they’re dynamite.
• Speaking of said Predators, the Boston Globe’s Fluto Shinzawa spends a significant chunk of time talking to Nashville Predators assistant GM Paul Fenton about the wonderful, spectacular and amazing Predators, and here’s what Fenton has to say about his team’s deadline additions…
“We’re much closer,’’ said assistant general manager and Springfield native Paul Fenton. “This is not a one-time thing that we’re going for here. We know it takes pieces to build the ultimate championship team.’’
“We have a very strong feeling that we’ve added the right pieces,’’ said Fenton, a 1982 Boston University graduate. “The right people can make a difference to give ourselves a chance to win.’’
And Shinzawa’s assertion that the Predators will make a “long run”:
The Predators are in a better position this year. They have more game-breaking talent, with Rinne leading the pack. As the Bruins did last year with the acquisitions of Tomas Kaberle, Rich Peverley (an ex-Predator), and Chris Kelly, Nashville used its assets to address multiple areas.
For all that, they’re currently slotted for a first-round showdown against Detroit. Cruel, no?
“Hey, it is what it is,’’ Fenton said. “You’ve got to go through everybody.’’
Shinzawa does mention the Wings in a complimentary vein, too:
One interesting observation from the MIT Sloan Sports Conference held earlier this month: Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli’s admiration of Detroit’s Europe-to-AHL culture. The Red Wings have hit by drafting European players in the lower rounds. But Detroit’s management team has insisted on an acclimation period in Grand Rapids, the Wings’ AHL affiliate. Valtteri Filppula (Finland), Niklas Kronwall (Sweden), Jiri Hudler (Czech Republic), Jonathan Ericsson(Sweden), Jakub Kindl (Czech Republic), and Gustav Nyquist (Sweden via University of Maine) are current Wings who are Grand Rapids alums.
“What they’ve done is created a culture in the organization where European players come over and spend some time in the minors,’’ Chiarelli noted. “That’s hard to do. You’ve got these European players, when you draft them, playing in an elite league in Europe. They’re being paid well. The league is really good. They often think it’s a step down to come over and play in the American League to learn their craft a little bit over in North America.’’
• And finally, I highly, highly recommend that you take a gander at Off Wing View’s Robbie Benneian’s chat with Wings prospect Landon Ferraro.
Part V: A programming note: I did not know that the Wings would be lining up for MRI’s when I was told on Friday that my doctor could see more for a series of tests which will probably have me away from the home office from 1-4 PM on Monday afternoon, and as it’s the weekend, it’s kinda too late to reschedule my 2 PM appointment, so I’m gonna ask the boss if he can just update a post I’ll get ready to go for while I’m out regarding the Red Wings’ injury news on Monday. It’s sh*tty timing but I can’t really do anything about it.
Part VI: Player assessments: It’s not that I have to be critical at all that irks me; it’s that on nights like these, whenever the game ended, 12:50 or whatever, I’ve been working straight since then, and it’s 5:41 AM as I start these. If I’m lucky, I’ll be done in half an hour, and then I’ll have to go back and re-edit the recap for 10 or 15 minutes before actually publishing the recap because I’m too wordy and the blog literally runs out of space for my posts, and the grades get eaten up. With that…
These are one person’s subjective assessments of the Red Wings players’ performances on Saturday night’s game, nothing more, aided with the stat sheet and game summary, and utilizing an, “Outstanding,” “Satisfactory” or “Needs Improvement” grading system.
#2 Brendan Smith: Satisfactory. After some steps-back games for Smith, he took two forward on Saturday, playing 14:09, registering 1 shot, a total of 4 shot attempts, 2 hits and a takeaway, as well as a +1. It should come as no surprise that Smith looked surer and stronger on the puck, made some really slick outlet passes, smart pinches and took some astute shots, including shots taken during 1:27 of PP time, because he was finally using the Bauer sticks he preferred in junior hockey and college. With the Griffins, Smith had to use Reeboks as there are only so many exemptions a team can earn from the “Reebok everything only” protocol, and they usually go to veterans like Chris Conner. So now he’s in the NHL and now he can choose what to use, and as his positioning and decision-making have gotten better, now he’s got the twigs he prefers as well, and he really looks comfortable out there. Really comfortable.
#8 Justin Abdelkader: Satisfactory. Abdelakder really made a poor play on the OT winner, but it wasn’t as if Braun wasn’t going to use Abdelkader’s presence to do anything less than “crash the net” in a way that would have yielded a waved-off goal if Holmstrom did it. Abby played 13:18, took a penalty, had 4 hits, a blocked shot and won a faceoff. He didn’t stand out, but against the Sharks’ gigantic forwards and defensemen, he stood his ground, gave more hits than he took and ground out the puck along the side boards and down low in all three zones. He was a board beast and the Wings needed him to be just that.
#11 Danny Cleary: Satisfactory. Cleary played 17:09, had a shot, 2 more attempts and 2 hits. He’s obviously not at 100% but he looked to be gaining a step via pure confidence and the time and space that playing alongside Pavel Datsyuk affords anyone. I would have liked to see more of a net-front presence from Cleary, but he is at least starting to stir offensively.
