Kukla's Korner

The Malik Report

Red Wings-Wild set-up and overnight report: shorthanded Wings need to ‘get on a roll’

Updated 2x with an interesting Ken Daniels tidbit at 5:21 AM: The Detroit Red Wings face off against the Minnesota Wild tonight (7:30 PM EST, FSD/FS North/97.1 FM) without the services of their two most important players not named Jimmy Howard in Pavel Datsyuk (knee, probably still a week out), Nicklas Lidstrom, who’s been ruled out of this weekend’s games with a bone bruise in his left ankle/foot, and a support player in Jonathan Ericsson (out for a month with a broken wrist), but probable returnee Kyle Quincey (groin, skated on Thursday) and the Wings need rather desperately to kick off a stretch of three games in five nights by bulding upon their three game losing streak-busting win over Columbus and getting on something of a roll.

The Vancouver Canucks did the Wings a favor by defeating the St. Louis Blues on Thursday night, affording the Wings the opportunity to remain tied with the Blues for first in the Central Division standings while only dropping 3 points behind the Canucks, but if the Wings do win the Central, they could very well face the 12th-place Wild, who lost goaltender Nicklas Backstrom’s services but rallied from a 4-1 3rd period deficit to tie the Montreal Canadiens and ultimately lose 5-4 in a shootout.

The Wild come into tonight’s game on a two-game losing streak, but they’ve traded wins and losses over the last two weeks of February and have gone 3-2-and-1 of late, Thursday’s shootout loss included. They also bolstered their blueline at the trade deadline, adding two very solid offensively-minded defensemen in Kurtis Foster and Tom Gilbert, and as the Wild are also pretty banged-up—they’‘re going into tonight’s game without forwards Mikko Koivu (shoulder), Pierre Marc-Bouchard (groin) and Guillaume Latendresse (concussion)—the fact that the Wild rallied from that 4-1 deficit against Montreal was reason for celebration, as Wild coach Mike Yeo told the Canadian Press...

“That was quite a game,” said Wild coach Mike Yeo, whose team salvaged a point to move to five points behind Dallas for eighth place in the Western Conference. “It’s too bad we couldn’t get that second point. I’m impressed with how our guys battled in the third. We overcame a lot of adversity. A tough call early and we were down 5-on-3 for quite some time. Then we lost our starting goalie. So we were in a hole.”
It was an eventful game from the start as Ryan White and Stephane Veilleux squared off for a fight only 10 seconds in. A couple of minor penalties later, Subban scored on a two-man advantage with a point blast at 2:33. Only 19 seconds later, Wild goalie Niklas Backstrom seemed to pull something in a leg or groin and left the game in favor of Josh Harding, who was beaten at 4:28 on Eller’s first power-play goal as a Canadiens. There was no immediate word on Backstrom’s condition.

Minnesota got one back as Alexei Emelin was felled by an uncalled cross-check that left Kassian open to poke in Darroll Powe’s pass. It was Kassian’s first goal in 21 career NHL games.

White got another fighting major and a misconduct later in the period for throwing punches at Veilleux, who had slashed goalie Carey Price. Pacioretty, on his off wing to the right of Harding, put in his 26th of the season midway in the second period. Desharnais tapped in a rebound of Pacioretty’s short in the third period for his third goal in as many games.

Kassian, back in the lineup after sitting out two games, skated to the net and banged in his own rebound with a backhander with 3:53 left.
Matt Kassian got his second of the game, and Dany Heatley scored before Devin Setoguchi tied it with the Wild playing with six attackers with 10 seconds to play.

Technically speaking, as Paul posted via video, the Habs felt a little jobbed because Max Pacioretty was denied an empty-net goal by being hooked twice before he, um, dove, but the Wild felt a little shortchanged by bad luck as well because Devin Setoguchi joined the Patrick Eaves “Epic Shootout Fail” club.

The Wild also discussed their rally and that classic Red Wings problem in, “Not getting started on time” with the Pioneer Press’s Ben Goessling...

By the time the game was 4-1/2 minutes old, the Wild had given up two power-play goals to the Canadiens - who have the second-worst power play in the league. They had spent two minutes in a five-on-three situation. And they had lost goaltender Niklas Backstrom, who crumpled to the ice after dropping down into the splits to save an Erik Cole wrist shot with 17:27 to go in the first period. Backstrom didn’t put any weight on his left leg as he skated toward the bench and was replaced by Josh Harding.

In spite of all that - and another power-play goal after a call that had Wild officials seething - the team managed to finagle a point from Montreal with the kind of comeback the Predators used against them in January. Minnesota lost 5-4 in a shootout, but that came after the Wild scored three goals in the final 3:53 to tie the score.

“It just goes to show that if you stick to it and do your system, it’s going to work,” said Devin Setoguchi, who tied the score with 9.8 seconds left and lost the puck in the final round of the shootout. “We need to start earlier than the last five minutes of the game.”

And the Wild received clutch performances from both youngsters and veterans because they did what the Wings haven’t lately in plain old going to the net with purpose and pouncing on loose pucks:

The way they came back, though, was a testament to a style of play they didn’t fully execute until the final minutes. Minnesota barreled to the front of Montreal’s net, getting a series of juicy rebounds from Canadiens goaltender Carey Price after peppering him with close-range shots.

Perhaps no one did that better than Matt Kassian, the enforcer who has been adding a physical presence in front of the net to his usual wares lately. Kassian, who had not scored in 20 NHL games, bagged two goals in his 21st game. Had a rebound not slipped just out of his reach in the second period, he could have had a third.

“I think there’s a little more confidence,” Kassian said. “For the staff and the organization to have confidence in me is huge. It’s something for me to try and work on.”

