The Malik Report
by George Malik on 01/05/12 at 10:14 PM ET
Updated 3x at 12:34 AM on Friday: If you check out the Red Wings’ Twitter account this evening, you’ll find out why the team chose to fly to Toronto over two days prior to their match-up with the Maple Leafs on Saturday night: the Wings’ Fathers’ Trip is beginning with a little guided tour of the Hockey Hall of Fame prior to what will likely be a leisurely day of meetings, practicing and a team dinner in a location other than a simple hotel buffet room with the players’ fathers and mentors on Friday night. MLive’s Ansar Khan spoke to the Wings about the non-business portion of their road trip prior to the team’s departure:
“I think it’s good for the dads to get a chance to see that, and I think it will be good for us too to share that with our dads,’’ future Hall of Famer Nicklas Lidstrom said.
Said center Darren Helm of Lidstrom: “He’s got his own section, probably. He should have a lot of stuff there. We have a lot of history here. It’ll be interesting to see the history throughout the league.’‘
They also planned to watch the gold medal game of the World Junior Championship between Russia and Sweden on TV.
This is always one of coach Mike Babcock’s favorite trips. He has brought his dad a few times. This time, he’s bringing a friend from Saskatchewan.
“It’s unbelievable, the energy and the amount of fun and amount of joking,’’ Babcock said. “I joked with a few guys today, (that) it’ll be the first good practice I’ve seen in months. It’s fun to have them around. It’s a way to say thanks to your dad for everything he’s done for you.’‘
DetroitRedWings.com’s Bill Roose spoke to the Wings about the Fathers’ Trip...
“It’s always something that we – both players and our dads are looking forward to – it’s a chance for us to give back for what they were doing when we were kids, taking us around,” said captain Nicklas Lidstrom, who’s dad, Jan Erik Lidstrom is on the trip. “And now it’s their chance to see us up close and see how we travel, how we handle ourselves on the road and how we get ready for the games. And we have a fun time doing it, too.”
This year’s trip features a four-day whirlwind journey to a pair of Original Six destinations – Toronto and Chicago – that will include a stop at the Hockey Hall of Fame and a special dinner that will conclude with the fathers and sons watching the Sweden-Russia semifinal of the World Junior Championships. The dads receive the full experience from sitting in on pre-game meetings with their sons to traveling in luxurious style on Red Bird III.
Lidstrom’s defensive partner, Ian White, is making his first dads’ trip as a member of the Red Wings. He was a rookie with the Maple Leafs when he took his dad, Gerald along, but going this weekend, and visiting the Hall of Fame will be a special occasion for the Whites.
“It will be neat. We’ve actually been there together quite a few times, but it will be a walk down memory lane, so it will be very special,” Ian White said. “He’s obviously been to Toronto quite a few times, but to see it on the reverse side will be good for him. And then to get to come to the Madhouse in Chicago and get a completely different atmosphere, it’s a special experience all-around.”
The players aren’t the only ones who get to invite their dads along, either. The coaches, trainers and equipment staff also get to experience having their dads see first-hand what they do to get the team prepared for an NHL game.
In all, the players, coaches and staff invited 16 dads, three brothers and three friends on this weekend’s trip. Forward Todd Bertuzzi is one of the guys who brought a hometown friend, Greg Rutledge, who is a quality assurance manager at Sleeman Breweries in Ontario.
“My father’s finished building his home and he’s heading out to Florida for the rest of the winter,” Bertuzzi said. “He’s going to come to the Toronto game and then heading out to Florida, so I got my buddy (Greg) coming in.”
And Helm told the Macomb Daily’s Chuck Pleiness about his progress in terms of recovering from a groin injury, and while today’s earlier indications were good ones, it sounds like neither Helm nor Tomas Holmstrom will return from their respective groin injuries until Sunday’s game in Chicago (the Wings also play in Long Island on Tuesday, but I believe they’re flying the fathers/mentors home on Monday) at the earliest.
