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Red Wings off-day news: Five more years of Griffins call-ups

Updated 3x with Ken Holland offering injury updates at 1:43 PM: The Detroit Red Wings aren’t practicing today, per the team’s Twitter account, but they made a move in sending Chris Conner back down to the Grand Rapids Griffins. The Griffins will be playing against the Texas Stars tonight, and as Paul noted, the Wings renewed their affiliation with their developmental arm for five more seasons:

The Grand Rapids Griffins and Detroit Red Wings on Wednesday announced a five-year extension of their affiliation agreement, ensuring that the relationship between Michigan’s premier hockey teams will continue through at least the 2016-17 season.

The 10-year-old affiliation, currently in its final season of a second five-year deal, has helped produce a Stanley Cup and an AHL regular season championship, along with multiple division titles for both teams.

Geographically, with the two teams located just 160 miles apart, the affiliation is among the closest of all AHL-NHL pairings. That proximity has proved beneficial for Detroit on many occasions, as the Griffins have sent 46 players on to Hockeytown since 2002.

“The American League is critical for all NHL teams, and having a great relationship with Grand Rapids helps keep up competitive,” said Red Wings Executive Vice President and General Manager Ken Holland. “We’re all thrilled with our arrangement.

“As a former minor league player myself, it’s exciting to see 8,000 to 10,000 fans and a great atmosphere in the building each night,” Holland said. “It’s a wonderful city and there is terrific support from the community as well as the ownership. It’s a real positive environment for our young players.”

Among other benefits to the Griffins, this new agreement transfers responsibility for all players and hockey operations staff – including coaches, equipment managers and trainers – to the Red Wings. Already, Detroit’s assistant general managers, Jim Nill and Ryan Martin, have been overseeing the Griffins’ day-to-day hockey operations since the departure of longtime Grand Rapids general manager Bob McNamara last summer.

Also, the Griffins will play their first-ever outdoor game as part of the Red Wings “Hockeytown Winter Festival” at Comerica Park in December, hosting the Toronto Marlies in the lead-up to the 2013 NHL Winter Classic between the Red Wings and Toronto Maple Leafs at Michigan Stadium.

“We are proud to continue our partnership with one of the premier organizations in professional sports,” said Scott Gorsline, the Griffins’ chief operating officer. “Detroit is committed to developing its prospects in a winning environment. Given the Red Wings’ complete oversight of our hockey operations and their talented management team, we’re confident that their remarkable ability to produce a Stanley Cup contender season after season will result in similar success for us at the AHL level.”

Over the last decade, the Griffins have won a pair of division titles and have twice advanced to the conference finals, most notably in 2005-06 when they captured the AHL’s Macgregor Kilpatrick Trophy as regular season champions.

Griffins fans have welcomed the Red Wings to Van Andel Arena for several events, including four Red & White intrasquad games – most recently in 2011 – and a “Wings for Lunch” practice in 2007. In addition, they’ve had the opportunity to watch stars such as Chris Chelios, Curtis Joseph, Manny Legace, Andreas Lilja and Chris Osgood play for the Griffins during conditioning stints. Other NHL veterans have been sent to bolster Grand Rapids’ lineup over time, including Ty Conklin, who has guided the Griffins to a 5-1 record since joining the club two weeks ago.

For the Red Wings, the impact of the affiliation has been unmistakable on the ice at Joe Louis Arena. The names of nine Grand Rapids alumni were engraved on the Stanley Cup following Detroit’s 2008 title, and 15 current or former Griffins played a part in the Red Wings’ recent NHL record-breaking 23-game home winning streak. Every game during that incredible run was backstopped by one of the Griffins’ top two all-time leaders in wins (Jimmy Howard or Joey MacDonald), and in each of the last five games during the streak, the majority of Red Wings who played were Griffins alumni.

In all, 19 of the 30 players who’ve skated for the parent club this season are former or current Griffins, and 12 Detroit regulars logged at least one complete season in Grand Rapids prior to earning a full-time job with the Red Wings: Howard, MacDonald, Jonathan Ericsson, Jakub Kindl, Niklas Kronwall, Kyle Quincey, Justin Abdelkader, Cory Emmerton, Valtteri Filppula, Darren Helm, Jiri Hudler and Jan Mursak.

