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Red Wings off-day news: Chris Conner sent down to Grand Rapids (and Conklin/team toughness talk)

Updated 6x with a must-read article about Igor Larionov and a question about Larry Murphy’s daughter at 3:03 PM: The Detroit Red Wings received Monday off to say goodbye to their fathers after their 3-2 overtime win over the Chicago Blackhawks on Sunday, but one Red Wing, Chris Conner, is instead saying goodbye to his parents in Westland and heading down to Grand Rapids for more playing time (as Jan Mursak’s about to come off the injured reserve list). Here’s the Griffins’ press release confirming Conner’s demotion:

The Detroit Red Wings on Monday assigned right wing Chris Conner to the Grand Rapids Griffins.

Conner, 28, was the Griffins’ leading scorer when he was originally recalled to Detroit on Dec. 1, with 23 points (7-16—23) in 20 games. He was assigned to Grand Rapids on Jan. 2 but was recalled last Wednesday before seeing any game action. The Livonia, Mich., native has skated in seven games with the Red Wings this season, registering one goal, two assists and a plus-two rating.

As MLive’s Ansar Khan suggests, The Wings’ roster crunch means Conner’s best served by earning regular playing time in the AHL:

Conner provided speed and energy while playing on the third and fourth lines and was strong on the puck down low. But there was no room for him in the lineup once Tomas Holmstrom and Darren Helm returned from their injuries.

The Red Wings did not practice today, after splitting weekend games in Toronto (4-3 loss) and Chicago (3-2 overtime win). They visit the New York Islanders on Tuesday (7 p.m., Fox Sports Detroit Plus).

Update: Amongst today’s off-day columns and news:

• If you’re a Conner fan, this is your wallpaper;

• The Free Press’s Helene St. James also lends context to Conner’s demotion:

The Red Wings have sent forward Chris Conner back to the minors, as he became extraneous with the returns of Darren Helm and Tomas Holmstrom.

Helm and Holmstrom played Sunday after being sidelined by groin injuries, helping the Wings to a 3-2 overtime victory at Chicago. The Wings are off today after playing back-to-back over the weekend; their next game comes Tuesday at New York against the Islanders.

Conner has appeared in seven appearances in all this season for the Wings, most recently filling in Saturday in the 4-3 loss at Toronto.

This leaves the Wings with 12 forwards for the Islanders game, but general manager Ken Holland said they’ll have Jan Mursak at Thursday’s morning skate in Detroit (they play Phoenix that night). Mursak has been out since exhibition season with a broken ankle.

• MLive’s Josh Slaghter filed Ansar Khan’s post-game notebook as Khan flew back to Detroit in the early hours of the morning on Monday, and it includes a bit of talk about the Central Division’s de-facto Clutterbuck (St. Louis, Chicago and Detroit are tied in points, but this is where the Wings’ relative lack of shootouts or overtime losses comes in handy as the Wings have 2 more wins than the hawks and Blues) with the Wings and Hawks slated to battle four more times this season, starting on Saturday…

“Everybody’s in the mix,” Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said. “I see this battle going on all year, and the (Western) conference is tightening up as well, but we did give away a lot of ground here this week, and it’s up to us to regain where we’re at.”
...
“Three good teams—it’s going to be a battle until the end,” Red Wings forward Henrik Zetterberg said.

The Red Wings and Blackhawks meet four more times, and three of the games will be in Detroit.

“It’s a fun matchup. It’s fun for players, fun for the fans,” Zetterberg said. “Next Saturday we’re the NBC game. We’ll see each other a lot here all the way through the playoffs. Who knows, it might be seven games in the playoffs, too.”

Said Detroit’s Danny Cleary: “We’ve played great at home (15-2-1), not too great on the road (11-12-0), but here we are tied for first in our division, a great division. Games like this, it’s a fun game to play in, meaningful, and a hard game.”

And while this is “marginalia,” I think it’st he most important part of Khan’s notebook:

Pavel Datsyuk, on scoring the winning goal shortly after Russian Christmas: “It’s nice present, but it’s two days ago. We can keep drinking.” ... Mike Babcock, on stars Datsyuk and Zetterberg: “I really thought they dug in hard, whether they had any energy or not. When I asked them they said ‘We’re good,’ so we tried to play them accordingly, and I thought they played well.”