Helm would like to be playing instead of watching Saturday and Sunday’s games alongside his father, but he’s not going to endanger himself or his team to do so:
“It would be nice, he’s come a long way,” Helm said. “He understands what kind of injury it is. He used to play hockey. He understands the bigger picture,” Helm added. “It would definitely be really nice to play with him in the crowd. Toronto and Chicago are two great venues.”
“If it feels unbelievable, maybe (I’ll play Saturday),” Helm said. “We’re playing back-to-back, that’s pretty tough jumping into back to backs with this kind of injury. Maybe Saturday off and shoot for Sunday.”
Helm left midway through practice, along with Tomas Holmstrom, who is also nursing an injured groin.
“I don’t think so, but there’s another practice [Friday], so we’ll see what happens,” Wings coach Mike Babcock said when asked if Helm or Holmstrom would play Saturday. “We’re set up to go without them.”
Helm had been shooting to return on Tuesday against Dallas and lobbied to practice on Monday. That request was denied and Helm stayed in town to receive treatment instead of travelling with the team.
“I didn’t really feel anything in my groin too much,” Helm said. “Just doing the one stretch, I felt it a little bit. For the first day on the ice in five or six days, I felt pretty good. We’ll see how it feels tomorrow. That’ll probably be a bigger indicator of how things went today.
And Helm spoke to DetroitRedWings.com’s Bill Roose about his status as well:
“I wasn’t really pushing myself too hard out there,” he said. “A couple times I tried to get up to full speed, but I never really went after it too hard. It felt good. I didn’t really feel it at all while I was skating. If it feels unbelievable (tomorrow), maybe (I’ll play Saturday). We’re playing back-to-back, that’s pretty tough jumping into back-to-backs with this kind of injury. Maybe Saturday off and shoot for Sunday.”
Either way, a part of Helm wants to get back in the Wings’ lineup, if for no other reason then his father traveled a long way to see him play this weekend.
“It would be nice, he’s come a long way,” Helm said. “He understands what kind of injury it is. He used to play hockey. He understands the bigger picture. It would definitely be really nice to play with him in the crowd; Toronto and Chicago are two great venues.”
And even if Helm doesn’t play, he’s looking forward to going with his dad to the Hockey Hall of Fame in downtown Toronto.
“I’ve never really walked around there and looked at things,” Helm said. “I’m excited about it. I know my dad hasn’t been there. He’s excited about it. … He shows his emotions quite highly. It should be fun to be there.”
The Wings’ players didn’t have too much time to talk to the press after their skate at what really is a cramped venue in terms of player access in City Sports Arena, so I’m not sure whether they addressed the Ottawa Senator-heavy All-Star Game’s starting lineup, but Jimmy Howard told the Detroit News’s Ted Kuflan that he would have no problem attending if the NHL’s Hockey Operations department makes the no-brainer choice that is picking Howard to represent the Wings:
Detreoit’s Nicklas Lidstrom was one of the captains last season. Lidstrom was fourth among defensemen in this year’s fan voting, while Howard was sixth among goalies — as a write-in candidate. Pavel Datsyuk was ninth among forwards and Henrik Zetterberg 14th.
Howard would like to be selected for the game if it comes to pass.
“Most definitely,” said Howard, who grew up in upstate New York, two hours from Ottawa. “I’d love to represent the organization and the league. Growing up and watching the game, to get the chance to possibly play in it, it’s hard to put into words. It would be cool, for lack of a better term.”
• Given the complicated feelings many people have toward the American auto industry, especially given the whole bailout issue (it should at least be noted that taxpayers did hold GM and Chrysler accountable for the money allotted to them, unlike, say, the banking industry), but in Michigan it’s somewhat understandable that Wings fans reacted to Nicklas Lidstrom’s Honda commercial in which he co-stars with Corey Perry with equal amounts amusement, satisfaction for seeing Lidstrom finally placed on a nationally-televised level, confusion about Lidstrom getting along with one of the Wings’ biggest antagonists and, well, discomfort about the fact that Lidstrom’s selling a Honda, regardless of the fact that it’s made in the U.S.
