The Malik Report
by George Malik on 02/25/11 at 03:23 PM ET
Updated 8x at 2:44 PM with fashion gnus, Babs, baby and Miller vs. Miller news, Filppula quotes, etc.: Oh, goody. The Red Wings have taken to the ice at Joe Louis Arena for one last practice before heading out West via Buffalo, and the Red Wings’ Twitter account broke some less than spectacular news as the injury bug’s revolving door continues to clip players and drag them in:
Brian Rafalski will miss Saturday’s game against Buffalo due to back spasms. He is expected to join the team for the remainder of the trip.
Gah. Rafalski’s out for Saturday and Eaves will stay home due to his “lower-body” injury. More to come as the Wings’ beat writers update their websites before hopping on a plane to Buffalo (at least the Wings get the Sabres on the back half of a back-to-back against Ottawa tonight. No pun intended).
Oh goody, part 2, per MLive’s Ansar Khan:
Detroit Red Wings defenseman Brian Rafalski will sit out Saturday’s game in Buffalo (7 p.m., FSD) due to back spasms.
Rafalski said it’s nothing serious, just precautionary. He won’t make the trip, but he’ll hop in the team flight when it returns after the game to drop off Johan Franzen, on the way to Los Angeles.
Franzen’s wife, Cecilia, is expecting their first child on Saturday. Franzen still plans on playing in Buffalo but said he’ll rush home if his wife goes in labor. In either case, Franzen will not accompany the team to Los Angeles and will miss Monday’s game against the Kings. Franzen will join the club Wednesday in Anaheim.
Center Darren Helm did not practice Friday due to a sore left foot, the result of a blocked shot in Thursday’s 4-1 loss to Dallas. Helm said it’s nothing serious and he will play Saturday.
Joey MacDonald will start in goal against the Sabres.
Update 1:57 PM: Per the Free Press’s Helene St. James, Babcock will reunite the Kindl-Salei pairing and Kronwall-Ericsson pairings to compensate for Rafalski’s absence on Saturday, he told St. James that he would have started MacDonald regardless of Thursday’s result, and she snagged some superb quotes from Rafalski about his back spasms...
“It’s just a few back spasms,” Rafalski said. “It started in the first period yesterday, and we did some work today to keep it loose. We’re just going to rest it for a day, and tomorrow for sure just rest it. But it’s not that bad.”
Rafalski said he plans to go to California, taking advantage of the fact Red Bird II will be making a brief stop in Detroit on the way there from Buffalo.
“They’ll throw Mule off the plane, throw the tether down and hook me up,” Rafalski said, laughing.
And she offers Baby Wings updates galore:
Several Wings’ wives are expecting, first and foremost Johan Franzen’s wife, Cecilia, who is due with their first child Saturday. As of this afternoon, Franzen was still going with the team to Buffalo, where the Wings play Saturday, because he was confident he could make it back in time if necessary. The Wings are stopping in Detroit Saturday night after their game, however, and dropping Franzen off. Franzen said his wife will be induced Sunday if needed, and that he at most expects to miss Monday’s game at Los Angeles.
Ruslan Salei, meanwhile, is hoping his wife can hang two more days before giving birth to their third child. She is at their home in Newport Beach, California. Chris Osgood’s wife is due late March, after he’ll have begun playing again.
“I’ve got a pretty good handle on it,” Babcock said. “Mule is coming with us, and we’re dropping him off. I made a mistake on Rusty — I thought he’d told me he was going to have the baby; that’s coming later. Obviously with Ozzie and him, we just try to do the right thing. For a guy like Mule who is having his first one, that’s as special as it comes, so we wish them well.I think it’s real important. I know I didn’t miss the birth of any of my kids, and I’m thankful for the opportunity to have been there. It’s a special thing, much more important than hockey.”
Update 2:04 PM: Also, per Ted Kulfan:
Forgot to add one item in my post-practice story. Johan Franzen will accompany the team to Buffalo but will be dropped off in Detroit after the game and won’t go to Los Angeles.