Dany Heatley scored the Wild’s third goal in much the same manner Kassian scored their first two, punching in a rebound that came right back to him after his first shot in the slot. The Wild almost have to score goals that way, and it’s sometimes maddening to figure out why they’re not always committed to doing it.

The Wild also spoke to the Minneapolis Star-Tribune’s Michael Russo about their strong third-period performance…

The rally came after the Wild’s power play fell short five times, including on a shortened three-minute major after Ryan White ambushed Stephane Veilleux and two abbreviated two-man advantages. But after Max Pacioretty and Desharnais gave the Canadiens a 4-1 lead, “Kass gave us life,” said Heatley. Kassian’s second goal came on Nick Johnson’s rebound—one of his three assists.

“You can’t credit my two linemates [Darroll Powe and Johnson] enough. They had fantastic games,” Kassian said.

The Wild kept coming, and the Canadiens were on their heels dramatically. Finally Heatley scored his 20th goal by following up his own rebound. Yeo pulled Harding, and then Setoguchi struck.

“Our forecheck was really strong in the third period, and our cycle game, we controlled the puck a lot and with that created a lot of momentum and gave us that belief,” Yeo said.
“That was quite a game,” coach Mike Yeo said. “It’s too bad we couldn’t get that second point because I’m really impressed and happy with the way we battled in that third period. We overcame a lot of adversity.”

Goessling, who noted that the Wild scratched Erik Christiensen because the former Penguin’s been struggling mightily, shared the following observations about the Wild’s shootout loss in what is essentially a “quick take”...

MEANING: The big question from this one will be how long the Wild will be without Backstrom. Harding was likely to play today in Detroit anyway, but the team might have to call up Matt Hackett to get a second goalie. At this point, it looks like a good thing the Wild never got an offer they liked for Harding at the trade deadline.

As well as a few more in his blog...

–Devin Setoguchi and Matt Cullen were both having rough nights until the last few minutes of the game; Cullen had been stopped with a glove save in the third period, and got two more looks at a loose puck in front of the net. But Cullen set up Setoguchi for the game-tying goal. As a whole, the Wild looked like a different team once they got desperate enough to pound shots at Price. They were rewarded with plenty of rebound opportunities, and it makes you wonder what would have happened if they’d done it earlier in the game. They had some good opportunities on a 5-on-3 situation, but spent too much time killing penalties to get into any kind of flow in 5-on-5.

–Setoguchi said the puck caught the ice stopped moving on him during his shootout attempt, and when he tried to keep it moving forward, he fell and lost the handle. “As soon as you stop it, it’s over anyway,” he said. “I just decided to do it with a little more flair and fall.”

–Between Nick Johnson getting three assists, Kassian scoring twice and Darroll Powe getting on the scoring sheet for the first time since Jan. 17 with an assist, it was a solid night for the Wild’s third and fourth lines. They didn’t get enough balance until late in the game, though.

That’s all from Montreal — and tomorrow, you’ll get a Pioneer Press throwback in Detroit. Former Wild beat writer Brian Murphy, who is from the Detroit area and may be the only person in the world that enjoys going there, will be covering the game for us in the Motor City. You can follow him on Twitter at @BMurphPiPress for all the details. Talk to you later.

Ah, yes. The Wild press corps, from what I recall, has a particular distaste for downtown Detroit and Joe Louis Arena.

Wild.com’s Glen Andresen also offered several “takeaways” from the game…

1. In one of the most bizarre Minnesota Wild games I’ve ever seen, you knew it would end in a weird way. But I can’t say I thought it would end in a shootout with Devin Setoguchi losing the puck and falling to the ice without getting a shot off. But then again, that’s about the only way this game could end.

From start to finish, this one had things you could never have predicted: A fight in the first 10 seconds. An injury to Niklas Backstrom in the opening minutes. Two goals from Matt Kassian. Three Wild goals in the final four minutes. Dirty plays and head scratching calls from the referees. It just made no sense.

But somehow, the Wild picked up a standings point, and if they can pull out a win in Detroit tomorrow night, they’ll gladly take a three-point road trip.
4. We all know that Josh Harding is a free agent at the end of the season, and that’s a big reason for why some thought he might be shipped to another team prior to Monday’s trade deadline. Instead, he’s here, and it looks as if he’ll play a major role going forward. We don’t know the extent of Backstrom’s injury just yet, but it certainly didn’t look good the way he was helped off the ice.

Expect a callup of Matt Hackett in time for tomorrow’s game in Detroit, but expect Harding to shoulder the load. This is the time for him to shine, and showcase his abilities as he looks to earn a contract in Minnesota or elsewhere for next season.

He’ll get a stiff test tomorrow in Detroit, but Harding is 2-0-1 against the Wings this year.

The Minneapolis Star-Tribune’s Russo noted that the Wild unveiled a new forward lineup in Montreal (as well as penning a notebook)...

Dany Heatley-Kyle Brodziak-Nick Palmieri (who played with Ilya Kovalchuk and Travis Zajac at times last year)

Cal Clutterbuck-Matt Cullen-Devin Setoguchi

Stephane Veilleux-Warren Peters-Jed Ortmeyer

Matt Kassian-Darroll Powe-Nick Johnson

According to Hockey Wilderness’s B Reynolds, here are the Wild’s defensive pairings…

Marco Scandella - Jared Spurgeon
Justin Falk - Tom Gilbert
Nate Prosser - Kurtis Foster

And here’s Russo’s Wings-Wild game preview:

Preview: The Red Wings, who lead the league with 42 wins, are an NHL-best 26-3-2 at home this season. If the Wild wins, it would be the only team in the NHL to win at the Joe twice this season. The Wild won 2-1 there Nov. 1 on Devin Setoguchi’s OT winner. The Red Wings’ NHL-record 23-game home win streak was stopped by Vancouver on Feb. 23.