Honda is of course the NHL’s official vehicle sponsor, a spot once occupied by Dodge, so there’s no way that Lidstrom was going to sell anything other than a Honda if he was doing a commercial for the NHL (it should be noted that Lidstrom drives a British-made Bentley in fair weather and, like most of his teammates, a British-made Range Rover in the winter)...
And here’s what Lidstrom said about shooting the commercial to the Macomb Daily’s Chuck Pleiness:
“I was asked about it during training camp by my agent,” Lidstrom said. “I didn’t know the extent of it, but, sure, it sounded like a fun thing to do. And when they explained briefly what it was that we would be doing I thought it was a fun thing to try out.”
The commercial shows Lidstrom and Perry walking out of a hockey arena and then has the Wings’ captain telling Perry to ‘aim for the net next time.’ Perry responds, ‘do you want to take a cab?’
After getting in the car, hats start hitting it and both players ask each other if they had a hat trick and ends with a octopus hitting the windshield of the car.
“It took a whole night, it was a lot of shooting,” Lidstrom said. “You think it would be quicker, but everything from lighting to being in the right spots to saying the right things and walking the right steps, everything. It took a lot longer than I anticipated.
“That (the octopus hitting the car) in itself took probably an hour just to make sure it got to the right spot and was sliding down slowly,” Lidstrom added. “I believe they only used the one, but I think they were toying around with it to make it slide down and stick on the windshield.”
• The Wings probably missed watching the second-to-last Wings prospect take part in his final World Junior Championship game, and it wasn’t pretty for Finland’s Teemu Pulkkinen as he and his teammates were shut out 4-0 in the Bronze medal game. Pulkkinen finishes the tournament with 6 goals and 4 assists for 10 points over the course of 6 games played, but he finished Thursday’s game at -2 and failed to score on a penalty shot, as noted by IIHF.com’s Andrew Podnieks...
Late in the period, [Canadian goalie Mark] Visentin was called for throwing his goalie stick and the Finns were awarded a penalty shot. Teemu Pulkkinen bore down on Visentin but tried to go through the goalie’s legs only to see the puck kicked back out to keep the score 2-0.
“I didn’t do anything special,” Pulkkinen explained. “I tried to shoot five-hole, but it didn’t work.”
And Pulkkinen told NHL.com’s Erin Nicks that the Finns were both physically and mentally drained after missing out on an opportunity to face the Russians tonight:
The Finns admitted that after a 3-2 overtime loss to Sweden in the semifinal Tuesday, they were drained—both physically and emotionally.
“We got tired,” forward Teemu Pulkkinen said. “We played a long game against Sweden with the overtime. We were so close, after that when we lost the game we were so disappointed. I was so tired.”
The game started as one would expect between two teams that suffered heartbreaking losses with a gold medal berth on the line. But after getting over their passive pace, Canada broke through Finnish starter Sami Aittokallio on the power play near the midway mark of the first period. With Ville Pokka off for tripping, Pearson redirected a perfect pass from Barrie Colts teammate Mark Scheifele behind Aittokallio at 9:08 to give Canada a 1-0 lead. It was his first goal of the tournament.
On the power play again with just over four minutes remaining in the period, Canada almost gave up a shorthanded goal. Mikael Granlund sprung brother Markus in alone on Visentin. Markus deked, but Visentin got a pad on his shot to keep Finland off the board in the opening 20 minutes.
Pearson returned the favor to Scheifele in the second. Just 25 seconds following Visentin’s stop on Pulkkinen, Pearson found Scheifele in the slot with a pass from below the goal line. Scheifele pumped the puck over the blocker of Aittokallio at 5:35 to extend Canada’s lead to 2-0.
