The Malik Report
by George Malik on 02/03/12 at 06:49 PM ET
Updated 3x with trade talk, Howard and broomball updates, Oilers stuff and Gordie talk at 8:44 PM: Collective Red Wings fan/team/blogosphere freakout regarding Red Wings goaltender Jimmy Howard’s broken right index fingertip,/a> excluded, the Wings actually had a relatively quiet day following their 4-3 shootout victory over the Vancouver Canucks. The Free Press’s Helene St. James reports that the team played broomball instead of practicing, which is incredibly appropriate given the way pucks went in the net during Edmonton’s 8-5 victory over Chicago:
In addition to Howard, forwards Todd Bertuzzi and Danny Cleary officiated the tournament. Coach Mike Babcock originally had planned an outdoor practice, but decided a non-hockey event would be even better. He likes doing these sorts of things to break up the monotony of the regular season; last year, for example, the Wings tried curling while here. In a reversal of roles, the broom ball teams were captained by youngsters Justin Abdelkader, Cory Emmerton, Jan Mursak and Jakub Kindl. Defenseman Niklas Kronwall was the first overall pick, while Nicklas Lidstrom went where he historically has gone. “I fit my profile,” he said. “Third-rounder.”
“It’s nice to break it up,” Lidstrom said. “Babs has been looking at doing something differently, especially with playing every other night. It’ll be fun to see what it’s all about.”
St. James posted a few more tidbits from the event Via Twitter:
Red wings playing broom ball today instead of practicing, the reward for winning
Nicklas Lidstrom was third-round pick in broom ball: “I fit my profile. Third-rounder.”
Broom ball captains: Cory Emmerton, Justin Abdelkader, Jan Mursak, Jakub Kindl. Rookies get to lead.
@zfan16 Babcock is good about scheduling fun events to break up monotony, too
@wingwheel30 They’re not sitting around in jacuzzis feeding each other bon-bons, just getting workout of different kind
Referee Howard on whether he’s open to being bribed: “Yeah, for the right price, you know?”
I’m not sure if St. James is referring to the fact that the Vancouver Province’s Wyatt Arndt re-posted the infamous photo of Jiri Hudler naked in an ice bath, but you never know.
Speaking of which, here’s more to chew upon regarding the Wings’ 4-3 victory over Vancouver, via the Canucks’ press:
the Legion of Blog’s J. Bowman posted some amusing fictitious quotes from the game, via RedWingsFeed, the Province’s Tony Gallagher tried to find the, “bright side of sucking versus Detroit,” the Vancouver Sun’s Iaian MacIntyre and Cam Cole dragged the game through post-post-post-game analysis, Pass it to Bulis’s Daniel Wagner weighed in, and the Province’s Gordon McIntyre reports that at least Kevin Bieksa growled about the Canucks’ single power play…
in the last two games against Detroit, the Canucks have been out-man-advantaged 8-1, drawing a lone power play on Thursday night to four for the Red Wings.But it’s not because the Canucks haven’t been moving their feet, Kevin Bieksa said.
“That’s not our fault,” the Canucks defenceman said. “There’s penalties out there to be called. That’s the referees’ job, it’s not the lack of us doing anything, I don’t believe that. Kes gets tripped going full-speed … if they don’t want to call it, they don’t want to call it. We’re not going to worry about that, it’s just the way it goes.”
It’s not like the refs always put away their whistles when it involves the Canucks – just think of the Boston game (4-of-11 against the Bruins).
“You get five, six power plays for a few games, other times you don’t get many chances,” Bieksa said.
So, no conspiracy theory.
Besides, as Alain Vigneault pointed out: “The refereeing had nothing to do with how we played the first two periods.”
But Bieksa told the Province’s McIntyre that the Wings legitimately won in his opinion…sort of:
“We didn’t play our best, the way we wanted to play obviously, but still we found a way to get a point against one of the best teams in the NHL,” Bieksa said after the game. “You can always say you stole a point or, when we win, we squeezed out points here and there.”
Put down Thursday’s point in the “stolen goods” category.