Update: Also of Red Wings-related note today:

• The Wings’ website reminds us that Patrick Eaves will be signing autographs at the Meijer in Commerce Township today from 5-7 PM and the Meijer in Livonia tomorrow from 5-7 PM;

Don’t forget that Joey MacDonald and Jimmy Howard are also signing autographs at Hockeytown Authentics today for a $20 charitable donation;

• If you’re a glutton for punishment, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch’s Jeff Gordon wrote a gushy article about the fact that the St. Louis Blues lead the Central Division;

• Interesting: ESPN’s Pierre LeBrun spoke to several GM’s about the concept that teams should be compensated when management types leave, and Brian Burke brought up Steve Yzerman leaving for Tampa Bay as a prime example of the concept that money or draft picks should change hands when executives scoot;

• Speaking of Tampa Bay, the Ottawa Citizen’s Allen Panzeri spoke to a very happy Mike Commodore about becoming a member of the Lightning:

The trade deadline also gave Mike Commodore a new life. With the Detroit Red Wings, he had only played 17 games and it wasn’t likely he’d be playing many more for the rest of the season. He knew he’d have to go to a team where he’d be able to play if he wanted to continue his career, so the move to Tampa was a godsend.

He’s played four straight games since arriving, averaging around 15 minutes a game. Even better is that he loves Florida.

“Life in Florida is great,” he said on Tuesday morning. “If Tampa doesn’t re-sign me, I might stay here anyway. This place is awesome. I’ve been here for a week and I’m not going anywhere.”

This new affection for Florida, however, has cost him 20 to 30 of his 42,000 Twitter followers, after his humour wasn’t appreciated in a video clip he tweeted to illustrate his love of the Sunshine State.

Fans of the movie Slapshot will remember the scene. It’s the scene in which Chiefs captain Johnny Upton and Morris Wanchuk are toasting a rumoured move to Florida and Wanchuk offers his off-coloured salute to the women of Florida that is not even close to being acceptable for a family newspaper.

Commodore said he had second thoughts about hitting the send button.

“But in the end, I thought what the heck,” he said.

• CBS Detroit shifts our focus back to the current Wings via a “roster report..

—C Henrik Zetterberg is heating up at the right time. After struggling to score the first half of the season, Zetterberg has become the team’s go-to guy. He has 20 points (seven goals, 13 assists) in his past 15 games. He is holding onto the puck longer, taking it strong to the net and making plays to set up teammates.

—RW Johan Franzen is skating better on a line with grinders Darren Helm and Drew Miller. Franzen, slumping of late, scored his second goal in four games and had several excellent chances, with a game-high seven shots against the Flyers.

—G Joey MacDonald had won seven consecutive starts before suffering a 3-2 loss to the Flyers. The only other start he lost this season was a 3-1 decision in Phoenix on Feb. 6. His other two losses were in relief. MacDonald continues to give the team a chance to win by making timely saves and not allowing many soft goals.

• He’s not going to change anyone’s mind, but in light of the fact that Niklas Kronwall wasn’t suspended for his hit on Jakub Voracek, the Detroit News’s Gregg Krupa offers a commentary on the hit. It’s incredibly doofy in terms of suggesting that the onus is completely on players to keep their heads up, and his closer is equally puzzling:

[T]he Flyers never put up their dukes to retaliate against the Wings. Instead, they mostly watched the more-skilled Wings fly about the ice and outshoot them two-to-one for the rest of the game, while the Flyers clung desperately to their lead and eventually emerged victorious.

It is only more evidence for the naysayers, who say the Wings will not prevail in the playoffs unless they fight more. If ever there was a game that called for a Shanahan, a McCarty, a Kocur or a Rouse to enforce order and deter attacks, it was last night against the Flyers. But none of those guys were out there, and neither were Todd Bertuzzi or Jonathan Ericsson and yet neither Justin Abdelkader, Brad Stuart, Brendan Smith or any of the other Red Wings were called upon to fight. Amid the hoots and catcalls from the Flyers’ ornery fans, and the evident hostility of the Flyers themselves, the Red Wings simply played on.

As for Kronwall, the time will come, and probably sooner than later, when he will immediately have to fight after one of his big checks. Even if it is entirely clean, as it was against Voracek, Kronwall will be challenged to fight.

And although he has a well-earned reputation as one of the most destructive open-ice hitters in the game, he is not known as a fighter. But he must be prepared to drop the gloves.