Pulkkinen had a prime opportunity with 2:32 remaining in the period to cut the lead to one. After Visentin was penalized for throwing his stick during a crease scramble that saw the Finns nearly get on the board, Pulkkinen was awarded a penalty shot. He broke in, cocked his stick and then fired a shot that Visentin was able to close his pads on.”
TSN posted a 4:22 highlight clip, but recaps and pictures are still coming in as of the time I’m writing this as writers are also working on covering the Russia-Sweden game, so I can only offer you a clip of Jiri Fischer speaking about the Czechs’ fifth-place finish at the WJC as the other tidbit of Wings-related note from the WJC for the moment.
• If you missed it, yes, University of Michigan athletic director David Brandon stated that U of M has been asked about possibly hosting the 2013 Winter Classic;
Update: The Griffins haven’t put out an official press release to the public regarding this, but they’ve got some serious promotions going on next Wednesday and Friday;
I don’t omit mentions of other Wings bloggers—and we have tons of good ones—out of spite or competitiveness or any of that other silly stuff, for the record: I just tend to be so damn busy trying to cover the MSM that by the time I see something pop up on WIIM, the Production Line, On the Wings, etc., the next story’s up and I have to post it. I think it’s time to re-start the, “George needs a blogroll link list” campaign, where any and all blogs are welcome to plug themselves…as long as they’re Wings-related.
Or at least not about politics.
• The Windsor Star’s Dave Waddell adds a few more stories to the Fathers’ Trip mix:
“It’s always something that we – both players and our dads – look forward to,” Lidstrom said. “Now it’s their chance to see us up close and see how we travel. How we handle ourselves on the road and how we get ready for the games and everything.”
There has been an unexpected benefit from the stability of the Wings’ lineup over the years. Many of the dads have made several trips and get to reconnect each year.
“The dads know each other a lot better,” Lidstrom said. “They come up to each other and say, ‘Hi.’ They talk to each other even though some of them are Europeans and English isn’t their first language. They’re still talking to each other and it’s fun to see.”
Lidstrom said there’s no doubt who has the most fun on these trips. It’s the dads without a doubt.
“They’ve seen us grow up, watching us as kids playing and I’m sure they’re all proud of their sons and what they have done,” Lidstrom said. “But I think it’s fun for them to get a chance to see it up close and how it is before games. They’re interested in our meetings before games. For example, hearing Babs (Babcock) talk about our strategy before games and what we want to accomplish and I think they really enjoy that.”
For many of the Wings, the trip to the Hall of Fame was going to be one of the highlight moments. Not all the players have taken the tour of the sport’s pantheon to its greatest athletes, coaches and builders. Howard said he’s got one item he wants to find in the display.
“I’ve been there once before,” Howard said. “I hope to take a picture by Ozzie’s (Chris Osgood’s) stick (400th win) and send it to him. I’m going to hunt that down.”
• Speaking of Lidstrom, from Yahoo Sports’ Nicholas J. Cotsonika’s latest Three Periods article…
One detail that didn’t make last week’s piece on Red Wings captain Nicklas Lidstrom: When an opponent tries to chip in the puck on his wing, Lidstrom usually knocks it down along the boards. It’s a simple play that has a cumulative effect as Lidstrom repeats it over time. “The guys can’t get in our zone, which saves a lot of wear and tear on us,” said Ian White, Lidstrom’s defense partner. “It gives the puck more into our forwards’ hands and gives us more (offensive) zone time.”
Here’s that Lidstrom article again…
• Regarding the whole, “Potential Winter Classic at the Big House” theme, again, from Cotsonika:
Nick’s Tweet of the Week: “Total attendance for first five Winter Classics: 265,225. Total attendance for next year’s alone: 110,000-plus. (Wink, wink.) #bighouse”
Again, full disclosure: I am a Michigan grad who lives in Ann Arbor. And again, I want the 2013 Winter Classic to feature the Maple Leafs and Red Wings at Michigan Stadium. NHL chief operating officer John Collins said the event has grown to the point where NBC would OK a Canadian team “if we could figure out the right matchup.” This is the right matchup.