“We were sloppy, we didn’t get enough pucks deep early in the game and make it harder on them,” Bieksa said. “They came at us with a lot of speed for the first two periods, they were all over us, and we basically were guessing.”
The Canucks went the first 12 minutes of the second period without registering a shot on Jimmy Howard. Then again, the Red Wings went the first 12 minutes of the third period without getting a shot on Roberto Luongo. That was a result of a between-periods group soul-search, the Canucks retiring after 40 minutes embarassed and PO’d.
“The players got together between the second and third periods and we decided we were going to play the right way,” Bieksa said.
“We deserved the extra point, we were the better team tonight,” said Dan Cleary, who opened the scoring when he waltzed around Dan Hamhuis unhindered. “We haven’t been good on the road (15-14-0) and it’s not easy to come in here and take point from a very good team.”
Shifting gears in a big way, ESPN’s Scott Burnside and Pierre LeBrun talked about Jimmy Howard’s injury as it might apply to trades a little earlier today…
LEBRUN: The Hawks won the Cup with an untested rookie in Niemi in June 2010. I rest my case. Speaking of goaltending, though, the Red Wings will have to do without Howard for a bit. The NHL’s wins leader (32) suffered a broken pinkie finger in Thursday night’s 4-3 shootout victory at Vancouver. The Wings officially say Howard will miss two games before being re-evaluated after the team returns home from its road trip. A source told ESPN.com Friday morning that he might be out two weeks or so. Either way, it doesn’t sound too serious. Joey MacDonald has been called up to back up Ty Conklin, whom head coach Mike Babcock hasn’t showed a whole lot of confidence in this season. This should be an interesting test for the Wings.
BURNSIDE:: You are right about the Red Wings’ goaltending depth issues. Conklin has played in only 10 games this season and has an .886 save percentage. Even though Howard’s injury doesn’t sound that serious long-term, do you think this hastens the urgency to find a more suitable backup for the Red Wings? It was GM Ken Holland, after all, who tried to nab Nabokov a year ago when the former San Jose mainstay cut short his experience in the Kontinental Hockey League. The New York Islanders grabbed him, however, and Nabokov has been OK with a pretty mediocre Islanders squad. But he’s not the long-term answer there. (Kevin Poulin appears to be the heir apparent with Al Montoya still looking to get a shot at the No. 1 job, too.) So, Nabokov to Detroit does seem a logical move and perhaps even more so with Friday’s news.
LEBRUN: I think it really depends on how Conklin or MacDonald do in Howard’s absence and how long Howard ends up being out. If for some reason the backups struggle and Howard doesn’t heal quite as quickly as the Wings had hoped, maybe it forces Detroit’s hand. But otherwise, I don’t think that’s a priority for Detroit right now. My understanding is that the Wings will consider acquiring a top-six forward the most important item on their shopping list before Feb. 27, and that remains the case even with Howard’s injury.
I’m going with LeBrun’s latter point—the Wings will do absolutely nothing unless Conklin proves that he can’t do the job over the next two to four games—but his latter latter point, regarding the Wings’ desire for a top-six forward, might get your tongues wagging:
The Detroit Red Wings remain on the hunt for a top-six forward, but I’m not so sure they’re as keen on Oilers winger Ales Hemsky as they were earlier this season. I was told Friday that now they’re more inclined to try to pick up a forward who has more edge to his game.
Forward Tuomo Ruutu of the Carolina Hurricanes is one of several names on the Wings’ short list. But, will he be available in the end? The Hurricanes could always pull a [Tim] Gleason with Ruutu and talk extension with the forward before deciding whether to trade him.
The Wings are like many of the contenders right now, they haven’t done anything because the buyers outnumber the sellers on the trade market.
As for Hemsky (UFA on July 1), I believe Los Angeles and Nashville still have interest in him.
I wrote earlier Friday that perhaps Dominic Moore would be another name the Wings were interested in, completely forgetting the history between the Moore family and Todd Bertuzzi. Scratch that idea.
