The Malik Report
by George Malik on 03/26/11 at 06:37 PM ET
Missing thirty-some hours of blogging at this time of year is a good chunk of time, and as such, Captain Sinus Infection (I’ve had it for a month, and at least I’m getting some antibiotics into my system later today) would like to provide as much update-and-or-catch-up stories as possible before the Red Wings tangle with my least favorite team, the Toronto Maple Leafs, while actually being able to watch the Wings-Ample Fleas (it’s an anagram!) game, so I’ll do so via bullet point updates:
Wings sign Nyquist: Obviously, the biggest news that doesn’t involve tonight’s game involves the fact that the team signed University of Maine Black Bears forward and Hobey Baker Award finalist Gustav Nyquist to a two-year, entry-level contract. The Red Wings’ website posted a press release via Bill Roose which notes that you can vote for Nyquist as a Hobey Baker finalist online:
A 21-year-old economics major from Malmo, Sweden, Nyquist is again a top 10 finalist for the Hobey Baker Memorial Award. Last season, he finished as a runner-up to Wisconsin’s Blake Geoffrion.
Nyquist becomes the eighth Red Wings’ prospect – who was selected in one of the last five amateur drafts – to sign a pro contract with the organization. The others are Cory Emmerton (second-Round, 2006), Jan Mursak (sixth, 2006), Logan Pyett (seventh, 2006), Brendan Smith (first, 2007), Joakim Andersson (third, 2007), Thomas McCollum (first, 2008), and Tomas Tatar (second, 2009).
In three NCAA seasons, Nyquist scored 50 goals with 94 assists in 113 games. As a sophomore, the 5-foot-11 forward led the nation in scoring with 19 goals and 42 assists. As a rookie, Nyquist became the first freshman in 17 seasons to lead the Black Bears in scoring since Paul Kariya.
Nyquist, who led Maine with 18 goals and 33 assists this year, will now report to the Red Wings’ American Hockey League affiliate in Grand Rapids.
Hobey Baker voting is now in its second phase, with the top 10 being trimmed to final three by next Thursday. The recipient of the 2011 Hobey Baker Award will be announced on during the NCAA’s Frozen Four on April 8 in St. Paul, Minn.
The Bangor Daily News’s Larry Mahoney reports that the news broke on Thursday night, and he has the details of at least how Nyquist’s contract will break down, sort of:
University of Maine junior right wing Gustav Nyquist, recently named a Hobey Baker Award finalist for the second straight year, has agreed to terms with the NHL’s Detroit Red Wings and will join their American Hockey League affiliate, the Grand Rapids Griffins, for the stretch run.
A source close to the situation said Nyquist will sign a standard Amateur Tryout (ATO) contract so he can begin his pro career immediately and he will also sign a two-year, two-way contract that will kick in this summer.
Capgeek.com believes that Nyquist will earn $65,000 and a $87,500 signing bonus in the AHL for the 2011-2012 season, or an NHL salary of $687,500, and if he plays in the AHL during the 2012-2013 season, he’ll earn the same salary ($155,000 total), but will earn an NHL salary of $837,500…
Or, in other words, Capgeek.com suggests that Nyquist will possess a cap hit of $762,500 for the next two seasons.
University of Maine coach Tim Whitehead told the Portland Press-Herald’s Rachel Lenzi that he supports Nyquist’s decision...
“He’s ready,” Maine Coach Tim Whitehead said. “I told Gustav before the season that if everything went as I thought it would, he’d be ready to sign and we supported that. If for some reason he wanted to stay, we’d love to have him.”
And Wings assistant GM Jim Nill had this to say to Lenzi about the Nyquist signing:
“Being a Hobey Baker finalist for two years in a row, the question was, how much more can he do?” Red Wings Assistant General Manager Jim Nill said. “Players almost get too confident and two years in a row as a Hobey Baker finalist, it shows us that he’s an elite college player.”
Nill suggested to Lenzi that Nyquist’s definitely “top six” material…
“Any time you’re a standout in any league, you project them as strong players at the next level,” Nill said.