#13 Pavel Datsyuk: Outstanding. How can I assess the performance of someone who’s missed 11 games with anything less given that he scored an amazing goal in 19:10 of ice time, had 2 more shot attempts, 3 hits, 2 giveaways, a takeaway, a blocked shot and a 12-and-7 record in the faceoff circle? He gave the Wings a second line and he gave the entire team serious-ass confidence. If the Wings are to salvage the last 10 games of their season and at least earn home-ice advantage, they’re gonna do it because Datsyuk’s back to spark Bertuzzi, Franzen and the rest of his teammates. He was excellent as usual in the defensive zone, too, and I think his defense may have been more sorely missed than his offense. Pavel comes back and gets the puck out of trouble, and he’s like a Honey Badger when he goes into the corner with Joe Thornton. He doesn’t give a s*** how big Thornton or Clowe are. They have the puck and he wants it, so he’s going to get it.
#18 Ian White: Needs improvement. Wasn’t in position to either keep Justin Braun from the net nor get the rebound away from Martin Havlat on the gamer, wasn’t strong on the boards when the Sharks mucked the puck to Havlat for his first goal, and wasn’t strong on the boards, period. I’m baffled as to why a player who was one of the main reasons the Sharks’ cycle succeeded against Detroit last spring struggled so mightily to stop it. He played 23:04, had 4 shots and 4 more attempts and a blocked shot, so yes, he’s starting to stir offensively, but he’s still trying to figure out how to play with Kyle Quincey, and that’s worrying me.
#20 Drew Miller: Satisfactory. Did his job. Played 14:37, had a shot, a hit, a takeaway, blocked 3 shots and just ground out space as he lugged the puck up and down the ice, out of trouble and into the Sharks’ zone despite serious interference, figuratively and literally, from the Sharks’ defensemen. He provided grit, grind and occasional nastiness. I would have liked to see him cut to the net at least once more than his end-of-time breakaway.
#23 Brad Stuart: Satisfactory. Stuart played 26:48 and provided a screen on the 2-0 goal, had 4 shot attempts, a hit, a giveaway and blocked 3 shots. He struggled just as much as White in terms of his usual weaknesses in chasing puck carriers around and not bearing down on clearing attempts, but he also got the puck out of trouble pretty regularly and helped Kronwall springboard the Wings’ offense. It was an up-and-down game for a player who was probably dealing with some emotional stuff.
#26 Jiri Hudler: Satisfactory. Hudler didn’t get anything done on the scoresheet, but it wasn’t for a lack of trying. He played 16:56, had 4 shots and 2 more attempts and he returned to form, darting and dashing into open spots on the ice to provide a player for Zetterberg and Filppula to “give and go” with while charging into high-traffic areas and sneaking into the slot. He was just as strong in front of the net as he was along the boards.
#27 Kyle Quincey: Satisfactory. Quincey didn’t screw up, and given his past two or three games, that’s progress made. He played 21:33, had a shot, 2 more attempts and 2 blocked shots and didn’t look out of place lugging the puck, skating hard or grinding along the boards against the Sharks’ cycle, and he didn’t run around as much. He’s got a long way to go to truly find his comfort zone and play like the slightly poorer man’s Brad Stuart with slightly more offense than Stuart provides that he can become for the Wings, but he’s at least starting to show more than flashes of that potential amidst mistakes.
#37 Doug Janik: Outstanding. Janik played only 13:35 but had an assist, a shot attempt, a hit, a giveaway and a takeaway and, again, after the last two games, he assuaged more than a few fears about his ability to keep up against the biggest and nastiest team the Wings faced, all while making some astute plays and looking the most comfortable new addition this side of Quincey on the blueline.
His pass to Filppula was incredibly astute on the game-tying goal, and he’s showing more and more mobility the more he becomes familiar with the uber-simplification of his game which he must display at the NHL level.
#39 Jan Mursak: Satisfactory. Again, I don’t get why he plays so little. He played a team-minimum 7:56 but still had a shot, 2 missed attempts and a takeaway, and while he had 2 giveaways, he was over his head at times against the Thornton line and his mistakes were definitely learning experiences. As he went along he was more efficient and demonstrative while using his speed to just plow through the Sharks’ defenders, or in many cases, forwards and defensemen trying to keep the puck in the Wings’ end.
#40 Henrik Zetterberg: Outstanding. He didn’t register a point, but it wasn’t for a lack of trying. He led the Wings in shots with 5, he had 4 more attempts, had a giveaway and a takeaway and went 6-and-5 in the faceoff circle in 20:48 of ice time. He continues to play absolutely dominant hockey alongside Valtteri Filppula, generating oodles of offense, speed and momentum while working his ass off to shut down his opponent’s top players. He’s playing fantastic, and again, I thought that there was a pick thrown at Zetterberg on the game-tying goal, but I’m biased.
#43 Darren Helm: Satisfactory. Helm had a rough handful of games and that frustration played into the play that got him injured. He’s been trying very hard to levy hits and, regrettably, it bit him in the butt…Erm, knee. He played 12:28, had 2 shots and another attempt, had 3 hits and went 4-and-8 in the faceoff circle, and he’s looked much better while reunited with his HEMI line pals, but I’m surprised at the way his offensive confidence gained from his time with Franzen has sort of faded. He almost seems to not get that he’s totally allowed to shoot as much as he did and make as many plays as he tried when he had the Mule on his wing. Sometimes he reminds us that he’s still a work in progress…And obviously, if he’s out, the Wings will miss him, big time.
#44 Todd Bertuzzi: Satisfactory. Shook th
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The Malik Report is a destination for all things Red Wings-related. I offer biased, perhaps unprofessional-at-times and verbose coverage of my favorite team, their prospects and developmental affiliates. I've joined the Kukla's Korner family with five years of blogging under my belt, and I hope you'll find almost everything you need to follow your Red Wings at a place where all opinions are created equal and we're all friends, talking about hockey and the team we love to follow.