The Malik Report
by George Malik on 12/28/11 at 04:00 PM ET
Updated 4x at 4:13 PM: Good news on the injury front after the Red Wings’ 3-2 win over the St. Louis Blues: the Wings have officially cleared Jan Mursak to play and assigned him to Grand Rapids, result in a 2-week conditioning stint which should yield more speed and depth on the fourth line when Mursak and Chris Conner (broken hand) return from their respective injuries. Here’s the Griffins’ press release confirming Mursak’s assignment:
The Detroit Red Wings on Wednesday assigned right wing Jan Mursak to the Grand Rapids Griffins for conditioning.
Mursak has not played this season after breaking his ankle in a Sept. 25 preseason game versus the Chicago Blackhawks. The 23-year-old forward skated in 54 games with the Griffins last season, recording 35 points (13-22—35). He also appeared in 19 games for the Red Wings, notching his first NHL goal on Jan. 10 versus Colorado. The Maribor, Slovenia, native has registered 86 points (39-47—86) in 184 career games with the Griffins from 2008-11.
As MLive’s Ansar Khan notes, the Wings can recall Mursak early if necessary:
Mursak said Tuesday that he expected to play tonight in Lake Erie. He has been out since Sept. 25 with a broken left ankle.
He anticipated playing between 4-6 games with the Griffins but could be brought back to Detroit sooner if the Red Wings have another injury and need him.
• Khan also spoke to Wings prospect Joakim Andersson about his NHL debut in a playoff-caliber game in terms of its tenor:
“It was intense,” Andersson said. “I’d seen a few games between these two teams before and they were physical struggles, so it was kind of the game that I expected. It’s fun to start with a win.”
The Red Wings recalled Andersson from the Grand Rapids Griffins to replace fellow Swede Tomas Holmstrom, who will be out a week to 10 days with a strained groin. He didn’t find out he was being called up until just before practice Tuesday in Grand Rapids, when Griffins coach Curt Fraser pulled him aside to deliver the news.
“It was a special feeling when he told me that I was going to play in the NHL,” Andersson said. “I went right back to my apartment, packed and then drove here. I grabbed a quick nap at the hotel and it was time to go to the rink and play.”
Anderson, a center, played left wing on a line with former Griffins Justin Abdelkader and Cory Emmerton. Red Wings coach Mike Babcock said they called up Andersson because his size (6-foot-2, 206) and grit might come in handy against the big, physical Blues.
”He’s bigger than those guys (Tomas Tatar, Gustav Nyquist),” Babcock said. “I don’t know if he can do it, but we like this type of player (for Tuesday). Sometimes, you need some apples and sometimes you need oranges.”
Said Babcock: “He’s been here at a few camps and he’s working his way into being an NHL pro. He’s probably going to be a third- or fourth-line center (eventually). He’s a big body, real good instincts. He’s got to play (in Grand Rapids) to get more pace in his game.”
• And finally, for the moment, anyway, here’s the latest episode of “Fake Henrik Zetterberg”:
Update: Per the Wings’ Twitter account, the Wings skipped practice today;
• MLive’s Ansar Khan notes that when the Wings get back to work, they’re going to have Chicago on their minds:
No Wings practice today. On ice Thurs at JLA. At Chicago Fri. Unusually late in season for first game vs. ‘Hawks. 3 of next 8 vs. Chicago.
• Datsyuk fans, this is your new wallpaper;
• The AHL’s website posted a tribute to former Wing Johnny Wilson;
• In happier Wings-in-the-AHL news, via the Grand Rapids Press’s Michael Zuidema:
Trying to wrangle Doug Janik into talking about himself generally is a futile exercise, so leave it to Grand Rapids Griffins teammate Brendan Smith to pay the veteran defenseman the ultimate compliment. Smith recently compared Janik’s personality to that of Detroit Red Wings legend Nicklas Lidstrom.
“They’re both kind of soft-spoken and very humble, very nice,” Smith said. “(Janik) doesn’t talk about himself very much, he’s just a very humble person. I think that’s what people like about him.”
Of course, it also helps that Janik can play a little. He currently leads the Griffins with a plus-10 rating — Chris Conner is second at plus-5, and he’s in Detroit — and is sixth in scoring with 16 points (four goals, 12 assists). He’s on pace to surpass his career-high total of 37 points that was set two seasons ago with Grand Rapids.
“I haven’t seen Doug play this well, I don’t think, since he’s been here,” Griffins coach Curt Fraser said. “He leads our defense in every way. He’s a good leader for us off the ice, the guys just love him in there. He’s a very valuable piece for our team.”