“When he lands in Detroit, we don’t know,” Nill said. “He could be in Grand Rapids for a half a year or he could be a year away from being in Detroit. But we project him as a top-six forward. If he’s not a top-six forward in Grand Rapids, he can’t be one in Detroit.”
“There’s no doubt in my mind he’s ready for the next step and the next challenge,” Whitehead said of Nyquist. “He’s become a complete player at Maine and he’s ready to play at the AHL and even at the NHL level.”
Regarding tonight’s game: NHL.com posted both a superb and long-form game preview regarding tonight’s Red Wings-Leafs tilt (7 PM, FSD/CBC/NHL Network/WXYT), but the bottom line comes from NHL.com’s Corey Masisak:
TORONTO MAPLE LEAFS (34-31-10, 78 points) at DETROIT RED WINGS (43-22-5, 95 points)
Where they stand: The Maple Leafs are in 10th place in the East and the Red Wings are in second in the West.
What’s at stake: Detroit needs a win to ensure it remains in second. Toronto could be within three points of a playoff spot with a win and a regulation defeat for Buffalo.
How it’s going: The Red Wings have had a roller coaster month—they lost four in a row, won four straight and now have lost the past three. The Maple Leafs have won three straight and five of seven.
Upcoming: Detroit has two more games at Joe Louis Arena, Chicago and St. Louis, before a trip to Nashville next weekend. Toronto has a huge game against Buffalo at Air Canada Centre on Tuesday before visits to Boston and Ottawa.
Per the Red Wings’ website’s game notes, Bill McCreary and Marcu Vinnerborg are tonight’s refs, and Thor Nelson and Vaughan Rody are working the lines.
The Leafs’ press’s perspectives on tonight’s game are generally predictable:
• In the Toronto Star, Kevin McGran raved about goaltender James Reimer as a Calder Trophy candidate, with more than a few Wings agreeing with him, and he also discussed sophomore slumps and he offered a first-person defense of a controversial hit delivered by Mike Komisarek;
• Ahem, per the Globe and Mail’s James Mirtle:
While the Red Wings may be comfortably near the top of the Western Conference with 95 points, they’re far from comfortable with their recent play. With several key players out with injury – including Pavel Datsyuk and Johan Franzen – Detroit is reeling a little after losing its past three games. From the top down, there’s a sense in the organization of not wanting to go into the postseason anything less than perfect, and even a 4-4-3 record in March is cause for concern.
“We haven’t been nearly as consistent as I think we need to be,” general manager Ken Holland said. “We show flashes in stretches. But we’re a better team than we were a month ago. We’re getting closer to playing playoff hockey. We’ve got eight more games to go, obviously we need some wins to try to hang on to our division, to try to hold off San Jose for the second seed. Whether we do that or not, I think the most important thing is we continue to play playoff-style hockey to prepare us. We’ve got to figure out a way to make these 2-1 losses into 2-1 wins.”
Detroit’s latest 2-1 loss – on Wednesday against the league-leading Vancouver Canucks – was evidence of that shift to playoff hockey: a tight-checking, goalie-dominated game that probably serves as a good preview of what Saturday’s matchup will look like. The Wings will again be short-handed, but even down a few weapons, they present one of the tougher challenges Toronto has faced during its 15-6-5 run since the all-star break.
Much of the reason the Leafs are where they are, meanwhile, is rookie netminder James Reimer, who has kept his team in almost every game despite the Leafs being outshot in all but five of their last 27 games. That trend should continue against Detroit, which is second in the NHL this season with an average of 33.4 shots a game.
“They’re a heckuva team, but they’re pretty beatable,” Reimer said. “I don’t think they have a perfect record this year. It’s more of a challenge than intimidating, I think.”