And it’s entirely possible, if not probable, that the Wings will have to do something in no small part due to the bad news regarding Patrick Eaves’ post-concussive symptoms (he’s not a top-six forward, but he’s a gritty penalty-killer and superb forechecker), never mind the fact that, as DetroitRedWings.com’s Bill Roose notes, Danny Cleary is going to need to take a break sooner than later to have that Baker’s cyst (bursa sac) behind his knee drained:
“It was a little sore as the game went on, it’s sore right now, but to be honest with you, it’s easier skating than it is walking, if that makes any sense,” Cleary said after Thursday’s game. “I’m going to have to do something about it. I got to get it drained. I got to get it done during the season.”
A Baker’s cyst is the buildup of fluid in the back of the knee joint usually brought on by arthritis or torn cartilage. It can be very painful, and Wednesday his cyst ruptured, landing Cleary in a Vancouver hospital. Cleary had hoped that with last week’s five-day All-Star break the knee would get better with rest, but that didn’t happen.
“I wanted to get it done Monday but you don’t just put a needle in it and drain it, it’s not pretty,” said Cleary, who has four points in the last three games. “Got to go in, not surgically, but it’s pretty detailed and we’re going to put a cortisone shot in and if we would have done that I’d have missed the road trip and I didn’t want to miss that length of time that’s why I decided not to.”
With no more than two days off between any of the remaining games through the end of the regular-season, there isn’t a good time to have the procedure done that wouldn’t force Cleary to miss at least a game or two.
“I looked for a break (in the schedule), there’s not a break,” he said. “I can’t go the rest of the year like this.”
The Wings only have two stretches where they aren’t playing every other day this month—after the Valentine’s Day game vs. Dallas, the Wings get two days off prior to their game against Nashville on the 17th (I’m gonna miss the pre-game stuff as I’ve got ac court date that day), and they’re off on both the 26th (I will be gone for parts of the 24th and 25th as one of my dearest friends is getting married on Saturday the 25th) and on the trade deadline, the 27th, but that’s it—so if you’re reading between the parentheses, somewhere in there, I’m gonna be out of the office and Danny Cleary’s gonna have to sit for a week, too.
Also of Red Wings-related note prior to me going around on four hours of sleep and poking around for more Wings news:
• In other news regarding Russian players, Rotoworld.com’s reporting that Nikita Nikitin, who suffered a knee injury when Henrik Zetterberg accidentally boarded him, is currently on the IR in Columbus, and the Blue Jackets’ website lists him as week to week. Again, here’s hoping he comes back very soon;
• In less exciting news regarding dollars, cents and injuries, I have to agree with MLive’s Josh Slaghter that Derian Hatcher and Uwe Krupp’s injury-filled tenures with the Wings were massive free agent “busts,” but I wouldn’t list Hatcher as one of the ten worst free agent signings in Detroit sports history;
• And speaking of disappointments, I have to agree with Chris from Nightmare on Helm Street: given that Nicklas Lidstrom is actually an incredibly interesting “vanilla bean” fellow who will talk your ear off with thoughtful and even glib answers to hockey and family questions, I was incredibly, incredibly disappointed that NHL 36 spent its entire time focusing not on Lidstrom’s personality (it’s at least understandable that Lidstrom didn’t want to talk too much about his kids or have Annika filmed due to her wishes), his thoughts about being the captain of the Detroit Red Wings, one of the best defensemen ever or someone who’s managed to imbue an entire team with a hard-working, humble and bland-in-the-best-sense of the, “At least they’re not drinking, carousing and otherwise acting like a big bunch of spoiled assholes, thanks TV and the press for lifting the damn veil” sense of the term.