Players to watch: Wild G Josh Harding is expected to start. He is 2-0-1 against Detroit this season, stopping 110 of 114 shots (.965 save percentage). LW Dany Heatley leads the Wild with 11 points in 16 games vs. Detroit. RW Todd Bertuzzi has 32 points in 48 games vs. the Wild, LW Henrik Zetterberg has 27 points in 32 games and RW Dan Cleary 26 points in 42 meetings.

Numbers: The Wild is 4-2-2 in the second of back-to-backs. ... The Red Wings average 3.05 goals per game (fifth in the NHL).

Injuries: Red Wings D Nicklas Lidstrom (ankle), C Pavel Datsyuk (knee), RW Patrick Eaves (jaw/concussion) and D Jonathan Ericsson (wrist) are out. D Kyle Quincey (groin) may return. Wild C Mikko Koivu (shoulder), D Mike Lundin (hernia), D Clayton Stoner (hip), LW/RW Pierre-Marc Bouchard (concussion) and LW Guillaume Latendresse (concussion) are out.

The Associated Press’s game preview slowly but surely shifts our perspective toward those of the Wings via some factoids about a team that’s struggled at home of late…

Shorthanded Detroit tries to avoid going winless in three straight home games for the first time in almost four months Friday night against the Wild.

The Red Wings (42-19-3), who defeated San Jose 3-2 on Feb. 19 to set a league record with their 23rd straight home victory, have since been handed a pair of narrow defeats in front of their home crowd.

Two days after suffering a 4-3 shootout loss to Vancouver, Detroit fell 4-3 to Colorado on Saturday and into an 0-2-1 skid overall. The Red Wings, however, took advantage of Tuesday’s matchup against the league’s worst team and regrouped with a 5-2 win at Columbus.

“We really needed a win,” said Henrik Zetterberg, who scored the go-ahead goal and added an assist. “We had a few bodies out. The guys that came out did a really good job.”
Detroit’s No. 2 goaltender Joey MacDonald made 28 saves versus the Blue Jackets, improving to 7-0-0 with a 1.70 GAA in his last seven contests. Jimmy Howard, however, could be back in goal in this one.

Howard has gone 0-2-1 with a 2.96 GAA since returning from an eight-game absence (broken finger), but is 4-1-1 with a 1.46 GAA in his last six meetings with the Wild.

While Datsyuk and Lidstrom both remain unavailable, defenseman Kyle Quincey (groin) could return for the Red Wings after sitting out Tuesday. Quincey practiced Thursday and is listed as a game-time decision.

And NHL.com’s Brian Hunter‘s game preview serves as our official pivot point…

Season Series: Fourth and final meeting of the season. The teams haven’t met since Nov. 1, when the Wild got a Mikko Koivu goal with one minute left in regulation and a Devin Setoguchi power-play goal at 1:33 of overtime for a 2-1 victory. Josh Harding, who blanked the Red Wings 1-0 four days earlier, was again in net. The two losses were part of a six-game skid for Detroit, which did beat Minnesota 3-2 in overtime on a Johan Franzen power-play goal in their initial matchup on Oct. 15.

Big Story: In the four months since the Wild and Red Wings last met, so much has changed. Minnesota surged to the Western Conference lead and held it through most of December, but the second half has brought a precipitous fall in the standings. On the other hand, Detroit overcame its early struggles to go on an NHL-record 23-game home winning streak and is battling it out with Vancouver and division rival St. Louis for the No. 1 seed heading into the final five weeks.
Who’s Hot: Kassian scored twice for the Wild on Thursday, his first goals in 21 NHL games. Nick Johnson picked up 3 assists. … Zetterberg has 1 goal and 4 assists in his last two games for the Red Wings. Filppula has consecutive games with a goal and an assist. McDonald has won seven straight starts, the first six while No. 1 goalie Jimmy Howard was injured.

Injury Report: Minnesota lost goalie Niklas Backstrom less than three minutes into Thursday’s game with a lower-body injury. Koivu (shoulder) is on injured reserve along with forwards Guillaume Latendresse (post-concussion symptoms), Jarod Palmer (upper body) and Pierre-Marc Bouchard (concussion/groin) and defensemen Clayton Stoner (lower body) and Mike Lundin (lower body). … Lidstrom missed Tuesday’s game with a swollen right ankle, while fellow Detroit defenseman Kyle Quincey was also out due to a sore groin. Quincey skated Thursday and is expected to be in the lineup, while Lidstrom is possible. Datsyuk is recovering from arthroscopic knee surgery, while defenseman Jonathan Ericsson is expected to miss the next month with a broken wrist.

Stat Pack: Harding, who seems a lock to start Friday with Backstrom ailing, has a 1.30 goals-against average and .965 save percentage in going 2-0-1 against the Red Wings this season. … Kronwall is fourth among NHL defensemen with 13 goals, two behind leader and fellow Swede Erik Karlsson.

The deal-y-o with the Wings’ captain is pretty simple—he can’t put his left foot in his skate without discomfort, so the Wings are shutting him down for the weekend, as MLive’s Ansar Khan noted:

Detroit Red Wings captain Nicklas Lidstrom will be out a little longer than the team anticipated, after further tests today revealed a bad bone bruise in his ankle.

“Doctors said he’s out for the weekend,’’ general manager Ken Holland said. “He’ll be re-evaluated on Monday.’‘

Lidstrom sat out Tuesday’s 5-2 win in Columbus after getting injured during the second period of Saturday’s 4-3 loss to Colorado. He has not skated since then, as he’s had difficulty putting on his skate. He will miss home games against Minnesota on Friday and Chicago on Sunday.

Holland said Kyle Quincey’s availability for Friday will be determined after the morning skate. Quincey, who missed Tuesday’s game with a sore groin, said he felt good after skating today.