• The National Post’s Michael Traikos compares Reimer to Felix Potvin;
• The Toronto Sun’s Mike Zeisberger notes that the Wings are playing without Pavel Datsyuk or Johan Franzen tonight, and Terry Koshan notes that Babcock digs Reimer, the Wings and Leafs, Brett Lebda included, would like to play against each other more, and he points out that Luke Schenn,/a> and Nikolai Kulemin played in their first NHL games against the Wings;
• The CBC’s Ron MacLean previewed tonight’s tilt as well from a broadcasting point of view…
On Scotiabank Hockey Tonight at 6:30 p.m. ET, we’ll tee up our early games: Toronto at Detroit (Jim Hughson, Craig Simpson, Glenn Healy and Elliotte at Joe Louis Arena) and Washington at Montreal (Bob Cole, Garry Galley and Cassie Campbell-Pascall). Inside Hockey answers the question, “Who is Pavel Datsyuk?” and Peter Puck profiles his Red Wing teammate Nicklas Lidstrom.
You can watch a preview of the Datsyuk profile here.
And the CBC’s Jim Hughson frames tonight’s game in a manner which supports my contention that, whenever the Wings and Leafs tangle, the CBC becomes an out-and-out extension of Leafs TV—but I’m nuts:
One of Mike Babcocks favourite expressions is “Get started on time” and his team usually does. They take lots of shots and try to seize the game early while the Leafs often seem nervous and unsure about what kind of game it’s going to be, and consequently have been outscored 93-63 in first periods .
At the other end of the game the Wings are usually excellent at closing out opponents when they have them down. This season Detroit is 34-2-6 with the lead into the third period and while Toronto hasn’t lost outright at 18-0-8, they just don’t put themselves in that position often enough and in the last month let a few too many extra points slip away.
Detroit has long been one of the best at making opponents pay for transgressions. The Red Wings have scored the game winning goal on a power play 11 times this season (San Jose is tops at 16). Toronto with a game winner on the PP in Colorado on Thursday has done it five times but it’s gone the other way too often. Conversely, the Leafs have lost games on a PPG against 11 times.
More than anything though the Red Wings play their game, as opposed to reacting to others. They understand score and time so they chip, dump, change and gamble at the appropriate part of the game.
This year’s Wings aren’t without blemishes. They give up too many goals and look rather brittle but they are still the standard by which top teams are measured and a lot can be learned from the way they play.
Multimedia as a bridge: Before shifting gears to the Wings’ side of the story, let’s take a look at the various multimedia offerings regarding, in order, Nicklas Lidstrom having a street named after him in Novi, the Wings’ comments on Friday and various Wings-Leafs goodies.
DetroitRedWings.com’s Michael Caples filed a story about the City of Novi’s decision to rename the street which leads to the Novi Ice Arena for Nicklas Lidstrom on Thursday, and his story includes both a photo gallery and a YouTube-formatted video from the event:
The Macomb Daily’s Monica Drake filed both a story about the event (Lidstrom looked dashing in black, as usual, with the Swedish Embassy, a.k.a. his family, alongside) and a video from the event:
WXYZ filed a story and video from Thursday:
And WWJ Newsradio 950 posted a story (via WXYT’s Jeff Riger) and video from the event as well:
This isn’t multimedia, but it seems to be the appropriate place to put Art Regner’s quip about the event:
A model of unmatched consistency on the ice, Red Wings captain Nick Lidstrom is now considered one of the greatest players to ever lace up the skates. His exploits will live forever in the annals of Red Wings history.
Lidstrom is so immersed in the Detroit community that we tend to forget that he’s from Sweden. It’s difficult to imagine that 20 years ago he relied on Red Wing teammate Johan Garpenlov to show him the ins and outs of North American life and culture.
Now it’s Lidstrom that mentors the European Red Wings on the American way, but sometimes our way of doing things is still a bit confusing to him.
On Thursday, Lidstrom was honored by his U.S. hometown of Novi, which named the street that leads to the Novi Ice Arena “Nick Lidstrom Drive.”
As appreciative as Nick is of this recognition, he was a bit perplexed when he received that initial phone call from the city.