,

And while this is marginalia, I think it’s the most important part of Khan’s notebook:

Pavel Datsyuk, on scoring the winning goal shortly after Russian Christmas: “It’s nice present, but it’s two days ago. We can keep drinking.” ... Mike Babcock, on stars Datsyuk and Zetterberg: “I really thought they dug in hard, whether they had any energy or not. When I asked them they said ‘We’re good,’ so we tried to play them accordingly, and I thought they played well.”

• Khan also took note of Wings coach Mike Babcock’s reaction to a game which may have salvaged Ty Conklin’s second stint with a Red Wings team that had some questions as to whether Conklin could adequately back up Howard:

“You’d like to play Conklin 20 games,” coach Mike Babcock said. “But the way things got going and how tight the division is, it just goes to show you, it’s tough.”

Conklin made 29 saves to earn his first win since his first start of the season, Oct 8 at Colorado (3-0). He has started only six of the team’s 41 games.

“It was great for Conks because for him, not games-wise, but year-wise, it’s been a long time coming,” Babcock said. “It gives him confidence and it gives me confidence to use him and gives our team confidence. So this is a big step for Conks, personally, and as soon as you take that step, it’s good with your teammates and good with your coach. So good for him.”

It was just the third start in the past 34 games for Conklin.

“I don’t play that much, so anytime you can give Jimmy a rest and get a win, in a building like this, against a team that we’re always battling, it makes it nice,” Conklin said. “Frankly, I don’t care who I play, it’s nice to get a win.”

Conklin believes he has played better than his statistics indicate (2-4-0, 3.01 goals-against average, .897 save percentage).

“I’ve felt pretty good,” Conklin said. “I feel like I’ve played one poor game this year (7-1 loss at Washington on Oct. 22), and the rest of the games I feel I’ve played pretty well, or haven’t played poorly, but the wins haven’t come. It was nice to get a win, in overtime, and here, too.”

I think Conklin and many Wings fans are breathing easier about their team’s back up goalie’s chops this afternoon.

• In the “opinion column” category, part 1: WBBL’s Bill Simonson makes a bold prediction about the Red Wings while making a slate of predictions for the sporting year at hand:

The Detroit Red Wings win the Stanley Cup.: Detroit will be the city of champions in 2012. Jimmy Howard took a big step to the next level as a playoff goaltender last year in the San Jose series. I think Detroit will get past the Vancouver Canucks in the Western Conference Finals and beat the Philadelphia Flyers in six games to hoist the Cup.

The Red Wings’ depth has carried them through injuries the past two years. If they stay healthy, they will win it all. I also think motivation will be a key factor in the postseason.

• Regarding said depth, via RedWingsFeed, the Detroit News’s Gregg Krupa wrote what I can only describe as a really lovely read while suggesting that the Red Wings need not answer questions as to whether the team possesses enough “toughness” to round out their fleet-footed puck possession style with the commensurate amount of grit, as evidenced by two plays on Sunday night—and it should be noted that Krupa found himself in Toronto on Friday and Saturday, when Brian Burke’s suggestion that the demotion of Colton Orr yielded a sea change’s worth of “rats” taking over the game was the talk of the town, and with Detroit and its lack of fighters in tow serving as Saturday night’s opponent, they were the focus of columnists and sports talk radio hosts (and eventually Don Cherry) regarding what was the Hockye World’s Biggest Question Ever of the Weekend: can a team like Detroit succeed without Toronto’s “truculence?”

As for perceptions of softness … how about Niklas Kronwall? Do you think the naysayers in half of Canada or the Euro-bashers in the States saw the check he delivered against Bryan Bickell in the second period Sunday night? A perfectly timed, full-body check that was an absolute masterpiece. It’s what checking used to be in the NHL: The victim’s head pointed up ice toward Kronwall, and no launching at all by the aggressor, or the slightest intent to target the head.

And yet, it was devastating. At the point of brutal impact, Kronwall’s body, from shin guards to shoulders, lined up squarely with Bickell, who was on the ice in a blink. He never touched Bickell’s neck or head. And Kronwall … Kronwalled while other Wings banged into Blackhawks with belligerent intent and regularity, as the Chicagoans must have wondered what had happened to arouse such hostility.

(and, very obviously, just as you ought to have RedWingsFeed’s Twitter page bookmarked, We All Bleed Red on Youtube is now the Malik Report’s official highlight provider)

How about Johan Franzen? Do you think the biased noted what Franzen did at the end of the Chicago game, in overtime, when Pavel Datsyuk stood behind the goal line, 15 feet away from the net, and banked in the winner?