In the meantime, Brendan Smith and Doug Janik will remain with the team.

Holland also updated the statuses of his injured players while speaking to the Detroit News’s Gregg Krupa...

“The doctor thinks a few days rest and he should be better,” Holland said. “Obviously, it is a bone bruise, and sometimes you get these deep bone bruises, you know? Who knows? But right now we think a few days will do it.”

The Red Wings also will be without Pavel Datsyuk and Jonathan Ericsson against the Wild tonight. Datsyuk (knee surgery) worked out off the ice Thursday before hitting the training table for treatment. He is expected to miss another five-to-12 days.
Kyle Quincey (groin) practiced hard Thursday and said he expects to play.

“They saw a little something, maybe, on one of the tests the other day,” he said. “They just wanted to be cautious.”

But Wings coach Mike Babcock told Krupa that he’s going to make due with whoever can lace up their skates in the interim…

“Those are chunks out of your lineup,” Babcock said. Now, you’re never going to replace (the) skill level (of Lidstrom and Datsyuk). You can see that in practice.”

Players say they know they must step up.

“We’ve got a few injuries now, but it’s a time for guys to step up,” Justin Abdelkader said. “And I think guys have done a very good job, whether it’s been goaltending, defensemen or forwards.”

But sometimes players err in trying to do too much, especially when the most talented are among the injured.

“I know we sometimes try to do too much,” Henrik Zetterberg said. “It seems when we have key guys out of the lineup you try to do everything yourself and try to do too much instead of just doing your thing.”

And Babcock reiterated the “make due” theory to the Macomb Daily’s Chuck Pleiness…

“We have lots of guys here who can’t get their skates on so they get adjusted that you don’t know about, but since you knew about (Lidstrom) before,” Wings coach Mike Babcock said. “He had (the skates) on today but it was an adjusted skate. But when you adjust something until you go and try it you’re not going.”

Jonathan Ericsson (fractured wrist) walked around the locker room with a brace on his left wrist. Ericsson was injured Saturday when he was hit in the left wrist by the puck off an attempted clear by Brad Stuart on a penalty kill.

“(The puck) was kind of coming at my face and that’s the reason I brought up my arm,” Ericsson said. “When you put your hand like this (as he went to cover his face) it opens everything up.”

Ericsson, who is expected to be out a month, won’t have to wear a permanent cast to repair the injury.

“It’s just a lot harder to tie my skates,” said Ericsson, who’s right handed. “I’ll start skating pretty soon, maybe tomorrow. We’ll see. It’s all to get my legs working because I can’t do anything with the stick. I can’t rotate my arm at all,” Ericsson continued. “I can move my fingers fine so I can try and keep my wrist in somewhat shape. Other than that there’s not much more I can do.”

Jimmy Howard will start in goal. He’s 0-2-1 since returning from a broken index finger.

“I thought I’ve played well in the three games, it’s just that sometimes this game can be cruel,” Howard said. “You feel like you deserve to win, you played good enough to win, but it doesn’t happen. Just find a way to keep plugging out there and we do a good job of finding the back of the net so it’s just a matter of time.”

And the Free Press’s Helene St. James duly noted that the Wings won’t be content to “tread water” like the Wild have of late:

The defense should get a boost as Kyle Quincey (sore groin) practiced and said he felt much better; the injury kept him out Tuesday. Doug Janik is available in case Quincey can’t play, while Brendan Smith will take Lidstrom’s spot.

The Wings pulled out a 5-2 victory at Columbus despite a depleted lineup, but skating, overall, has been an issue for the Wings of late—their coach doesn’t think they’ve been doing it well enough, and one of the alternate captains thinks they haven’t been smart enough. They can’t afford to let any points slip away, not with St. Louis challenging hard for first place in the Central Division.

The Wings are near the top of the NHL standings, and “I’m proud of where we’re at,” coach Mike Babcock said. “I think we’ve done a real good job, and yet in saying that, what it shows me is that you need all hands on deck in the end.”

Babcock reiterated that “we’ve got to skate better.” The Wings decided to take Wednesday off with two days between games, but tonight, “they have to show it with how you skate in games,” Babcock said.

The Wings hadn’t won in three games before Columbus.

“I think when you lose games, that’s an easy way to find a problem, that you don’t skate hard enough,” Henrik Zetterberg said. “I think we’ve been skating hard, maybe we just haven’t been skating smart enough. It’s easy to do that when we have key guys out of the lineup—you try to do everything yourself and try to do too much instead of just your thing.”

Time to cue a little necessary repetition, via MLive’s Ansar Khan, who spoke to Babcock about the Wings electing to take Wednesday off before regrouping on Thursday—which is something they’re likely to repeat after Sunday’s home game against Chicago and Tuesday’s Mark Howe #2 retirement shindig in Philadelphia before the Wings play back-to-backs on Friday the 9th and Saturday the 10th against LA and in Nashville, respectively:

“When we take extra days off, they have to show how they skate,’’ Babcock said. “We skated hard (Thursday) and we’ll have to show it (Friday).’‘
“We’ve been playing a lot of games, some of the guys were getting a little tired,’’ center Darren Helm said. “We got it pretty good here, get lots of days off. So when we come back after a day off (Babcock) wants us to get our feet moving, get back to what we need to do come game time.’‘
“When you lose games, that’s an easy way to find a problem, you don’t skate hard enough,’’ Zetterberg said. “I think we’ve been skating hard. Maybe we just haven’t been skating smart enough. We played a good game in Columbus, came back strong in the third. That shows you have a lot of energy.’‘
“It’s easy to [try to do too much on your own] when you have key guys out of the lineup,’’ [Zetterberg] said. “You try to do everything yourself instead of doing your own thing and letting everyone be involved.’‘

Jimmy Howard will start in goal Friday, seeking his first win since Feb. 2 in Vancouver, when he suffered a broken right index finger. He is winless in three (0-2-1), but was strong is losses to Chicago (2-1) and Vancouver (4-3 in a shootout).