Imagine folks from Southern Ontario flooding across the border and helping to fill the Big House, the largest stadium in North America. When Michigan faced Michigan State in an outdoor college game in December of 2010 – at least initially claiming a world-record attendance of 113,411 – so many Canadians came you could hear “O Canada” being sung at tailgate parties.
There are challenges. You’d have to set ticket prices low enough to ensure a sellout but high enough to make enough money for everyone, including the University of Michigan. You’d have to find enough hotel space and off-ice entertainment venues in Ann Arbor – about 45 minutes west of Detroit – or be content with spreading out the festivities across southeastern Michigan.
Then there is Red Wings owner Mike Ilitch. He has long been a booster of downtown and would prefer Comerica Park, home of his Detroit Tigers. Downtown has hosted several large events in recent years, including the Super Bowl, NCAA Final Four and MLB All-Star Game, so there is a ready-made blueprint there. If Comerica Park is the place, it should include the Great Lakes Invitational – the college tournament usually held in late December at Joe Louis Arena featuring Michigan, Michigan State, Michigan Tech and an at-large team.
Comerica Park would be cool. But nothing would beat the Big House and the big buzz, big money and maybe big TV ratings that a record crowd could create.
• Second to last, from Grantland’s Katie Baker:
Jiri Hudler scored twice Tuesday night to help the Detroit Red Wings defeat the Dallas Stars, 5-4. The goals were his 10th and 11th of the season, meaning that in 38 games the Czech, who turned 28 yesterday, has already topped his goal-scoring total from all of last season. It’s a promising comeback for Hudler, who was an integral part in the Red Wings’ 2008 Stanley Cup win but who in 2009 turned down a Red Wings contract-extension offer, defected to the KHL’s Dynamo Moscow for more cash after a protracted NHL arbitration and NHL-KHL transfer dispute, then was released by Dynamo a year later when the club essentially ran out of money and merged with another Russian squad. The Red Wings welcomed him back last season, but he failed to live up to the potential he had shown prior to leaving the league. This season, though — his final one before his current two-year deal with the Red Wings is up — he appears to be getting back on track, with 11 goals and 14 assists and recent success on a line with Henrik Zetterberg and Valtteri Filppula.
• And finally, I hate to keep bringing this up, but I’ve got a doctor’s appointment which deals with the whole anxiety/depression thing (and that’s all I can tell you about it), and it may keep me out of the office for the entire day. If anything huge breaks, I’ll ask Paul to cover it, and I’ll have an evening post’s worth of off-day news, but this is a big appointment and I’m so nervous about it that I’m blocking out the day because I need to. I’m sorry about the interruption in service.
Update #3: Here’s a wee bit more from Lidstrom about the commercial he shot, via MLive’s Ansar Khan...
You’ve probably seen Lidstrom and Anaheim Ducks forward Corey Perry in that Honda commercial about passionate fans. Lidstrom said it sounded like fun when his agent asked him in training camp if he was interested in doing it. They filmed it outside the Los Angeles Sports Arena in mid-November.
“It took a whole night, it was a lot of shooting,’’ Lidstrom said Thursday. “You think it will be quicker, but everything from lighting to being in the right spots to saying the right things and walking the right steps, everything took a lot longer than I anticipated.”
He said just the octopus scene at the end took an hour to shoot.
“Just to make sure it got to the right spot and was sliding down slowly,’’ Lidstrom said. “I believe they only used the one, but I think they were toying around with it to make it slide down and stick on the windshield.”
Backman finished the tournament with 3 assists and a +5 over the course of six games played.
After the game ended, Petr Mrazek was named the tournament’s best goaltender.
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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.