As Franzen reached for the puck in the crease, defenseman Steve Montador put his stick between Franzen’s legs and corkscrewed him to the ice. Datsyuk gathered it instead, threw his transmission into reverse and scored off defenseman Nick Leddy like Leddy was an NBA backboard.

It was the closest thing in hockey to a fade-away jumper. Then, as Franzen knelt, WITH THE GAME OVER, Steve Montador punched Franzen right in the face. Franzen rose.

Without dropping a glove, he clenched his right fist, pulled it back, and with what seemed like the power of a pile driver, smashed it into Montador’s face. Montador’s knees buckled, and it was he who knelt, right before the big Red Wings sniper.


Update #2: Via RedWingsFeed again, Yahoo Sports’ Greg “Puck Daddy” Wyshynski reports that the fan who tossed a banana peel at Flyers forward Wayne Simmonds during the Wings-Flyers exhibition game in London, Ontario was fined all of $200 because he was very, very drunk when he bought a banana at the end of the game to toss on the ice while someone made a shootout attempt;

• Speaking of meatheads and/or morons with bad timing, our friend Ryan Lambert takes a cheap shot at the Wings for no particular reason other than the fact that Crazy Stalker Girl Type Wings Hater Troll is indeed a CSGTWHT;

• And in happier stories of non-closeted Wings fandom, DetroitRedWings.com’s Zack Crawford reports that Wings fans came out of the woodwork in Toronto to meet up at the Hockey Hall of Fame on Saturday, and a good time was had by all of the Wings’ dedicated Ontarian fans.


Update #3: The Grand Rapids Press’s Michael Zuidema reports that Griffins coach Curt Fraser feels very, very pleased with the fact that the Griffins’ weekend sweep of Abbotsford gave them a kick in the pants in terms of climbing up the standings:

“Things are slowly coming together for us, but we’re scratching and clawing for every point that we can manufacture every night,” Fraser said during a phone interview before boarding a plane back to Michigan. “his weekend, the guys were at the top of their game and did a great job against a very good team.”

Abbotsford came into the two-game series 8-1-1-0 in its previous 10 games and with the second-most points in the Western Conference.

But the Griffins used a balanced offensive attack Friday to move a game above .500 for the first time all season. On Saturday, they got a stellar 32-save performance from backup goaltender Tom McCollum, and Brian Lashoff scored the game-winning goal with 1:01 left in overtime.

“In the beginning, the first 15 games, the young guys were kind of feeling their way and getting used to the league,” Fraser said. “Now, the last 20 games, our young players have really done a good job for us and contributed a lot.”

Grand Rapids’ recent strong play hasn’t helped it vault up the standings. At 15-13-4-2, the currently sit in fourth place in the North Division, one point behind Hamilton for third and seven points behind Toronto for first. While the Griffins may not have one of the higher point totals in the American Hockey League, they firmly remain in the race for the playoffs in the tightly contested North. Fraser remains optimistic that his team will be able to continue to climb.

“We’ve just got to keep chipping away. We’re still just creeping up,” Fraser said. “There are no big jumps at all. Our division is very close, very tough. You win a game, you’re in first place; you lose a game, you’re in last. It’s very important that we find a way to win every night.”

• Zuidema also reports that the Griffins’ annual Great Skate, a 24-hour event in which every Griffins player and coach skates with fans at Grand Rapids’ Rosa Parks Circle to raise money for charity, is only two weeks away:

The Grand Rapids Griffins’ 10th annual Great Skate and fourth annual Winterfest will be held Jan. 21-22 downtown at Rosa Parks Circle. Once again, Griffins players and staff will take part in a 24-hour skating marathon that will begin immediately after their Jan. 21 game against Rochester at Van Andel Arena.

The Winterfest festivities kick off at noon Jan. 21, and will include winter sports demonstrations from the Grand Rapids Sled Wings sled hockey team, Grand Valley State synchronized skating club and the Greater Grand Rapids Figure Skating Club. There also will be a family activity tent, dog sled presentations and rides and ice sculpture demonstrations.

Admission will be free, but some activities will require a fee and donations will be accepted. Proceeds from the event will benefit the Griffins Youth Foundation.

• And in case you were wondering, per NHL.com’s Dave Lozo:

If the Vancouver Canucks defeat the Florida Panthers, Canucks coach Alain Vigneault will be behind one of the benches at the 2012 Tim Hortons NHL All-Star Game in Ottawa. If the Canucks lose in regulation or overtime, it will be San Jose’s Todd McLellan earning the final coaching spot in the All-Star Game.