Janik, however, doesn’t like to use point totals and individual statistics to rate his play. He would prefer to go by the old standby of wins and losses.
“I think you judge a lot of your own success on the team’s success,” he said. “I think we’re a couple games under where we think we should be right now at this point, but overall, I think we’ve got room for some improvement going forward.”
• At the other end of the spectrum, the World Under-17 junior challenge is being held in Windsor this week, and Wings assistant GM Jim Nill is going to be eagerly watching the event:
There will be no shortage of NHL prospects to watch when the 2012 World Under-17 Hockey Challenge begins Thursday in Windsor. The week-long event will showcase many of the top players in the world born in 1995 or later and includes five regional Canadian teams. The squads from Atlantic Canada, Quebec, Ontario, the Pacific and the West will be joined by entries from the Czech Republic, Germany, Russia, Sweden and United States.
Although none of the players participating will are eligible for the NHL draft until at least 2013 or 2014, the event promises to showcase many future stars.
“Most NHL teams will have two scouts there, and some will have their general managers attend too,” said Jim Nill, vice-president and assistant general manager of the Detroit Red Wings. “It’s never too early to start a file and obtain information on a player.
“We also get to watch European players play on North American ice, perhaps for the first time, and see how they adapt to the smaller ice rink and more physical play. Scouting junior hockey players is not an exact science, so you need to compile as much information as possible on players.”
• Via RedWingsFeed, The Score’s Justin Bourne spoke to Wings director of player development and current Czech Republic World Junior Championship team assistant coach Jiri Fischer about his team’s 7-0 win over Denmark…After raving about Petr Mrazek:
One of the areas the Czechs feel they can compete with Canada is in net. Petr Mrazek was left off the team last year (as assistant coach Jiri Fischer put it: “This is first time in the tournament; politics for some reason kept him out of the tournament last year”) but the Detroit prospect is highly regarded. According to fellow Czech Radek Faksa, a regular opponent of Mrazek in the OHL, he’s “maybe the best goalie in the Ontario Hockey League.” Mrazek hasn’t gotten the attention that the goalies of other top countries have, but asked if his abilities weren’t being properly recognized at the tournament Fischer was succinct: “We know the strength of Petr and whatever everybody else thinks that’s their decision.”
One could have been forgiven for thinking that Fischer had been behind the bench of a losing team; while his charges were boisterous (their dressing room erupted with cheers and chants after the game) he was level-headed and decidedly critical of his team’s game. He didn’t like the penalties they took, he didn’t like some of the hits guys didn’t see coming, he didn’t like their tendency to miss shots from the blue line… there was absolutely no trace of overconfidence, just a grim determination that his team would be better still when facing Canada. Asked about his team’s game plan against the favourites, Fischer said in part, “We have to play very structured, even better details than we had today… we took some penalties. Putting Canada on the power play is definitely not going to be a smart idea tomorrow, so we need to be even a little better prepared than we were today.”
• Via Paul, the Hockey News’s Adam Proteau gave Nicklas Lidstrom’s performance during the 2011 calendar year a rave review:
Nicklas Lidstrom. With his 42nd birthday looming in April, he’s still the defenseman most NHL people would want on the ice for them in the last minute of a game. And if he continues his current standard of play the rest of the year he’ll have my vote for the Norris Trophy, just as he got it last season.
• And we’ll head back to the beginning via DetroitRedWings.com’s Zack Crawford, who offers another take on Joakim Andersson’s NHL debut:
[E]ven if Andersson’s contributions didn’t dramatically affect the course of the game – he logged 5:10 of ice-time with one hit on Blues defenseman Kris Russell – being called up for the night certainly changed the course of his holiday week.
“It’s a special feeling to play,” said Andersson, afterwards. “It’s a dream come true to play in the NHL with Detroit. It’s an honor to be a part of this organization. It was a special feeling to put the jersey on and skate out here.”
Acquired by the Wings in the third-round of the 2007 draft, Andersson has played center with the Griffins since the beginning of the 2010-11 season. The Griffin’s last game was four days before Christmas, so Andersson was well-rested for his first appearance at JLA. He finally made his debut 2:12 into the first period as a winger on the fourth line with Cory Emmerton and Justin Abdelkader. Competing in all 29 of the Griffins’ games so far this season, Andersson has picked up eight goals and nine assists. The Swede has been generating on a line with Nyquist, who made his NHL debut when he was called up to play Dec. 1 against the Minnesota Wild.