They didn’t even let a pickup truck-driving Tomas Holmstrom (I’m with Chris: of course Homer drives an F-150 4x4 on a team where Pavel Datsyuk has a Mercedes, Niklas Kronwall drives a stick-shift BMW cabriolet and even Lidstrom swaps out his BMW 5 series and his Bentley Continental) play the supporting actor’s and/or “surprising best friend’s” role…
Instead, NHL 36 focused on Lidstrom’s age, Lidstrom’s age and Lidstrom’s age, suggesting that it was incredibly hard for him to play back-to-backs at 41 years of age. The only interesting part of the show, Lidstrom’s dignified and earnest comments and manner excluded, involved Wings coach Mike Babcock revealing the secret to succeeding as a professional athlete in embracing the utter monotony that is the 24/7/365 job of living a regimented, travel and physical exertion-heavy lifestyle where you last by doing the kinds of things that Lidstrom does in eating the same breakfast on practice days, eating the same pre-game lunch, going through the same routines and just focusing on preparing mentally and physically for an 82-game regular season, a playoff run and summertime training for over 20 years.
The Red Wings are masters of breaking up the monotony involved in doing their fantastic jobs, and that much is remarkable. NHL 36’s profile of Lidstrom was anything but.
The NHL hasn’t posted the show online yet, but here it is via YouTube user LushLuv2:
Update #1: I guess that this is good news, per MLive’s Ansar Khan: Jimmy Howard told Khan that he can and probably will play through his broken index finger:
“I’ve played with broken fingers before, so I’ll have to fool around with my sticks and cut some notches out of them,’’ Howard said.
He won’t play Saturday in Edmonton or Monday in Phoenix – he likely would have sat one of those games anyway – and will be re-evaluated when the team returns home on Tuesday. Howard was injured from a shot by Max Lapierre in the third period.
“Lapierre spun and shot it, missed my blocker and caught me right on the finger,’’ Howard said. “We’ll go home and see our doctors and get their opinion.’‘
Howard’s injury gives Ty Conklin at least two consecutive starts. He has won two of his past three outings and is 3-5-0, with a 3.20 goals-against average and .886 save percentage.
“This is a good opportunity, he gets a chance and he’s ready to go,’’ Babcock said. “We’ve got to play real well like we always try to do, and if we get to do that we’ll give Conks a chance to be good.”
The team originally had an outdoor practice scheduled, but coach Mike Babcock said he decided long ago to cancel it “just because it’s this time of year and when you play well and you’re winning games you get rewarded for doing that, and this will be a good mental break for us.’‘
So why broomball?
“We had a rink for an outdoor practice, but then it was just going to be pond hockey,’’ Babcock said. “I thought, ‘What the heck,’ so I told (assistant coach Bill Peters) last night, ‘Let’s do broomball.’ So Pete phoned his buddy and got it all organized.’‘
Babcock said it would fun, a chance to laugh it up.
According to Wikipedia.com, “Broomball is a recreational ice game originating in Canada and played around the world. It is played in a hockey rink, either indoors or outdoors, depending on climate and location. Broomball is popular in the Canadian province of Manitoba, where Glenella is the Broomball Capital of the World. Broomball is also beginning to become noticed around the world, particularly in the United States, Australia, and Japan.’‘
Four teams were headed up by Jakub Kindl, Jan Mursak, Justin Abdelkader and Corey Emmerton.
“I’ve been on a broomball (arena) once in my life and I used to watch a lot,’’ Babcock said. “The engineers at McGill (University) used to play at lunch hour and I used to go over there because they used to hack and have warfare over there. It used to be a lot of fun to watch, but I don’t know anything about it.”
Back at the U, we had broomball leagues. I didn’t play for one reason: in any competitive sport, when I’m not playing goal, I’m as dirty as mud, so I would have “hacked and had warfare.”
If we’re to indulge in some more trade deadline talk, the Globe and Mail’s Eric Duhatschek posted a few intriguing names—and I’d think that if Ryan Malone didn’t have 3 years remaining on his contract, teams would be all over him like Dustin Penner on pancakes:
Columbus also has a couple of less expensive pieces available. For anyone not prepared to meet Edmonton’s asking price for [Ales] Hemsky, there’s Kristian Huselius to ponder. Huselius has been hurt all year and is a pending UFA, but played for Kings’ coach Darryl Sutter in Calgary and is a skilled, if meek, scorer. The advantage of taking a chance on Huselius is it’s low risk and potentially high reward if his groin issues ever clear up. In the four years between ’07 and ’10, Huselius had 77, 66, 56 and 63 points for Calgary, then Columbus, but he has managed to get into just two games so far this season. Sami Pahlsson and Vaclav Prospal are the Blue Jackets’ other unrestricted free agents up front.