Franzen’s wife Cecilia is having the couple’s first child this weekend. Franzen expects to play the game against Buffalo, but will not go to Los Angeles. He will re-join the Wings in time for Wednesday’s game in Anaheim.
Yeah, as for the main practice story? It involved the Drew Miller vs. Ryan Miller storyline:
Drew Miller leads his brother, Sabres goalie Ryan Miller, 2-1, thus far in his head-to-head match-ups. Drew is anxious for yet another opportunity Saturday.
“It’s fun, it’s fun for my parents and family,” Drew said after Friday’s brief practice at Joe Louis Arena. “They get to see us play at the same time. Usually they have two televisions going.”
In other words, the Miller family will attend the game…
There hasn’t been any trash talk this week, or predictions or bets, by the brothers, both of whom starred at Michigan State.
“Just regular stuff,” Drew said. “He’s just concentrating on their team, making that push and getting above the eighth spot (last playoff spot), and being ready for a long stretch. They have a lot of work to do and he’s preparing for that.”
Update 2:08 PM: More from Khan regarding Darren Helm...
“Thought it would be a better idea to stay off the ice,’’ Helm said. “I should be (able to play). I don’t think it’s that bad.’‘
And Filppula, who says he’s still iffy about Saturday:
“I feel good,’’ Filppula said. “Hopefully it feels good tomorrow morning, that’s always the biggest thing, how it feels the next morning.’‘
Update 2:23 PM: Here’s Babcock’s off-day presser, per the Red Wings’ website:
Update 2:37 PM: the Wings and Griffins officially confirm that Jan Mursak has been returned to Grand Rapids.
Also of Red Wings-related note:
Update via Paul and Eric Duhatschek In his weekly notebook, the Globe and Mail’s Eric Duhatschek had this to say about the returning Mike Modano:
At the time he injured his wrist back in November, there were concerns that 40-year-old Mike Modano’s NHL career might be over, only a handful of games into his Detroit Red Wings’ career. Modano, from Livonia, Mich., signed with his de facto home-town team, after two decades in the Minnesota/Dallas Stars organization in the hopes of adding one more Stanley Cup to the one he won in 1999, and had a modest eight points in his first 20 games. With the Wings humming along second in the Western Conference, he might get that chance - but much will depend upon how well he plays in the final quarter of the season, and what his role might be if Detroit ever gets all of its injured forwards back at the same time. Patrick Eaves is out for a week or more. Modano’s return is expected to come Saturday against the Buffalo Sabres.
Modano very admittedly took until around game 20 to get into Red Wings shape, and as the playoffs approach, the Wings do need the kind of two-way game to help stabilize both their defensive play and the veteran savvy Modano provides to get that much more out of Filppula, Hudler, Abdelkader, et. al. I think he’ll do just fine and will play for the Wings in the playoffs.
Also in the tidbit department:
• NHL.com’s John Kreiser provides a surprising statistic...
Six weeks ago, it looked like New Jersey would be a big seller at the trade deadline. New Jersey was just 10-29-2 at the halfway point of the season, last in the overall standings and 27 points out of eighth place.
The Devils had the fourth-worst record of any team at the halfway point of the season since the 82-game schedule was adopted in 1995-96. None of those teams won more than 12 games in the second half of the season, a total the Devils had exceeded just 16 games into their second half.
New Jersey now is on track to threaten the 1995-96 Detroit Red Wings for the best second half under the current format. The ‘95-96 Wings were 33-4-4 for 70 points in the pre-shootout era; the Devils’ 16-1-2 (34 points) through 19 second-half games (entering Friday’s visit to Tampa Bay) is a pace that would give them 73.
• Kreiser also has this to say about Nicklas Lidstrom’s place in Norris Trophy voting, were the NHL’s media members polled today:
Nicklas Lidstrom, Detroit Red Wings—Maybe 40 really is the new 30. There’s certainly no sign that Lidstrom, now 40, has any slippage in his game.