“I play center down there, but it was fun to play on the wing,” Andersson said. “I could pick up stuff from (Henrik) Zetterberg and (Pavel) Datsyuk and all these guys, just small things like how they see the ice and what kind of plays they make and how they play defensively.”
Wearing the No. 63, Andersson completed eight shifts throughout the night. His girlfriend and her mother watched from the stands as he and the Wings pushed a point ahead of St. Louis in the Central Division standings.
“I got more comfortable after a few shifts and know a little bit about what it’s all about,” Andersson said. “It was fun. Of course I love to play up here, but it’s a good team so I’ve got to be patient.”
Update #2: This is your wallpaper if you’re a Jimmy Howard fan (it’s interesting to note that Howard’s increased the rake of the wedge on his catch glove’s cuff—and had the leather strap which holds his hand in his glove stitched into the “ramp”—in addition to adding that double tee-trap to the mix);
• And this is big news: NHL.com will live stream the Team USA-Finland game at the World Junior Championships starting at 3:30 PM EST.
Update #3: Interesting: According to “The Baltic Course,” the KHL’s All-Star Game will be held in Riga, Latvia on January 21st, and Latvian Sandis Ozolinsh’s team will face off against a team of the KHL’s Eastern Conference’s All-Stars named after one Sergei Fedorov;
• Dead ducks? Really?
• As an FYI, from the Wings’ Twitter account:
Chris Conner will join ESPN 970 in Marquette to talk Red Wings hockey and the GLI at 4:15. You can listen here: http://www.espn970.com/
• Covered before but worth mentioning again, via Hockey’s Future’s Ken McKenna:
Day 2 was a good day for prospects of the Detroit Red Wings, with Wings goaltending prospect Petr Mrazek posting a shutout vs. Denmark and Slovak forwards Tomas Jurco and Marek Tvrdon netting goals in the win over Latvia. Mrazek had an easy time of things against Denmark, stopping just 12 shots en route to his shutout while Tvrdon, who had been slumping a bit while playing for the WHL’s Vancouver Giants, scored the game-winning goal for Slovakia.
• The Wings understandably hit a bit of a speed bump in Scott Cullen’s latest slate of power rankings from TSN:
This Week 4 Last Week 2 Detroit Red Wings23-12-1: Five Red Wings have at least five goals in December. One of them is Pavel Datsyuk. The others? Jiri Hudler, Dan Cleary, Valtteri Fippula and Drew Miller.
• And NHLPA executive director Donald Fehr offered an optimistic take on the CBA negotiations to come while speaking to the National Post’s Sean Fitz-Gerald:
Question: When do you expect CBA talks to start with the NHL?
Donald Fehr: Some time after the All-Star Game, but I’m not prepared to say when. There’s a lot of preliminary work that has to be done. The contract doesn’t expire until Sept. 15, and so there’s plenty of time to do it.
Question: Are we in any danger of another labour stoppage?
Donald Fehr: All I can say is, I would certainly hope not. In the last negotiation, there obviously was a long stoppage at the owners’ instigation. Both long stoppages in hockey have been lockouts, the players haven’t had any extended strikes. The owners insisted upon and received enormous concessions from the players, so one would hope that those days are days that people can write about in the history books, and we don’t have to look at them going forward. Having said that, I’ve been doing this too long and in too many different places to make predictions.
Update #3: I’m still having a hard time believing this rumor, per ESPN’s Pierre LeBrun:
If you’re looking for a big name that could possibly move by the Feb. 27 trade deadline, circle Ales Hemsky. He’s UFA as of July 1 and with the kids ruling the roost in Edmonton, word is around the league the Oilers might be willing to move Hemsky, although it hasn’t been totally ruled out that they might try to re-sign him as well.
Hemsky has all-world talent but it doesn’t show up on a consistent basis, and health is always a factor. Still, given that he’d be a traditional rental player, you will see a number of clubs willing to take him on for the rest of the season if and when the Oilers decide to put him on the market.
The Kings had interest in Hemsky last season before settling for Dustin Penner in a deadline day trade with Edmonton. If the Darryl Sutter renaissance is successful in L.A. and the Kings are in a playoff spot come February, it wouldn’t surprise me if they came sniffing around on Hemsky again. They need an upgrade on the wing in L.A.—whether or not the Kings fix that this season or next summer is what remains to be seen.
Another club that could come calling on Hemsky is Detroit. The Red Wings have cap space and will be an aggressive team come the trade deadline. They’ll look at all kinds of options but I believe Hemsky will be among the names on their shopping list.
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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.