“They approached me about a month ago and asked me what I thought about it (naming the street), and I told them it would be a tremendous honor,” Lidstrom, a six-time Norris Trophy winner, said.
He then slyly added, “Back home in Sweden, you actually have to be dead to get something named after you. I guess it would be a bigger honor coming from Sweden (laughs).”
Shifting focus to the present day, or at least yesterday, Niklas Kronwall spoke to WDFN’s Matt Sheppard about tonight’s game…
Chris Chelios touched upon tonight’s match-up while speaking to WDFN’s Sean Baligian...
The Fan 590 provides two audio interviews with Wings speaking about tonight’s game via Mike Babcock’s interview with former WDFN personality Greg Brady…
And Mike Modano speaking to Andrew Krystal:
WXYZ’s Reggie Hall posted a Friday practice report:
As WXYT only allows you to post one video per entry (I’m not sure why), you’ll have to watch Jeff Riger’s interviews with three Wings via links to his off-day post, including interviews with Wings coach Mike Babcock, captain Nicklas Lidstrom and forward Kris Draper;
The Hockeytown Blog’s Jake Duhaime allows us to have a little fun, as Paul posted on Friday, by sharing a video of Babcock going ga-ga about a shootout goal scored waaaaay back in the day:
And the Wings talking about “naming rights” immortality:
The Wings’ website also posted a video of Patrick Eaves signing autographs at Meijer on Thursday…
As well as Mike Babcock’s Friday presser:
And today’s multimedia updates come from TSN, which filed a Leafs game-day update which includes comments from Ron Wilson, forward Tim Brent, defenseman Mike Komisarek, forward Clarke MacArthur, defenseman Dion Phaneuf and a few other Leafs.
The Leafs’ website is the one that posted Babcock’s game-day presser…
As well as an interview with Mike Modano:
The Red Wings will have Todd Bertuzzi in the lineup tonight against the Maple Leafs after he missed one game with a sore back.
“It feels a lot better than before,” he said, after the team’s optional morning skate today. “I will have another treatment here in a bit, and I plan on playing.”
Defenseman Jonathan Ericsson (flu) also will be in the lineup.
Still out are forwards Pavel Datsyuk (lower body) and Johan Franzen (groin); both skated this morning. Franzen could return Monday against Chicago, but Datsyuk said he didn’t think he’d be ready. He said he was hoping to play at least the last four or five regular season games heading into the playoffs. If he holds to that, he would return in time to face Nashville on April 2.
Defenseman Ruslan Salei will be a healthy scratch tonight; Jakub Kindl will take his spot. Also, the Wings have sent forward Jan Mursak back to Grand Rapids.
• The Macomb Daily’s Chuck Pleiness checked in with the Wings’ injured players via a Friday update:
Todd Bertuzzi (sore back) is the closest to returning. Pavel Datsyuk (lower body) and Johan Franzen (groin) will not play.
“I’ll see how it responds and then try the morning skate and see how it feels,” Bertuzzi said. “It’s a lot better than what it was. It wasn’t very good or a while. I can’t risk my back like that,” Bertuzzi added. “If I continue to make it worse it’s going to end up getting to a point where I can’t even play. I need to be feeling good, being a forechecker and in front of the net. I got to make sure it’s right before I got back.”
Franzen seems to be the next closest to returning. He thinks he’ll be able to play Monday at home against the Chicago Blackhawks.
“I’m not 100 percent out there,” said Franzen, who has missed three games. “Today was a good practice and one step forward.”
Datsyuk was on the ice since getting injured on March 17 after he was checked into the boards by Columbus’ Rick Nash.
“I’m happy,” Datsyuk said. “(It was almost a) full practice. I need more time. I (to) play a few games before the playoffs,” Datsyuk added. “I watched too much this season. I’m tired of watching TV. I want to be on TV.”
• Chris Osgood also provided a game-day baby update to the Free Press’s George Sipple:
Chris Osgood had a smile on his face today as he talked to reporters for the first time since wife Jenna gave birth to their third child and first son, Max.