“I thought I played well in the three games, it’s just that sometimes this game can be cruel,’’ Howard said. “You feel like you deserve to win, but it doesn’t happen. Just got to find a way to keep plugging. We do a good job of finding the back of the net, so it’s just a matter of time.’‘
“For a while it was pretty apparent we weren’t going in the right direction,’’ Babcock said. “Anyone that’s watched hockey knows those things happen during the year. Just like in life, you want your ups to be long and your downs to be short.’‘

That’s the theory, and there’s no time like the present to go on a two or three-game winning streak. The Wings are playing a desperate but shorthanded Wild team tonight and they’ll be playing a Blackhawks team without Jonathan Toews during Sunday’s matinee game, so while the Wings are pretty banged-up in terms of the quality of their injured players, they’ve got to take advantage of their opponents’ vulnerabilities while they’re short-staffed, too.


Part II: Red Wings notebooks: If you missed the whole the Windsor Star’s Dave Waddell delves into Ken Holland’s organizational, managerial and player development philosophies entry, go and read that first;

• We also found out that Jonathan Ericsson’s been hosting Stefan Liv’s widow and two children for a month now, and Liv’s oldest son attended practice on Thursday. The Detroit News’s Gregg Krupa adds a new tale from said visit to the mix:

“That’s Stefan Liv ‘s son,” a smiling Ericsson told inquiring reporters about a boy walking around the dressing room.

Ericsson brought the five-year-old Herman Liv to work with him. The son of the late Red Wings prospect goaltender Stefan Liv, who died Sept. 7 in the plane crash involving the Lokomotiv Yaroslavl team in Russia, Liv’s younger brother, Harry , also is visiting Ericsson and the Red Wings.

“They are here because they are family,” Ericsson said.

But Harry is three and he missed the declared cut-off for visiting the dressing room, where things are sometimes hectic and skate blades sharp.

“When they told Harry the age limit is five, he said, `No, age limit is three!’” Niklas Kronwall said.

The Red Wings are doing much to keep the survivors of the affected families active in the affairs of the team.

“You are happy to see them,” he said. “Two big kids, a beautiful wife and very down to earth. And just great people.

• As Krupa notes, the Wings’ wives nad girlfriends will be holding a charitable event to benefit the Lokomotiv family:

The Detroit Red Wings’ wives and girlfriends will hold a mystery puck draw on the concourse at this Sunday’s home game (March 4) against the Chicago Blackhawks. When doors open at 2:30 p.m., fans are encouraged to visit the puck draw tables on the concourse behind Section 126.

Fans have the opportunity to purchase a select puck from an assortment of 300 hockey pucks signed by members of the 2011-12 team. Pucks cost $25 apiece and must be paid for by cash or check. Each puck has been signed by a Red Wings player and packaged in a black box to conceal the autograph. The fan who opens the box with a puck signed in gold by Niklas Kronwall will meet the Wings’ defenseman after the game. Each puck comes with a certificate of authenticity.

The proceeds of Sunday’s puck draw will benefit the family of former Red Wings player and assistant coach Brad McCrimmon, who tragically passed away in a plane crash on Sept. 7, 2011, along with the rest of the Lokomotiv Yaroslavl hockey team (KHL). The Red Wings have worn a special red and blue patch on their jerseys throughout the 2011-12 season in honor of the three former Red Wings who were on the plane: McCrimmon, defenseman Ruslan Salei and goaltending prospect Stefan Liv.

The team has raised more than $14,000 for the Love for Lokomotiv initiative through the sale of red ‘Love for Lokomotiv’ wristbands this season. The Wings have also collected over $54,000 for the families of the three former Red Wings by selling game-worn jerseys from opening night as well as the game on Feb. 12.

McCrimmon’s family will be pretty darn emotional on Tuesday as they’re going to head to Philadelphia when Mark Howe’s #2 is retired to be honored by the team—Howe and McCrimmon formed a very dynamic duo in the 80’s—so I think that it is incredibly thoughtful and classy of the Wings to ease the McCrimmons into that event by holding a lower-key one in their honor, while the Livs are in town, on Sunday.

• Also in the charitable event vein, per DetroitRedWings.com’s Christy Hammond:

Detroit Red Wings netminders Jimmy Howard and Joey MacDonald will sign autographs on Wednesday, March 7, from 5:00 – 7:00 p.m. at Hockeytown Authentics in Troy to raise money for two Metro Detroit charities.

By making a $20 donation by cash or check only, fans can get one item signed by both goaltenders. All donations will be split between Howard’s charity of choice, the Arthritis Foundation, and the non-profit selected by MacDonald, Operation: Kid Equip.

Wristbands for Wednesday’s autograph signing will be issued at Hockeytown Authentics starting at 11:30 a.m. A maximum of 500 wristbands will be handed out prior to 5:00 p.m. and those who receive wristbands may begin to line up for the autograph signing no earlier than 4:00 p.m. A wristband will get fans one autograph from Howard and one from MacDonald.

For more information, please call Hockeytown Authentics at (248) 680-0965. Hockeytown Authentics is located at 1845 E. Big Beaver on the northwest corner of Big Beaver and John R in Troy.

Who: Detroit Red Wings Goaltenders Jimmy Howard and Joey MacDonald

What: Autograph Signing for Charity

When: 5:00 – 7:00 p.m. on Wednesday, March 7

Where: Hockeytown Authentics
        1845 E. Big Beaver
        Troy, MI 48083

Why: To collect monetary donations for the Arthritis Foundation
and Operation: Kid Equip

• In slightly less charitable news, per the Macomb Daily’s Chuck Pleiness, Brendan Smith asked fans to vote for his brother Reilly as a Hobey Baker Award candidate via his Twitter account on Thursday:

Brendan Smith made it known who he was voting for to win the Hobey Baker Award, younger brother Reilly.

