The Malik Report
by George Malik on 12/09/11 at 03:55 PM ET
Updated 10x at 8 PM: The Red Wings are apparently practicing after their 5-2 victory over Phoenix last night, and NHL.com’s Brian Hedger reports that a certain player who suffered a “lower-body injury” on Thursday did indeed earn a little rest, while another skated with the Wings full-out for the first time in a good long while:
No Datsyuk at #Redwings practice today, as expected. Resting lower body injury, which Babcock described as a bump, not a tear.
Jan Mursak out on ice practicing for #Redwings as well. First full practice since broken ankle in late Sept.
“More to come,” obviously, as the Wings are getting a noontime practice in before engaging a friendly competition to raise money for the Salvation Army by manning kettles around Metro Detroit.
In the coming events category, via NHL.com and RedWingsFeed, Red Wings player mentor and former defenseman Chris Chelios join the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame on Monday in Chicago, and Wings coach Mike Babcock spoke to the Macomb Daily’s Chuck Pleiness about Chelios’s legacy as a Wing:
“He’s an incredible, incredible, incredible player,” Babcock said. “I remember him as a kid when I played against him in Moose Jaw. I watched him go to Montreal and jump in the league and take over right away and be a dominant force in Chicago. He gets traded to Detroit and I think the first year him and Nick (Lidstrom) were 1 and 2 in the Norris Trophy race,” Babcock continued. “He was still playing here at 47. He survived the test of time. He’s a warrior. One of the best penalty killers I’ve seen. He’s a good man. Teammates loved him.”
Pleiness also focused on the Wings’ sputtering penalty-killing unit in his notebook, pointing out that it, well, stinks:
“Our penalty kill has to be better,” Wings coach Mike Babcock said. “I’ve said before, I like our structure and our organization on the penalty kill way better than I like our results. Last game I didn’t like it at all.”
“Like I said to you guys when we found a way to lose all the time, we weren’t terrible,” Babcock said. “We weren’t terrible in St. Louis at all, we competed hard, but we made a big time mistake on their down-and-in on the penalty kill. And then on their 2-on-2 we played like a 2-on-1 and it was in the back of our net. That’s the game right there,” Babcock added. “The whole night you make mental mistakes like that and we’re digging ourselves out of a hole.”
Entering play Thursday, the Wings at the 23rd ranked penalty kill.
“Special teams have been killing us,” Nicklas Lidstrom said. “Whether we are playing real well and they score on the penalty kill to tie things up or go ahead and that gains them some momentum. We know we have to do a better job. Our PK hasn’t been as good as it has to be.”
Shifting focus back to the bumps and bruises department, MLive’s Ansar Khan’s notebook didn’t hit the interweb till I hit the pillow this morning at 7 (late nights are the worst part of blogging), and in addition to talking about Todd Bertuzzi’s renaissance in terms of literal and figurative impacts since returning from a sinus infection, Khan suggested that Jan Mursak will be Grand Rapids bound after he gets up to speed with the Wings. The latter part of that equation—the getting up to speed part—should be no problem, and that’s excellent news…
“I’m in pretty good shape. I’ve been working hard in the gym,” Mursak said. “Today, when I was on the ice I was surprised how good it went. There’s no soreness at all, it’s just (a question of) strength in the ankle. I think it got a lot better from week to week and I’m pretty sure in the next couple of weeks I’ll be 100 percent ready.”
Mursak said he’ll probably travel to Pittsburgh and Nashville with the team next week so he can skate and get treatment.
“I just can’t wait to play some games, get back into hockey rhythm,” Mursak said.
Just as it was wonderful to hear that Valtteri Filppula felt fine and dandy, all things considered, after registering two points in his return from a to-the-bone cut on his right shin:
“It felt good all game,” Filppula said. “I felt the more I skated the (more numb) it got. I was happy about that. I don’t think I opened (the cut) again, so that’s big and (hopefully) it keeps healing.”
Filppula was wearing a Kevlar sock to protect the cut.
“It doesn’t bother me at all,” Filppula said. “It’s different equipment and I’m happy how it felt.”