“It was great,” Osgood said. “I can’t say I was hoping for a boy or girl. Didn’t matter to me, either way would have been great. Healthy was the main thing.”
And Osgood talked about his recovery from sports hernia surgery, too, as his surgery involved reattaching a muscle to bone and more than a few other issues:
“I wasn’t even sure if I was going to play because of the standings and they’re worried I haven’t played in a while,” Osgood said. “I thought it was better to back off and rest it. When I went in the doctor did say it was eight to twelve weeks, that’s how long I was going to be out. Obviously I was hoping that it would be earlier, that I’d recover faster or something would happen. But it hasn’t ended up happening like that. It’s been 10 weeks now.”
Osgood said he’s hoping to get a good week of practice in and then “hopefully maybe I can get into a game before the season ends.” Osgood said before he was concerned about returning early and now he’s just worried about improving each day.
“Hopefully I’ll be available for the playoffs,” Osgood said.
“The fact that I had so much done at one time has taken a lot longer,” Osgood said. “My goal is just to get healthy and feel real good and then take it from there.”
• In the interim, Joey MacDonald told DetroitRedWings.com’s Dave Burke that he’s ready to go;
• The Wings also spoke at length to MLive’s Ansar Khan, the Free Press’s Helene St. James (Mike Modano included), the Windsor Star’s Bob Duff and Dave Waddell about playing against the Leafs on a Hockey Night in Canada game…
“Original Six, Hockey Night in Canada, it doesn’t get any better than that,” said Wings goalie Jimmy Howard, who’ll get the start. “Even being an American, I get excited to get a chance to play on Hockey Night in Canada. It’s fun. You know everyone is watching. It’s sort of like your Monday Night Football.”
For Toronto native Kris Draper, these meetings are particularly special. Perhaps even more so now, with the 40-year-old Draper knowing there won’t be many opportunities left for him to enjoy these spirited clashes.
“You’re talking about one of the greatest rivalries in professional sports,” Draper said. “The players love it, the fans love it. It doesn’t matter what time of year it is or who’s doing well and who isn’t, whenever it’s Toronto-Detroit it’s very special.”
Draper said he doesn’t understand why these meetings have become so rare. He feels the NHL is making a mistake in not catering a little bit to the fans of teams that have been the foundation of the league.
“There’s got to be a way you can have a home-and-home,” Draper said. “You saw the atmosphere we had with Montreal. As hockey players, those are the things you look forward to.”
Mike Babcock agreed, as he told Fox Sports Detroit’s Dana Wakiji:
Coach Mike Babcock said the other night before the Vancouver game, all FOX Sports Detroit analyst Mickey Redmond wanted to talk about was the Leafs.
“That’s what he was used to, and that’s what Detroit fans have been used to for a long time,” Babcock said. “Obviously, I’m a big believer that the Original Six teams should play each other all the time. If we were in the East, that’s more likely that would happen. They’re (the Maple Leafs) playing real well. I watched them last night, playing well on the road, so it’s going to be a good test for us. It should be exciting.”
What’s also exciting is the fact that, unlike last season, the Maple Leafs still have a chance to make the postseason. They have 78 points, tied with Carolina, and are three points behind Buffalo for eighth.
“They’re right outside the playoffs,” Nick Lidstrom said. “We know we’re going to see a desperate team, looking for points. They’re looking to do whatever they can to make the playoffs.”
Draper had forgotten the fact that the Maple Leafs have beaten the Wings three straight times.
“Guess we’ve got to bring that one up, thanks for reminding me,” he said. “We need to win.”
The Detroit News’s Chris McCosky also posted a sort of history of Hockey Night in Canada article as a lead-up to tonight’s game.