The spot is determined by which team has the greatest points percentage in the Western Conference through Monday’s games. Rangers coach John Tortorella wrapped up the Eastern Conference’s spot Friday.

Boston’s Claude Julien is guaranteed a spot by virtue of the Bruins winning the Stanley Cup in 2011. Julien will be joined by his assistants in Boston, while Tortorella and either Vigneault or McLellan will coach the other team.

Last season, a coin flip decided the team assignments for the coaches.

So Babcock gets the weekend off one way or another. If the Wings had defeated the Leafs on Saturday, things might have been different.


Update #4: I’m no power rankings fan, but a good crop thereof has come out early this week, so here’s ESPN’s Scott Burnside’s take on the state of the Wings…

6. Detroit Last Week: 5 : The Wings followed a disappointing loss in Toronto with a come-from-behind win in Chicago on Sunday night. Ty Conklin got a rare win for the Wings, who still need to find a way to play better on the road where they are 11-12-0. The win vaulted them into a tie for first place in the Central with St. Louis.

Here’s what Fox Sports’ Joe Rosen thinks about the Wings this week…

4. Red Wings [last week] 1 [highest/lowest] 2/20: With a plus-40 goal differential, the Wings rank second behind Boston. They have gone to overtime only four times, losing only once. They have gone to one shootout – a 3-2 win at Boston the day after Thanksgiving.

And here’s NHL.com’s Dave Lozo’s take:

7. Detroit (26-14-1) [last week] 6: Valtteri Filppula: He’s having a breakout year across the board at the age of 27. He’s only five points off his career best season for points

• Also in the statistical department, per NHL.com’s goalie guru, Justin Goldman:

Reaching the 40-win plateau: With so many backups playing so many games in the first half, what should poolies make of the mystery surrounding the elusive 40-win mark? Since the 2006 season, very few goalies have put together seasons of such high caliber, but with Jimmy Howard clearly leading the way with 24 wins in 35 games, he appears to be a shoo-in. Stranger things have happened in the second half, however, and burnout could be a factor if Detroit doesn’t give Ty Conklin some starts down the stretch. Pekka Rinne (20 wins in 37), Fleury (19 in 33), Henrik Lundqvist (18 in 29), Jonathan Quick (18 in 35), and Antti Niemi (18 in 30) could all push for 40 wins as well.

• The Red Wings’ Facebook page wants to remind you that their Red Wing For a Day contest is still accepting entrants;

• IIHF.com’s Andrew Podnieks wrote a superb tribute to Team USA stalwart Angela Ruggiero;

• And after Chairman Mao’s deputy, NHL Communist Party Goon Bill Daly, took to the sports airwaves to spew propaganda regarding the realignment debate, the Hockey News’s Ken Campbell, who’s generally very NHL-friendly, actually offered a thoughtful take on the whole concept of realignment as a CBA issue:

I want you to ask yourself a question and please be 100 percent honest: You’re the member of a union where you work and roughly nine months prior to your collective bargaining agreement expiring, the owners of the company come up with a plan to change the shifts. It has its merits, but also affects your working conditions. Keeping in mind that you have to sit across the bargaining table from these same people in less than a year and you already know the employer is going to be looking for significant clawbacks, do you accept the changes without protest or would you want to use them as potential leverage in collective bargaining?

I guess the more direct question is, would you take one for the team and accept a proposal you hope will create goodwill with your employer, but be viewed as a pushover when the bargaining gets more serious? Or would you rather assert your authority and make it clear to your employer that your voice matters?

There are those who believe the NHLPA has fired the first shot across the bow of the league by refusing to accept this realignment proposal for flimsy reasons and that it will lead to another labor Armageddon in the coming months. And they may be right. The players know they will never win the public relations war in this negotiation, that they’ll always be perceived as pampered millionaires who are getting rich playing a game most hockey fans think they would play for free.

Are the players using this as a negotiating ploy? Almost certainly they are. The most surprising thing about it is that people seem to be shocked by it.

And the players’ problem is that they’re negotiating against billionaire businessmen who are crying poor.


>Update #5: The Hawks are going to be very mad at Jiri Hudler on Saturday, per the Chicago Daily Herald’s Tim Sassone:

The Blackhawks must do without 20-goal scorer Patrick Sharp for the next three or four weeks, coach Joel Quenneville said Monday.

Sharp suffered what is believed to be a broken bone in his left hand or wrist in the first period of Sunday’s 3-2 loss to Detroit.

It’s not known if Sharp was injured on a slash from the Red Wings’ Jiri Hudler after he scored a goal at 4:19 of the first period.