Filppula indicated to Fox Sports Detroit’s Trevor Thompson that his socks felt no different than anything else he was wearing under his equipment, so, again, here’s hoping that more players adopt them, and that major hockey equipment manufacturers incorporate Kevlar (which is a stunningly surprising multi-tasker in terms of its many uses) into the sleeves of undershirts as well.
Sticking wit, “Of many uses” and talents, The Score’s Cam Charron states the obvious regarding the Wings’ signing of Ian White, which Charron believes merits status as last summer’s fifth-best off-season transaction:
#5 – Ian White signing – 2 years, #5.75 million
“I don’t know which element of this deal is more impressive from Detroit’s perspective, the cap hit or the term” wrote Matt [of Driving Play.”] “Signing a defenseman with White’s offensive prowess in UFA to a deal paying him less than $3M/year is a real coup.”
Indeed, Ian White has 12 points thus far on the season, equal to Chris Pronger, Fedor Tyutin, Marc-Edouard Vlasic, Joni Pitkanen, Matt Carle, Dan Girardi and Jack Johnson. The average salary cap-hit of those seven players comes in at just under $4M, so Detroit made a good signing here from all accounts.
Now, White gets to play with Nik Lidstrom, so that has to be factored in, but it’s pretty clear that Detroit found a relatively cheap replacement for Brian Rafalski—the pairing have been playing against tough competition at the right end of the ice.
White has what Rafalski lost during his tenure with Detroit (via his knee injuries) in superb ability and mobility, and he’s found so much natural chemistry with Lidstrom that neither White nor Lidstrom’s more frequent pinches have cost the Wings more than a pair of goals against while generating a good dozen-plus goals for.
Via RedWingsFeed, part 2: NHL Live posted the following Twitter update:
Tom gaglardi; David Backes; Ian White; Bernie Nicholls; Eddie o; John Walton; Matt Cubeta. With Deb and E.J. 5-7 ET.
And finally, for now, anyway, the Wings’ website posted a .slate of photos which DetroitRedWings.com’s Bill Roose took during the Wings’ recent road trip. Very cool behind the scenes stuff!
Update #1: Here’s one more from RedWingsFeed, per the Hockey News:
Today on THN Radio: Detroit assistant GM Jim Nill & @Aaronward_NHL join hosts @Proteautype & Jamie Shalley! Listen from 3-4pm on @NHLHomeIce
Update #2: Via the Free Press’s Helene St. James’ Twitter account:
No Datsyuk at practice, but Babcock reiterated Datsyuk is fine, will play Saturday. Not uncommon for guys to get maintenance days
Update #3: Per MLive’s Ansar Khan (he just got a Twitter account):
No Datsyuk at practice, like Babcock said Thurs. Will update after skate.
Jan Mursak practicing with team for first time since broken ankle 9-25. 2 weeks away.
Pavel Datsyuk is playing Saturday vs. Jets, Babcock confirmed after practice.
NHL.com’s Brian Hedger also offers this:
Babcock on Datsyuk missing practice: “Pavel’s fine. He was even finer when he found out he didn’t have to go on the ice.” #Redwings
Babcock on Mursak practicing: “It’s good. He’s hobbling around. It’s going to take him some time.” #Redwings
Babcock said the plan will likely be Mursak getting back to 100% health, going to Grand Rapids for a stint then coming back. #Redwings
Babcock on #Redwings possibly underestimating Winnipeg #NHLJets: “I think they should be careful.”
#Redwings 11-2-1 @ home, 6-7-0 on road
Babcock: “If you’re not getting it on the road, you better get it at home. Otherwise you’ve got to find another place to play.” #Redwings
Update #3.5: Here’s Ansar Khan’s off-day report:
Detroit Red Wings coach Mike Babcock confirmed after practice that that center Pavel Datsyuk will play Saturday against the Winnipeg Jets at Joe Louis Arena (7 p.m., Fox Sports Net Detroit).
Datsyuk, who left after the second period of Thursday’s 5-2 win over Phoenix as a precaution, didn’t skate today, as expected, due to a lower-body injury.
“Pavel is fine,’’ Babcock said. “He was even finer when he found out he didn’t have to go on the ice.’‘
Right wing Jan Mursak practiced with the team today for the first time since suffering a broken ankle in a preseason game on Sept. 25.