Carolina is listening with interest to offers for hard-nosed Tuomo Ruutu, a potential UFA, who cost Carolina Andrew Ladd a few years back. [Kings coach Darryl] Sutter likes his Finns and Ruutu is a more skilled version of Ville Niemenen who helped Calgary get to the 2004 final (and was really good, eliminating San Jose in the third round). Another possibility in Carolina would be Jussi Jokinen, a good shootout guy and terrific in the ’09 playoffs for Hurricanes (11 points, including 7 goals, in 18 games).
Tampa is moving up the standings again, but the feeling is the Lightning would move Ryan Malone, one of the few players remaining from the 2008 buying spree engineered by former owners Len Barrie and Oren Koules. Malone has had his share of injury issues this season; he’s a big-bodied forward, slowing down though, and the attraction will be his 16 point playoff performance for Pittsburgh in their Cup year. Malone has three years remaining on the seven-year, $31.5-million that carries an annual cap hit of $4.5-million but was front-loaded so the remaining years of the deal are fairly attractive in terms of cash paid out - $3-million, then two final years at $2.5-million. Malone’s no-movement clause ends after next year, at which point it becomes one of those limited no-trade clauses in which he can submit a list of 12 teams to which he would not accept a trade to.
• Shifting gears back to players actually on the Wings, Sportsnet has this to say about one of its ten “Hart Trophy Favourites”:
There’s a reason Zdeno Chara made Pavel Datsyuk his number one pick in the All-Star Game draft. Datsyuk’s 53 points lead the Detroit Red Wings and are 12 more than Johan Frazen who’s second in team scoring. No surprise, the Red Wings are also one of the league’s hottest teams.
• ESPN’s Craig Custance made me smile via answering a question in his Friday mailbag (insider only, sorry, and he points out that Mark Eaton and Steve Staios from the Isanders would make wise pick-ups in the depth defenseman category):
There are a couple of big names in the NHL that are nearing retirement [Teemu Selanne, Nicklas Lidstrom, Martin Brodeur, Daniel Alfredsson]. What prominent players do you think will hang up the laces after the season?—Nick, Chicago
Craig Custance: If you would have asked me this past summer, I would have thought Lidstrom, Selanne and Brodeur would all be playing in their final season. But Lidstrom’s game has shown no signs of decline, and he has maintained that he’ll keep playing as long as he’s competing at an elite level. Brodeur and Alfredsson have both indicated they’re interested in playing another season. Selanne may be the best bet for retirement from that group, which makes me appreciate his game even more.
Also of plain old interesting note:
What type of media training, if any, do NHL players get? It seems like 90 percent of players in the league have the inability to speak with any sort of emotion or originality. Their answers are always predictable. I think the NHL needs to address this if they want to gain more mainstream popularity.—Sean, Toronto
Custance: Sean—Most teams do some form of media training every year in training camp. I remember once walking into a dressing room when the team had just wrapped up media training. A couple of players started their answer to my question with something like, “I’d rather not comment on that, but would be more than happy talk about ...” After the third guy did that, I realized something was up and asked what the deal was. They’d just wrapped up media training and were testing it out.
I think another big part of the issue you raise is the hockey culture. For the most part, it’s about the team and not the individual, and veteran teams especially frown on young players drawing too much attention to themselves. That attitude is admirable for team-building but doesn’t do much to sell personalities. That’s why I appreciate guys like Patrick Kane or Alex Ovechkin who aren’t afraid to show some flash or say something interesting. Of course, then we crucify them. But that’s another story.
I learned something from my first real in-the-locker room interview, with one Ruslan Salei: hockey players understand that it’s part of their job to speak to the media, so they don’t mind, but at the same time, reporter and sometimes bloggers are allowed into the locker room all of five or ten minutes after games or practices, so players are generally hot, sweaty, tired, sore, and if they’ve lost, grumpy, so they want to tear off enough gear to not feel like they’re burning up, get through their media availabilities and go shower (trust me, ladies, when you add in smelly hockey equipment, the situation isn’t nearly as eye or nose-appealing as you might think) and eat, if not get on the trainer’s table. That’s why their answers are generally so predictable. They’re much more insightful if you catch them after they’ve taken care of their pre or post-game business.