• The Free Press’s Helene St. James’ practice update included a note stating that Al Sobotka cranked up the grill for his monthly barbecue, and she talked to Justin Adbelkader and Darren Helm about their increasingly offensively-oriented roles;
• The Detroit News’s Ted Kulfan noted that former Wing Dominik Hasek wants to continue playing in his “NHL Insider” column, he offered a Friday practice update and noted that Bertuzzi, Franzen and Datsyuk are trying to take it slow in terms of recovering from their injuries now so that their playoff performances don’t suffer;
• The Macomb Daily’s Chuck Pleiness reported in his practice update that Brad Stuart’s taken off his jaw protector, and he also managed to get Jim Nill to explain how the Wings were able to sign Troy Passingham to a one-game amateur try-out;
• And the Grand Rapids Press’s Michael Zuidema spoke at length to Chris Chelios about his role as a mentor for the Wings’ young defensemen:
“I’ve kept pretty busy. There’s something on the schedule every day,” Chelios said after a recent Griffins practice. “That helps quite a bit actually, like there is no transition, to be honest with you. Obviously, you always want to play, but at some point it ends. As long as I played, I don’t miss it at all.”
Chelios’ new job involves working with the Red Wings’ prospects in Grand Rapids—players who weren’t even born when he made his NHL debut on March 8, 1984—with a specific eye on the defensemen. He said it’s a role similar to the one he had as a player late in his career, when he served as a mentor to young Red Wings including Jiri Fischer, Brett Lebda and Kyle Quincey. Chelios was quick to credit Griffins coaches Curt Fraser and Jim Paek for the players’ on-ice development this season, but said one of his biggest contributions has been as a sounding board, whether it’s after practice or on the phone.
“I think when they face a little adversity, I’ve been there and done it, and I think I can help them out when they’re struggling,” Chelios said. “I think that’s the biggest thing. Sometimes they might not open up to a coach like they might to a player that just retired. I think I’ve developed a pretty good relationship with some of these kids.”
One player Chelios specifically mentioned was rookie defenseman Brian Lashoff, who has struggled to stay in the lineup this season because of injuries and a deep roster.
“That’s the toughest part, is trying to explain to a guy why he’s not playing. I went through that when I first started and I went through it at the end of my career,” Chelios said. “There’s not enough spots for everybody, and that’s something where you have to help these kids keep a positive attitude.”
In the prospect department: RedWingsCentral’s Sarah Lindenau already posted the rough schedule for the Red Wings’ 2011 prospect tournament and training camp in Traverse City, MI on her Left Wing Lock blog. I guess it’s almost time to start taking up a collection again;
• In the AHL, the Grand Rapdis Griffins dropped a 5-3 decision to the Texas Stars. Jordan Pearce stopped 33 of 38 shots and Gustav Nyquist registered 2 shots in his AHL debut. The Griffins’ website, the Stars’ website, the Austin American-Statesman’s Mark Swanson and the Grand Rapids Press provide recaps;
• In the ECHL, Willie Coetzee scored a goal and Thomas McCollum stopped 27 shots as the Toledo Walleye defeated the Cincinnati Cyclones 3-2. The Walleye’s website and Toledo Blade’s Mark Monroe provide recaps;
• In Finland, Red Wings prospect Teemu Pulkkinen returned to action after being hospitalized for a kidney infection last weekend, and he didn’t fare in the scoring as Jokerit Helsinki defeated HIFK 3-1, taking a 3-0 series lead.
• Back over on this side of the Atlantic, in the QMJHL, Gleason Fournier and the Rimouski Oceanic were shut out 6-0 in their first playoff game against the Gatineau Olympiques;
• Andrej Nestrasil registered an assist for the PEI rocket, but they dropped a 2-1 over time decision to Shawinigan in their series opener;
• The Montreal Juniors have gotten off to a superb start against the Halifax Mooseheads, with Louis-Marc Aubry registering a goal and Trevor Parkes an assist during Thursday night’s 5-3 win over Halifax, and on Friday, neither player scored, but the Juniors defeated Halifax 6-0;
• In the WHL, Mitchell Callahan scored 2 goals in the Kelowna Rockets’ 4-1 win over the Prince George Cougars;
• And, closest to home, the Plymouth Whalers defeated the Kitchener Rangers 6-5 on Friday.
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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.