“He’s hobbling around, it’s going to take him some time, but he’ll get himself ready to go then he’ll go to Grand Rapids and get started and come back,’’ Babcock said.
Update #4: Here’s Helene St. James’ off-day report, which includes a little humor:
Datsyuk left Thursday’s game early because of lower-body soreness, but that was a luxury the Wings could afford as they led 5-1 after two periods. Babcock said after the 5-2 victory over the Coyotes that Datsyuk wouldn’t have to practice today, and echoed that today.
“Pavel is fine,” Babcock said. “He was even finer when he found out he didn’t have to go on the ice.”
The new face on the ice belonged to Jan Mursak, who at long last returned to practice after being out since exhibition season because of a broken left ankle.
“It has been a long summer,” he said. “In camp, I got injured, so I’ve been working out for almost six months on my own now. I can’t wait to get back on the ice to play some games.”
Today was one of Zamboni driver Al Sobotka’s famed barbecue days; the only negative is the overwhelming smell and a haze so heavy it hung low over the ice as the Wings practiced.
“I wanted to choke him during that, but that’s the way things go,” Babcock said.
Update #4.5: According to Fox Sports Detroit, they’ll post the interview Darren Helm gave to Mickey York last night—in which Helm attempted to pronounce Herm’s name correctly while sounding still genuinely flattered by his Brazilian following and Herm in particular—and they’d like you to submit questions for the Wings’ players;
• File this news about the NHL’s first 1,000 shootouts(!) as they relate to one Pavel Datsyuk, per NHL.com’s John Kreiser, as not exactly earth-shattering:
These days, Jussi Jokinen takes a regular shift with the Carolina Hurricanes. But he might not have that job were it not for the shootout.
Jokinen, then a virtual unknown with the Dallas Stars, scored on the first nine shootout attempts he took in 2005-06, a big reason the Stars went 12-1 in the first season of the tiebreaker. He’s cooled off since then, but still leads all players in the history of the shootout with 28 goals (on 62 tries); that’s one more than former Red Wing and Thrasher Slava Kozlov, current Detroit center Pavel Datsyuk and New Jersey captain Zach Parise, who had his 27th on Thursday.
• And this isn’t Wings-related, but ESPN Dallas’s Mark Stepenski reports that the Dallas Stars are still working on finding Mike Modano a job within the organization.
Update #5: The Detroit News’s Ted Kulfan spoke to Selkirk native Darren Helm (Selkirk is to Winnipeg as Pontiac is to Detroit) about the fact that he’s going to play against a Winnipeg-based team for the first time in his career:
Darren Helm was 10 years old when his hometown Winnipeg Jets relocated to Phoenix. Helm doesn’t remember all the details, but he does remember how angry his parents and others were.
“They were disappointed when they left and they were complaining the next year about not having their team,” said Helm, who’ll see the re-born Winnipeg Jets (who relocated from being the Atlanta Thrashers) Saturday at Joe Louis Arena.
When Helm talks or e-mails with his friends back in Winnipeg nowadays, he’s sensing a new theme.
“A bunch of them have jumped on the (Jets) bandwagon pretty quick,” Helm said. “They have their (Jets) jerseys and t-shirts. It’s something for them to cheer about. Canada loves its hockey, Winnipeg loves its hockey, and they’re excited to cheer for their own NHL team.
This will be the only time this season the Wings and Jets play. But they’ll get to know each other well beginning next season under the new NHL realignment. The two teams will play each other from five to six times per season. And, as the Thrashers last season, they soundly defeated the Wings, 5-1.
“They beat us like a rented mule,” said coach Mike Babcock of the Jets (12-11-4). “All I know it was a lot to a little in a hurry. They (the Wings) should be careful. There are a lot of Winnipeg Jets players who’ve done very well and have played very hard.”
Update #6: Good news: NHL.com’s Mike G. Morreale reports that Tomas Jurco and Marek Tvrdon have been invited to the Slovak WJC selection camp.
Also: if it matters, the CBC’s Tim Wharnsby posited a late-breaking slate of power rankings in which he ranked the Wings as the NHL’s 10th-best team as of Wednesday.