Reilly is a junior forward at Miami University and leads the team with 26 goals and 12 assists.

“He wears red and white and actually grew-up loving the Red Wings which was funny, because as Toronto kids we all loved the Leafs and he was the only one in the family who loved the Wings,” Brendan Smith said. “He’s up for the Hobey Baker and I looked at it the other day and he didn’t have as many votes as I was hoping so I threw out a little Tweet to see if people would vote. It will be kind of cool to see some of the fans start throwing some votes out there and if they’ve watched him they would appreciate how he plays. He’s a very good player and I’m just trying to do show some brotherly love.”

Reilly was taken in the third round of the 2009 NHL Draft, 69th pick overall, by the Dallas Stars.

“He’s a very good player and his team is starting to play very well lately,” Brendan Smith said. “I’m just trying to show some love for the little bro.”

Reilly took in his brother’s game in Columbus on Wednesday, and Smith is making Friday’s game a family affair as well:

Can’t wait to play Minnesota tomorrow. I’m excited for my parents and gramps to come watch at the Joe.

• And in Grand Rapids, where the Griffins will play a now-rare-for-them slate of three games in three nights this weekend, the team recalled Gleason Fournier and Bryan Rufenach from Toledo in case Janik remains in Detroit, but the biggest news of the day on Thursday involved Griffins captain Chris Minard, who was named the AHL’s player of the month for February.

Minard’s 30 and is earning a salary that’s so high at the AHL level—a nearly unheard-of $300,000 per Capgeek.com—so the Wings can’t recall him without exposing him to re-entry waivers until the playoffs begin, and I’m not sure if he’s going to stick around at $105,000 for the sake of a call-up here and there as he’s basically an established AHL player, but his comeback from almost two years’ worth of battles with concussion issues (he missed all of last season and the first half of this season) is a fantastic story, as noted by the Grand Rapids press’s Peter J. Wallner:

Minard had eight goals – including a pair of hat tricks - and five assists for 13 points and a plus-seven rating in 10 games during February. The 30-year-old capped off the month Feb. 24 with three goals and an assist in a 6-1 win against Lake Erie. Minard’s performance is a far cry from the summer, when the effects of a concussion in 2009 caused him to miss the Griffins’ first 36 games.

“It was a long frustrating road,”said Minard, who had headaches, blurred vision and neck pain after playing through the 2010-11 season. “You have days where you wake up and feel good, and couple hours later not good at all. Then three, four days wake up and feel not bad, and then wake up and it’d be a terrible day. It was very frustrating.

“But I feel good now and it feels good to be back on the ice.”

In 17 games, Minard has 12 goals, five assists for 17 points and a plus-nine rating. He also is trying to put the concussion behind him, even if the fear is still there.

“I think I still is there a little bit,” he said. “Now, I don’t think about it much. There was a time where I’d get hit pretty good and I’d go, ‘Oh, boy. What am I going to feel like?’ But there was a play last weekend where I got crushed and I was down on the ice and I went, ‘Hey, that didn’t hurt at all.’ So that was a relief.”

• I don’t usually toss this much repetition into an overnight report, but it fell off the front page before I finished updating it, so…

Here’s Jimmy Howard speaking to WBBL’s Bakita and Bentley:

Download file

• The Free Press’s Helene St. James spoke to the Wings about their favorite children’s books (Mr. Shipley’s Ship Shape Shoe Shop, which I’ve never been able to find again, most of Judy Blume’s books and Judith Viorst’s Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good Very Bad Day are mine—I know you’re all stunned that mom and dad had their little English degree holder-to-be reading short novels by the time he was six. I talked before I could walk, what can I say?):

• This also involves, what do you kids say these days?  A little, “Giggity”: From RedWingsFeed and We All Bleed Red on YouTube, Mike Babcock reacts to the hit disparity between the Wings and Blue Jackets on Monday:



Part III: Also of Red wings-related note: This is also a bit repetitious, but, as they say where I come from, “Resilient mammary glands!”

A few years ago, when the Wings had Daniel Larsson splitting time with Thomas McCollum and Jordan Pearce in Grand Rapids, the Wings weren’t sure whether the dearly departed Stefan Liv was going to spend his entire career in Europe, and hell, last season, when Joey MacDonald was the Griffins’ starter, McCollum and Pearce were in Grand Rapids, we weren’t sure whether Daniel Larsson was going home for good and the Wings had drafted Petr Mrazek, Wings fans were saying something along the lines of, “Holy crap, we’re overflowing in goalies! Where will they all play?”

Well, as it turns out, MacDonald’s now the Wings’ back-up, Larsson’s going to stay with HV71, Jordan Pearce might be on his last legs as a Wings prospect, and at present, Thomas McCollum’s pro career has had even more ups and downs than Jimmy Howard’s. At least according to the Wings’ scouts at or around the time the World Junior Championships were held, the team plans on having McCollum split time with Petr Mrazek next season, but the Left Wing Lock’s Sarah Lindenau pondered whether the Wings might have to bolster their goaltending via both the draft and perhaps bringing in a veteran mentor for McCollum over the summer:

Detroit’s other prospects in the professional ranks include Jordan Pearce and Thomas McCollum. Pearce, who has battled injuries all season long, has been limited to just 17 AHL contests. The 6-foot-1, 201 pound netminder hasn’t played nearly as well as last season seeing his goals against jump from last year’s 2.89 to 3.53. Pearce, who was signed as an undrafted free agent in 2009, was even demoted to Toledo of the ECHL for two games after returning from injury.