That, and there are also usually PR people hovering around a media pack that skitters from player to player like hungry lions at a watering hole full of quotes to be re-listened to (see: the reason players say the same thing but you read different quotes online) and spat out before the reporters have to catch their flights or move onto the next thing, and those PR people want to hustle the media’s asses out of the locker room as quickly as possible, so nobody really pushes for provocative or thought-provoking quotes anyway.
The players are too busy trying to get through a necessary part of the job while thinking about how tired/sweaty/hungry/sore they are, the press corps aren’t particularly concerned about anything other than getting sufficient quotes to bolster their stories before they file ‘em and move on to the next thing, and the PR people just want to get the interlopers out of the damn room.
Here’s one more thing regarding said media availabilities and loony characters not named Tomas Holmstrom:
Hello Craig! Goalies say the darndest things, don’t they? Tim Thomas and Bryzgalov have given full value for quotes this season. Have you found the “goalies are a different kind of cat” stereotype as real or overblown, and do you have a favorite goalie anecdote?—Andrew, Toronto
Custance: There are certainly more personalities among goalies, but I would say that the goalies-as-crazy reputation might be a tad overblown. I’m based in Detroit, and Jimmy Howard is about as down-to-earth as there is when it comes to a professional athlete. So was Chris Osgood. In New Jersey, the Devils have two fantastic talkers in Martin Brodeur and Johan Hedberg. I’ve found Ryan Miller to be one of the most intelligent and thoughtful interviews in the game when he’s up for it. And before the White House fiasco, Tim Thomas was among my three favorite players to chat with. Still is, actually.
But I’ll say this—it takes a special person to play goal. Goalies tend to be a bit of an outcast at times among teams, and it takes so much focus to get ready for a game that I think that plays into the stereotype because it can come off as standoffish. And of course, there are guys like Bryzgalov who certainly have unique personalities.
One of the growing trends in hockey is that goalies don’t like to talk to the media on the mornings of games, and Bryzgalov and I once went in circles for 20 minutes as I tried to defend my point of view that it was a horrible idea (mentioning that Brodeur, the best of all time, has no trouble talking on game day). Then I laughed, because the interview probably would have lasted two minutes had he just done it. But from my experience, goalies are some of the best guys in the game.
And Dominik Hasek? I’ve heard that he was nothing less than fantastic to talk to, especially given that he had teaching and history degrees and was and is brilliant, but he is also very, very crazy.
• Speaking of goalies, the Red Wings’ recall of tremendously nice guy Joey MacDonald meant that the Grand Rapids Griffins had to recall Jordan Pearce from the Toledo Walleye, and the incredibly level-headed Pearce and glib Thomas McCollum will end up splitting duties as the team plays three games in three nights this weekend!
• Also from the Griffins, they’re reporting that Bob Kaser won’t be able to do play-by-play on the radio tonight….
• And the Griffins’ website posted superb articles about Garnet Exelby, the mission of the Griffins’ youth foundation, Joakim Andersson’s NHL aspirations and Brian Lashoff’s mirroring of his brother’s musical talents, all as part of their “E-Griffiti” magazine. They included YouTube videos of Lashoff playing guitar…
Andersson talking about playing for the Wings…
And Griffins coach Curt Fraser offering a “state of the Griffins” interview:
• And I hate to end on a downer, but the Windsor Star’s Bob Duff says that Gordie Howe’s cognitive issues might be more serious than the Howes are letting on, noting that Howe can’t personalize signatures anymore and that, well…This has been an issue for a long time:
It was a few years back now, and Gordie Howe was on hand at Joe Louis Arena as the Detroit Red Wings officially unveiled the Gordie Howe entrance to the rink. We got to chatting while looking over the many photos of Howe posted just inside the entrance.