Update #7: WXYT’s Jeff Riger offered an interesting question up to Wings fans last night, and he got railed for doing so:
It’s very often that I get called awful names while doing a radio show. In fact, it is so often that I have actually started to like it. People text or e-mail nasty terms to me and I read everything on the air in hopes that maybe, just maybe those same people will realize how stupid they sound with their rips. Of course those realizations rarely come true and instead it’s just me choosing to degrade myself in between taking calls and constantly telling myself that “I can take it.” Ok, I really don’t tell myself that, well maybe I do sometimes. OK, let’s just move on shall we?
So on Thursday night after the Wings beat the Coyotes at the Joe 5-2; I once again started to get called nasty, dirty names on the postgame show because of a topic I was talking about. You see, Tomas Holmstrom was one of the five Wings that scored in the 1st period of the game as Detroit easily ended their two game losing skid. Holmstrom’s goal was a bit historic as it came on the power play and tied him with Sergei Fedorov for fourth on the all time Wings power play goal list. Homer has five goals this season; all of them have come on the man advantage. So when I heard that #91 and #96 were tied, I instantly thought what a great radio topic it would be if I asked which one of the two players is or was the better Red Wing? I also have to be honest; I also knew the topic would make people mad as well, which works too.
What do you think about this question?
Update #8: Here’s a bit more about Helm and the Jets 2.0 from MLive’s Ansar Khan:
“Winnipeg loves their hockey,’’ Helm said. “They’ve been wanting a team since the day they left. There’s a lot of people I grew up with are real excited, pretty pumped about getting a chance to cheer for a hometown team.’‘
His family, of course, remains loyal to the Red Wings. But Helm said of some friends, “A bunch of them jumped on the (Jets) bandwagon pretty quick. All my friends on Facebook have Jets jerseys, Jets T-shirts. I’m pretty disappointed with them.’‘
The Red Wings don’t play in Winnipeg this season. But they will be in the same conference starting in 2012-13 and Detroit will make two or three appearances in Winnipeg every season.
“It’ll be nice,’’ Helm said. “I can play in front of my family instead of having them come all the way here to watch a game.’‘
Update #9: WXYT’s Pat Caputo and Ken Kal toss off a little ditty regarding the realignment issue…
“I’m going to say (that I’m feeling better), I feel that way but tomorrow’s going to be different,” Hudler said after practice Friday at Joe Louis Arena. “But I feel pretty good. I hope I’m playing well.”
Through 26 games this season, Hudler has four goals and 12 assists. He’s also a plus-6 in plus/minus. Last year at this time, Hudler had just one goal and five assists and was a minus-7.
“Last year at this time didn’t go my way, I was frustrated,” Hudler said. “It was tough, but this is a new year. I feel pretty good. I’m not going to get over-excited.”
As Pleiness notes, the Valteri Filppula-Henrik Zetterberg-Jiri Hudler’s got a good thing going…
“He’s been playing good,” Zetterberg said. “He’s got an opportunity to play a little more—more minutes and he’s been taking advantage of it. He’s making plays, scoring goals. He looks strong. I think you will get confidence the more you play and the better you play, so it goes hand in hand,” Zetterberg added. “Right now he’s doing the right things out there.”
“Fil’s one fire, Z’s on fire,” Hudler said. “They both fly. I think we’re playing smart, simple, not as much fancy. Just put it in, grind it out, win some battles down low and put it in the net and then nice plays come out after that.”
And it certainly speaks toward Hudler’s long-term future with the Wings that coach Babcock believes in, “Don’t forget the stairs, buddy” again:
“I thought Hudler has been real good this last little bit,” Wings coach Mike Babcock said. “I thought he was real good in St. Louis, maybe as good a game as he’s had in a long time. He seems to be playing well, skating way better and he looks like he’s got confidence in playing. Hud’s is a veteran player,” Babcock added. “It’s quite evident he didn’t have the kind of year he wanted to last year and he’s on track this year. We need him to generate offense for us and be good defensively as well.”
One more update: If you’re interested, the New England Hockey Journal’s Dan Hickling profiled Springfield Falcons defenseman and former Wing Brett Lebda;
• And RedWingsFeed posted a clip of Wings defenseman Ian White giving an interview to the NHL Network’s NHL Live radio show:
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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.