All he’s done in the first year of his fifth decade is put up 12 goals and 48 points in 60 games, second among all defensemen. He’s done all that while taking only seven minor penalties all season—only one more penalty than he’s had goals on the power play. He’s still a minute-muncher (23:37 ice time per game) who plays effectively in all situations for the Central Division-leading Detroit Red Wings.
Perhaps the most amazing thing about Lidstrom is his consistency. He does everything right so often that it’s easy to take his brilliance for granted.
“The beauty of Nick is, he’s the same every day and he’s no maintenance,” Wings GM Ken Holland said. “He might not wow you if you just watch him one game, but his greatness is that he rarely makes a mistake shift after shift, game after game, year after year.”
Lidstrom nearly took his six Norris Trophies back home to Sweden last summer. Thankfully for the Wings, he opted for another season in Detroit. A seventh Norris would tie him for second all-time with Hall of Famer Doug Harvey, one behind Bobby Orr.
• In the plain old “interesting” category, per the Portland Press-Herald’s Rachel Lenzi, regarding University of Maine Black Bears forward Gustav Nyquist’s scoring streak of late:
Maine forward Gustav Nyquist enters the weekend series [between Maine and Merrimack] in fifth in Hockey East scoring with 15 goals and 23 assists, and has nine goals in his last six games.
• And DetroitRedWings.com’s Jake Duhaime posited an entry on the necessity of engaging in social media which I’d suggest that you read even if he didn’t mention me in it.
More tidbits at 1:30: Don’t forget that the Wings’ $9 seats for March and April go on sale on Saturday at 1 PM at and only at the Joe Louis Arena box office;
Update 1:50 PM: News from the Wings’ Twitter account? More like an hour to burn before the Wings’ flight leaves for Buffalo at 2:44 PM, but why not:
Ran an informal poll after practice of who the best dressed Red Wing is. Zetterberg was tops, Hudler voted for himself first, Cleary second.
Update 2:44 PM: Here’s the video accompanying said poll…
As well as another Lidstrom mention from Kreiser, this time as a Lady Byng Trophy runner-up:
Nicklas Lidstrom, Detroit—The Lady Byng traditionally has gone to a skilled forward. But Lidstrom is doing his best to become the first defenseman since Hall of Famer Red Kelly in 1954 to win the trophy. At age 40, Lidstrom has been playing some of the best hockey of his career. His 12 goals and 48 points in 60 games have him on course for his best season since he had 80 points in 2005-06. Amazingly, he’s done all this while taking just seven minor penalties all season.
“This is supposed to be a young man’s league,” Wings GM Ken Holland said, “but at the age of 40, I still think he’s the best two-way defenseman in the world. Among all-time defenseman, I’d put him second behind only Bobby Orr.”
Random closer: Per the Owen Sound Sun-Times:
Larry Miller, MP for Bruce-Grey-Owen Sound, has announced a major fundraiser to benefit the ongoing construction of the Regional Recreation Centre in Owen Sound. In conjunction with the Owen Sound and Area Family YMCA, Miller will host the Conservative All-Star Hockey Team in the City this fall. The Conservative All-Stars will play against a team made up of celebrities including Kirk Maltby, former Attack captain who has won four Stanley Cups with the Detroit Red Wings. Senator Jacques Demers, former head coach in both the NHL and WHA will participate as well as many well known NHL Alumni, including our very own, Paul MacDermid.
Miller said “this will be an opportunity for the whole family to get out and cheer on the celebrities on the ice and benefit the rec centre as well.” Miller went on to add “there will be other fundraising events going on, such as a raffle draw for a pair of Air Canada tickets to any Air Canada destination in the world.”
The event will be held at the Bayshore Community Centre on September 17th, 2011. More information on the Rec Centre Hockey Challenge will be made available in the months ahead.
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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.