One from his early days as a Wing caught our attention, and I asked Gordie what he remembered about his first NHL goal. He got a faraway look in his eyes, and for the longest time, said nothing. Finally, he told me a story, one that had nothing to do with his first NHL goal.
A few weeks later, I ran into Gordie at another Wings game. During our conversation, the subject of his first goal once more came up, and the man they call Mr. Hockey relayed the tale in intimate detail, as if it had only happened the day before.
One of the perks of covering a team like the Wings is that you get to interact with some of the legends of the game. Ted Lindsay is a frequent visitor to the team’s dressing room. Bill Gadsby is occasionally there, as is Howe. You reminisce with them about the old days, and in the case of Lindsay and Howe, I’ve worked on books with them.
To those of us who are old enough to remember them as players, it’s a treat to share those memories. But at the same time, we all have to accept that with each passing year, the memories grow further away and grainier in the mind’s eye.
In other words, Gordie may very well be in the early stages of dementia, but even if he isn’t, he does struggle with memory issues that aren’t just short-term. As such, we’ve got to be grateful for what’s left of Mr. Hockey, because Gordie Howe at 80% of his capacity is still Gordie Howe being Gordie Howe.
Update #2: The Edmonton Journal’s David Staples duly noted that the Wigs probably aren’t interested in Ales Hemsky, mostly per ESPN’s Pierre LeBrun;
• Via me, Fox Sports Detroit’s Ken Daniels assessed the Wings’ goaltending situation while speaking to NHL Live:
• Per the Ottawa Sun’s Chris Stevenson:
Injuries that are having, or could have, a big impact: out of Detroit say goaltender Jimmy Howard suffered a broken little finger in the Wings’ win over the Vancouver Canucks Thursday night. Howard leads the league in wins (32), is fifth in goals-against average (2.03) and eighth in save percentage (.924). The good news is Howard is not expected to miss much time (two weeks. The Wings play six times in next 13 days). Backup Ty Conklin is 3-5 with an .866 save percentage this season. Joey MacDonald has been called up.
JUST WONDERING: Detroit Red Wings scout Kirk Maltby has been following the Buffalo Sabres around. Could the Wings have an interest in Sabres forward Paul Gaustad? If it’s not Gaustad, Canadiens winger Travis Moen could fit the bill for added grit for the Wings “
I would be delighted if the Wings went after Gaustad, and Moen isn’t chopped liver, either. I think both are more realistic targets than Tuomo Ruutu at this point;
• And let’s end with a bang, via the Detroit News’s Ted Kulfan’s off-day notebook:
“I went blocker down to take away everything down low and (Max) Lapierre spun around and shot it, it missed my blocker and caught me in the finger,” Howard said. “It is broken and we’ll see from here. I’ll see our doctors (when the Wings get home) and get their opinion. I’ve played with broken fingers before. I’m going to fiddle around with my sticks and cut some notches and hopefully I’ll be able to hold on to (the stick).”
The Wings announced Friday morning they’ve recalled goalie Joey MacDonald from minor league affiliate Grand Rapids; MacDonald will serve as back-up to Ty Conklin for starts Saturday in Edmonton and Monday in Phoenix.
“It’s a good opportunity for Conk, he’s ready to go,” coach Mike Babcock said. “He gets a chance. We have to play real well like we always try to do.”
Babcock didn’t seem too concerned with Howard’s injury.
“I expect him back tomorrow but I understand they’re not letting that happen,” Babcock said. “He won’t play on this trip.”
And about the broomball tournament?
“When you play well and win games you get rewarded for doing that,” Babcock said. “It’ll be a good mental break for us.”
Originally, Babcock toyed with the idea of playing pond hockey outdoors, but decided on broomball instead.
“I’m a rookie trying this sport, “Nicklas Lidstrom said. “It’s kind of nice to break it up and Babs has been looking to do something different. This definitely is different.”
Update #3: Regarding the Oilers, the Edmonton Sun’s Robert Tychkowski reports that the Oilers are healthy and happy thanks to, as the Edmonton Journal’s Joanne Ireland notes, the returns of Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Jordan Eberle and Tom Gilbert, as well as Cam Barker.