McCollum hasn’t performed much better, splitting time between Toledo and Grand Rapids. The 30th overall selection in the 2008 NHL entry draft has three professional seasons under his belt and has yet to establish himself as an AHL goaltender let alone show signs he can play in the NHL. This season McCollum has posted a decent 2.68 goals against and a .905 save percentage in 13 games with Toledo. His numbers in Grand Rapids aren’t nearly as respectable including a 3.59 goals against and a .883 save percentage in 15 AHL starts. While numbers don’t tell the full story on McCollum’s play, the Wings had hoped this would be the season that 22 year-old would rebound and secure a full-time AHL spot.

Detroit does have a lone bright spot outside of its professional system in Petr Mrazek. The 20 year-old goaltender is wrapping his third and final season with the Ottawa 67′s of the Ontario Hockey League. In 45 games this season he’s posted an impressive 2.89 goals against and a .913 save percentage. Mrazek, who was selected 141st overall in the 2010 NHL entry draft by Detroit, was also the star of the 2012 World Junior Championship. The Vitkovice, Czech Republic native was named the tournament’s top goaltender after backstopping the Czechs to a fifth place finish which included a 52 save performance against the highly touted Americans.

With Mrazek turning pro next season, Detroit will only have three goaltenders under contract heading into the off season – Mrazek, Howard, and MacDonald. Ty Conklin is slated to become an unrestricted free agent, while both Jordan Pearce and Thomas McCollum will become restricted free agents. Pearce, who has put off medical school to pursue professional hockey, may be on the outside looking in next season. The 26 year-old needed a big season to show that he could take his game to the next level. While he has played well enough to earn an AHL roster spot, Pearce is also four years older than McCollum and hasn’t shown he has NHL potential.

Despite his less than stellar play this season, McCollum is expected to re-sign and compete with Mrazek for AHL duty next season. A lot has been invested in developing McCollum, so it wouldn’t be surprising to see the Red Wings ink him for at least one more season to in the hopes that he can finally turn the corner. Even if McCollum is re-signed for next year, the Wings will still need to sign at least one additional professional netminder. The scouting staff will take a long hard look at the free agent market as well as potential college and junior undrafted free agents to fill the gap. While the Red Wings like the long term potential of Mrazek and still hold out some hope for McCollum, neither is ready for NHL duty even on a temporary basis. McCollum’s struggles this season could mean that another veteran goalie will be signed as an insurance policy in the event that injuries occur and to also provide more competition.

There’s a reason that Joey MacDonald, who appears to have won the back-up’s spot for both this year and next season, is only the third goalie that the Wings have successfully developed into an NHL’er with a relatively bright future (sojourns to Boston, the Islanders and Leafs included) over the past 20 years, alongside Chris Osgood and Hward, and it’s not for a lack of trying:

Goaltenders are, by far, the most difficult prospects to develop, and are the most unpredictable. Now that the Wings have both Jim Bedard and Chris Osgood as dedicated goalie coaches/player mentors, the Wings have a goaltending “staff” as opposed to a single goalie’s voice not named Ken Holland’s at the draft table, but…It’s just such a hard position to master that I think it’s charitable to suggest that one in eight drafted goalies becomes an NHL’er, at best. I still believe that McCollum will get his act together…

• Sticking with prospects, Off Wing View’s Rob Benneian spoke to Tomas Tatar recently:

RB: How has your role developed with the Griffins?

TT: I’m really happy to be here because our coach Curt Fraser gave me a lot of opportunity to show my game here. I have a lot of ice time. When I first came over I was not as good in the games, right now I’m way more confident. I’m in a lot of important situations on the ice so I can make the game different.

RB: Do you have a different role in Detroit?

TT: There’s a different role in Detroit. The first three lines are really high skilled, so of course I have to start on the fourth line, and I respect that.When I get the chance to be there I’m usually with the fourth line guys, so my role is not to produce points or make some good plays, my role is hitting some people, bring some energy to the team and holding the puck. Get the puck out from the zone, this is my role in Detroit.
RB: Are you in communication with Holland about how you’re doing in Grand Rapids?

TT: Yeah, this is what I like about Detroit. They go to a lot of farm team games. When you play good and deserve to get called up, they know. You just gotta play good and I’m sure you’ll get rewarded for that.

• While we’re talking about prospects, with Brendan Smith graduating to the Wings sooner or later, the Wings are obviously going to lean pretty hard on their belief that they’ve sufficiently re-stocked the offensive defenseman’s cupboard via drafting Xavier Ouellet and Ryan Sproul last summer, and the Sault Star’s Peter Ruicci says that Sproul is blossoming into a future captain of the Soo Greyhounds thanks to a late-season surge after returning from a broken jaw suffered on January 28th:

A second-round pick of the Detroit Red Wings in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft, Sproul was scoreless while playing very sparingly in his first two games back. But beginning Jan. 22 in Windsor, Sproul has taken off. He has eight goals and 11 assists in his last 15 games. In other words, with the Greyhounds season on the line, when his team absolutely needs him most, Sproul has done all he can to help produce victories.

And when the Hounds don’t win — especially when their focus is lacking and their play is lousy — Sproul is the first guy to step forward, while publicly challenging himself and his teammates to do more. For the season, Sproul has now notched 18 goals and 27 assists. He’s also a plus-14 in 54 games. That’s tied for fourth best among all OHL defencemen. When told of his recent hot streak, Sproul seemed surprised and spoke of how his numbers are the least of his concerns at this point.

“I don’t worry too much about that stuff,” he said. “Whatever contribution I’m making is to help our team win.”

When asked about the possibility of one day being the captain of this team, Sproul said he doesn’t think about it.

“But part of my game is to bring leadership,” he admitted. “Anybody would be honoured to be captain and that’s something I would look forward to in the future.”