• And finally, MLive’s Ansar Khan offers this from Ken Holland about the Red Wings’ demotion of Chris Conner and their various injuries:

The Detroit Red Wings have reassigned forward Chris Conner to the Grand Rapids Griffins. The move doesn’t necessarily mean that Todd Bertuzzi (groin strain) will be ready for Friday’s game against the Los Angeles Kings at Joe Louis Arena (7:30 p.m., Fox Sports Detroit). General manager Ken Holland said today that he had no updates on any of his injured players because the team is off.

“We’ll see (Thursday) who we need to bring up,’’ Holland said. “(The Griffins) are fighting for a playoff spot. We assigned (Conner) back to try to give Grand Rapids a boost. We’ll assess tomorrow where Bertuzzi is at.’‘

Bertuzzi, defenseman Nicklas Lidstrom (bone bruise in ankle) and goaltender Jimmy Howard (groin strain) are listed as day-to-day. Center Pavel Datsyuk (knee) has been skating on his own but won’t be ready until sometime during next week’s three-game trip to California. Defenseman Jonathan Ericsson (fractured wrist) is skating on his own but not due back until late March or early April.

Update #2: Per the Free Press’s Helene St. James:

Will have story on web soon with news on the #RedWings injured, but basically, all improving, day-to-day for most.
Datsyuk (knee) still on track to return next week. Kindl (UP) out 1-2 weeks.
Groin-impaired Jimmy Howard and Todd Bertuzzi have had pictures taken, negative for tears, #RedWings cautious with bringing them back
Captain Cyborg, aka Nicklas Lidstrom, “feeling better every day,” per Holland. Has missed 4 games with bone bruise.
#RedWings aren’t practicing today, so “we’ll get to rink tomorrow and see where guys are at,” Holland says, as far as anyone coming back Fri

Update #2.5: Let’s all be surrised that the Flyers told CSN Philadelphia’s Tim Panaccio that a little letting-go of penalties helped them win last night:

Old-time defensive hockey is back and during the final minute of play against Detroit on Tuesday night, it was in full regale as Nicklas Grossmann went toe-to-toe with Detroit’s Johan Franzen, clearing the crease and burying him and Bryz into the net without a call. The Flyers won, 3-2.

“Last minute of the game, if you get a penalty it doesn’t really matter, you got to battle for position,” Grossmann said. “If he is there first, you got to push him away. Take your ground back. Especially that last minute. They were pushing and we wanted to control the lead and clear the ice in front of Bryz so he can see everything. Credit to them, they pushed good, but Bryz had a great game for us, putting it together back there making saves for us. That’s where it starts – him at the net and then up to the defense.”

Flyers forward Max Talbot said he likes the fact the officials are allowing individual battles at the net both ways without one team being placed at a disadvantage.

“The last two games, I think the refs have been letting us play and you feel like the playoffs are coming around the corner,” Talbot said.

“I speak for myself.  I don’t mind it. As long as it’s fair for both sides, maybe they’re going to let a couple things go, but it’s hockey. Tonight it was a playoff atmosphere a little bit. the crowd was loud and i think for us to finish a game like this protecting a lead in the last minute against a team like Detroit is huge for our confidence down the road.”

Update #3: Here’s the Free Press’s Helene St. James’ report about the Wings’ injuries, per Ken Holland:

The Detroit Red Wings took today off because they don’t play again until Friday, when they host the Los Angeles Kings. General manager Ken Holland provided the Free Press with the following updates today:

Defenseman Nicklas Lidstrom: Sore ankle, still day-to-day, but feeling better every day.

Forward Pavel Datsyuk: Knee surgery, is skating, still on track to return next week.

Forward Todd Bertuzzi: Groin, day-to-day.

Goaltender Jimmy Howard: Groin, day-to-day.

Defenseman Jakub Kindl: Upper body, out 1-2 weeks.

The Wings sent Chris Conner back to the Griffins this morning so he could play with the team tonight. He won’t be needed back in Detroit if Bertuzzi can go Friday, and the Wings are hopeful both of their groin-impaired players won’t be out long.

“The groin injuries, we’ve taken pictures, all are just strains,” Holland said. “We’re listing them as day-to-day, but we’re going to be cautious, because if we’re not cautious and push these guys and they tear their groins, they’ll be out three weeks.”

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About The Malik Report

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.