“It could have been,” Quenneville said when asked if Sharp was hurt on that play.


Update 36: Very briefly as I’m about to head out the door:

• The National Post’s power rankings note that all of Tomas Holmstrom’s goals have come on the power play;

• Yahoo Sports’ Neate Sager wrote a fantastic article about Igor Larionov‘s status as a power broker in junior hockey;

• If you’re wondering why the Wings are on the road and have been practicing at City Sports Arena of late, it’s because the Detroit Auto Show is conducting its new vehicle release press events at Joe Louis Arena;

• And can somebody explain to me what exactly Larry Murphy’s daughter is asking for on Reddit?

 

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Comments

SYF's avatar

Just so much depth on the third and fourth lines.

Posted by SYF from the team that re-signed KFQ and DFC by KFH on 01/09/12 at 04:37 PM ET

WingedRider's avatar

Emmerton can’t be sent down which makes it tough to keep Conner. or anyone else for that matter. I think if Wings had a choice between Conner and Emmerton, Conner might be with the Wings and Emmerton in GR, Hope Emmerton keeps developing with the Wings, Will see I guess!

Posted by WingedRider from Saskatoon, SK on 01/09/12 at 05:14 PM ET

Avatar

I think Conklin and many Wings fans are breathing easier about their team’s back up goalie’s chops this afternoon.

One game, for me, doesn’t instill a lot of confidence. Conkling started the season with a shutout and then it went downhill quickly.  What will instill a little more confidence is if Babcock is comfortable starting him again in the next week or so and Conklin is able to deliver (at least playing well, if not necessarily winning).  As potentially cool as it could be to have Howard get the record for most wins or something, it would be better if he were fresh come playoff times so he can win those more important 16 games…

Posted by Garth on 01/09/12 at 05:16 PM ET

Avatar

Garth
The team has played like crap in front of conklin. The goals he slowed were soft last night, on of them, but the team certainly didn’t help him a whole lot.

And a far ad the ASG goes, I’m happy to not see Wings participate in the popularity contest. It means they get an extra 3 days rest.

Posted by teldar on 01/09/12 at 05:50 PM ET

Ajax19's avatar

Based on what I remember during Conklin’s first go around with the Wings, this win is a good sign.  Conks seems to be a bit streaky and inconsistent, which si why he was never a good starting goalie.  It seems like once he has a bad game that can really linger with him for a long time and affect subsequent games. 

For example, in 2008-2009, when Conklin was with the Wings the first time, he was playing great hockey for the vast majority of the season.  His record was good and his numbers were very solid.  He really helped carry the team because Osgood was struggling mightily through most of the regular season.  Conklin was a gem.  However, there was one game late in the season against Calgary, a March 12 game.  Conklin gave up 3 goals in the third period and the wings lost in a shooutout.  It was a very rough 3rd period for Conklin and he was never the same after that.  He couldn’t shake that bad game.

It seems the same exact thing happened this year with the blowout loss to Washington and then the next game against the Columbus when Conklin was pressed into duty because Jimmie Howard’s son was being born.  He got rattled and hasn’t been able to shake that… 

Until now.  I hope.

The Wings need Conklin to be solid and steady again like he has been in the past.  I really don’t want to see Howard play more than 65 games.  Unless your goalie is Martin Brodeur, it’s rarely a good sign.

Posted by Ajax19 on 01/09/12 at 05:59 PM ET

Avatar

Hey George,

Larry Murphy’s daughter is doing a AMA (Ask me anything). People just post questions and she’s answering them.

Usually celebrities do these on reddit but not sure when why she’d be doing this though.

Posted by Gibberson from Windsor on 01/09/12 at 06:54 PM ET

rrasco's avatar

Murph’s daughter is doing an IAmA.  I have never heard of them before now, because I don’t use Reddit, but it appears to be a Q&A type thing.  The person says, something like ‘I am a daughter of an NHL HHoF and 4 time stanley cup defenseman” and people ask questions and she answers.  She said she wanted her dad to do it, but he didn’t have time.

Posted by rrasco from TEXAS on 01/09/12 at 07:11 PM ET

WestWing's avatar

Clearly the best part of the whole AMA exchange with Murff’s daughter.


How much does he like hot dogs?  They’re always making jokes during Wings broadcasts about it.

Hahaha, he actually really does love hot dogs. He will even eat them cold (which is gross)

The legend grows!

Posted by WestWing from Portland, Oregon on 01/09/12 at 09:09 PM ET

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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.