Here’s more from Ireland:
Stringing together wins in consecutive games was such an undertaking for the Edmonton Oilers that they hadn’t won two in a row since November. Not since October had the Oilers even collected points in three or more straight games. So maybe it’s only natural that the mood around their quarters has lightened considerably. The Oilers, 3-0-1 after a skid of 5-18-2, host the Detroit Red Wings on Saturday night.
“You need to get winning to feel that,” said goaltender Devan Dubnyk. “It doesn’t matter how many good things you do. If you’re not on the right end of it after the game, you’re never going to feel that good. We all agree there’s some things we need to tighten up, but if we can adjust and get better while we’re winning, that’s even better.”
Additionally, with rookie Ryan Nugent-Hopkins set to return for Saturday’s game and defenceman Tom Gilbert likely to make his way back from an ankle sprain on Monday against the Toronto Maple Leafs, the Oilers, for the first time this season, will have a full roster.
“Everybody goes through injuries, but for whatever reason it seems like our injuries are always significant and seem to all happen at the same time,” Dubnyk said. “You’ll get a better idea of who we are and what we’re capable of. At the same time, that means we have to go do it. Not that we were making excuses before, but we won’t be now that everyone is back.”
Last season, the Oilers lost Ryan Whitney, Ales Hemsky, Sam Gagner, Shawn Horcoff and eventually Taylor Hall to season-ending injuries. In 2011-12, the players are at least heading out the exit door of the medical room.
“When the injuries started coming, I did think, ‘not again,’ ” said Gilbert, “but it has actually turned out better. We still have 30 games left and we’re playing better, so it’s going to be good to have the full team. These are the guys who are going to be around here for a while, so you want to get some chemistry.”
• And yes, the Edmonton Sun’s Terry Jones reports that Sam Gagner is still on cloud 99.
Regarding the Red Wings? Well, this is a solid way to end the updates for now: Gordie Howe is attending tonight’s Vancouver Giants game, and the New York Times’ Bob Mackin explains the Howe-Giants connection:
Gordie Howe is only 80 days older than the cornerstone of Ron Toigo’s business empire. First, Howe endorsed the Triple O burgers from the White Spot restaurant chain, which began in 1928, and then he bought into Toigo’s Vancouver Giants, of the Western Hockey League, in 2001. On Friday, Howe, known as Mr. Hockey for his 801 goals and 1,049 assists in the N.H.L, will be back at the Pacific Coliseum, in Vancouver, British Columbia, for the annual Gordie Howe night. The Giants will host the Kamloops Blazers. One hundred contest winners will rub elbows with the man known for posing in photographs with one of his famous elbows raised in jest. The Giants will wear special edition jerseys featuring “Gordie Howe, Mr. Hockey” in a circle around his famous red No. 9 on the front.
“Ron Toigo and the Giants are so good,” said Howe’s son and former teammate Marty Howe. “Ron treats Gordie like his father, and we’re always welcome here like family. We always come back and go fishing in the summertime.”
Gordie and Marty Howe visited the Coliseum on Thursday for the team photograph, along with other co-owners like the former Vancouver Canucks and Toronto Maple Leafs coach Pat Quinn and the singer Michael Buble. The elder Howe, who suffers bouts of memory loss, did not do interviews, and Marty denied reports that his father has dementia.
In 2005 Howe sold his 5 percent stake in the Giants back to the club for $200,000 because of financial problems while his wife, Colleen, was ailing with Pick’s disease. Marty and Mark Howe discovered Gordie and Colleen had been victims of fraud. According to a 2009 report in Maclean’s, more than $300,000 in Howe’s appearance fees had been skimmed from his Power Play International company by his business manager Del Reddy and his assistant Aaron Howard. When Toigo learned what happened, Howe was reinstated as a general partner.
“They grabbed everything that made money and paid Gordie a fee,” Toigo told The Vancouver Sun in 2009. “It was shocking. He loves his association with the Giants and, as far as I’m concerned, he’s with us for the rest of his life.”
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