For now, however, his focus is on seven regular season games. Peterborough is here tonight and victories, for the Hounds, remain as precious as cold water in a desert. Which makes you wonder where this club might be with a few more like Ryan Sproul?

• Shifting gears toward projections in the “active player” category, Sportsline’s Brian Stubits believes that Nicklas Lidstrom probably won’t win the Norris Trophy this year (if you’re keeping score at home, the Windsor Star’s Bob Duff was the latest to suggest that Lidstrom will return for at least one more season), but he feels that Lidstrom’s performance shouldn’t get lost in the shuffle, either:

The 41-year-old has won this award seven times. At age 41, he’s going to be hard pressed to win an eighth, but that doesn’t mean he isn’t having a heck of a season. He’s still a huge part of what the Red Wings do and is a quintessential two-way defenseman. It’s hard to believe he’s his age with how he plays.

• And the Hockey News’s Darryl Dobbs offered a less-than-favorable prediction regarding Kyle Quincey’s fantasy value as a member of the Wings:

Kyle Quincey to Detroit: Quincey is a player who has faded in the second half - I don’t think a change of scenery will fix that. And in Detroit, a team with so many options for its power play, I don’t see Quincey producing numbers next season, either.

• And I think that this note about Brendan Smith from Yahoo Sports’ Nicholas J. Cotsonika is important to mention before we all assume that he’s going to steal Jakub Kindl’s job this season and play top-four minutes next year:

Detroit Red Wings: With Jonathan Ericsson hurt and Mike Commodore traded, rookie defenseman Brendan Smith is expected to get some experience down the stretch. At 23, he’s a baby in Detroit, especially on the blue line. The 2007 first-round pick was probably NHL-ready this season, but the deep Wings sent him to the minors, anyway, to over-ripen.

• The Courier-Post’s Randy Miller reports that the Red Wings’ director of pro scouting might be diong a little more than just watching a team which plays in his backyard for the sake of taking in the Wings’ opponent on Tuesday:

Flyers great and new Hockey Hall of Famer Mark Howe watched Thursday’s game from the press box with his famous father, Mr. Hockey Gordie Howe.

Mark will have his Flyers’ No. 2 jersey retired before the Flyers-Detroit Red Wings game Tuesday. Mark is now a scout for the Red Wings, the franchise his father was with from 1946 to 1971.

He will become just the fifth Flyer to have his jersey retired and the first not to be on their 1970s Stanley Cup teams.

“I’m deeply honored to have my name up there with Bernie (Parent), Bobby (Clarke), Barry (Ashbee) and Billy (Barber),” Mark Howe said. “I know how important they were. For me to have my jersey up there means a lot to me.”

• And finally, erm…Your comments in yesterday’s overnight report suggest that you’d like me to do some sort of player evaluation in my recaps. I’m not sure how I’m gonna do that, or how detailed I’m going to get (as you know I’m not a statistical analysis type), but I’ll give ‘er a go after the Wild game, and please let me know how I’m doing. Maybe I’ll offer the old second grade O-S-I assessment (with grades of outstanding, satisfactory or, well, needs improvement). I will definitely be in the “needs improvement” category initially, and as always, my opinions will be meant to be taken as nothing more than the off-the-cuff observations of another subjective Wings fan, because that’s all I am.

Update: Don’t forget that the Red Wings’ Alumni Association team will take on a team representing the United Cerebral Palsy charity in Hazel Park on Saturday evening.

Update #2: Wow, via the Free Press:

The Red Wings, who haven’t won at home in 10 days, try to snap their two-game losing streak at the Joe with the Minnesota Wild coming to town. And it will be a milestone for Fox Sports Detroit’s Ken Daniels, who will be calling his 1,000th regular-season Wings game since he came to town in 1997-98. 7:30 p.m., FSD.

Filed in: | The Malik Report | Permalink


Chet's avatar

GM, i’d say you’ve watched enough games to give either a player or a situational assessment. if there was a great play, a defensive breakdown, or a questionable call, i bet most of us would just love to have you outline your thoughts here in a paragraph or two.

it doesn’t have to be: “well, the third pairing was dynamite tonight as 52 and 2 were a combined +5 and had two goals, so let me talk about jon ericsson for two paragraphs…”;

i could be how you saw the team flagging for five minutes in the second, or how the 1-2-2 gets picked apart by certain teams on the road, or PP entries are toughest when the PK spreads the blue line, whatever. your personal thoughts are a large part of why we read this blog—it’s not to read quotes from four sources reposted on top of each other.

you know this game and this team well enough to say what’s on your mind far more liberally than you do. it doesn’t have to be player-by-player necessarily though, i’d think.

Posted by Chet from twitter: thegansen on 03/02/12 at 08:55 AM ET

MsRedWinger's avatar

George, I agree with Chet. Don’t feel like you have to go all statistical. Just your thoughts and observations. You have great insight.

Posted by MsRedWinger from the State where Tigers roam in the Spring on 03/02/12 at 09:56 AM ET

Nathan's avatar

Also agree with Chet!

Posted by Nathan from the scoresheet! on 03/02/12 at 11:46 AM ET

cigar_nurse's avatar

Here Here George. Just be yourself. You bring a very accurate assessment of the how and why a game turned out the way it did and able to communicate it in your blog where we all can understand and relate with your thoughts. The thoughts of a die hard Wing fan like the rest of us. Keep er goin George, The Meijer store of all things Red Wing related.

Posted by cigar_nurse from On The mend for next season Greenville Pylons on 03/02/12 at 09:18 PM ET

MsRedWinger's avatar

The Meijer store of all things Red Wing related.

Great phrase.  Just great!

Posted by MsRedWinger from the State where Tigers roam in the Spring on 03/02/12 at 09:39 PM ET

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About The Malik Report

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.