The Malik Report
by George Malik on 01/02/12 at 03:08 PM ET
Updated 5x with Wings-Stars talk at 3:51 PM: The Detroit Red Wings have already taken to the ice at Joe Louis Arena for their first practice since Saturday’s very optional morning skate, and MLive’s Ansar Khan fired off a pair of Twitter updates which need not wait for a full-fledged off-day report to be shared:
[Tomas] Holmstrom and [Darren] Helm not skating today at Wings practice. Safe to assume they wont play Tues at Dallas
Practice lines for Wings: 93-13-44, 51-40-26, 20-8-11, 14/41-48-63; 5-18, 55-23, 52-22, 4; 35, 29
We’ll find out whether #41 playing on the fourth line equals Chris Conner being ready to return or whether he’s simply starting to get his skating legs back.
Also of Red Wings-related note this afternoon: as noted in the overnight report, the World Junior Championships’ quarterfinal match-ups take place today, with Teemu Pulkkinen’s Finns facing off against Marek Tvrdon and Tomas Jurco’s Slovaks at 5 PM EST (on TSN but not the NHL Network U.S?) and Petr Mrazek’s Czechs facing off against Russia at 9 PM EST (on both TSN and the NHL Network). Pulkkinen spoke to NHL.com’s Mike G. Morreale about today’s challenges...
After losing top 2012 draft prospect Olli Maatta (concussion) on defense in an 8-1 loss to Canada in their tournament opener, the Finns have yielded just two goals over the last three games. Maatta is ranked No. 3 among Ontario Hockey League skaters by NHL Central Scouting, and fellow defenseman Ville Pokka is No. 2 among skaters playing starring overseas in Finland. Goalie Sami Aittokallio has allowed just one goal on 75 shots in two victories with a tournament-low 0.50 goals-against average and tourney-high .986 save percentage.
“Well, we have the same team,” said leading scorer Teemu Pulkkinen. “Nothing really changed [since Canada]. It was just one game, and when it was over, we decided to move on. We had four games, and we had three victories after that, so we’re happy for this situation now.”
Unlike last year, Pulkkinen is in pretty good company on a line with Mikael and Markus Granlund this year. The line has been an absolute menace for opposing defenses to contain, striking for 6 goals, 19 points and a plus-16 rating.
“I think we create chances for each other in all the game,” Mikael Granlund said. “We need to focus on that.”
“They have been together for a long time; Mikael and Teemu played before and the young Granlund (Markus) is the new guy on the line,” Finland coach Raimo Helminen said. “They work well together.”
Pulkkinen, a 2010 fourth-round draft choice (No. 111) of the Detroit Red Wings, scored his team-leading fifth goal of the tournament in a 4-0 victory over the Czech Republic on Saturday. The 5-foot-10, 198-pound wing scored four consecutive third-period goals on Friday in a 10-1 victory against Denmark. Czech assistant coach Jiri Fischer, who works as director of player development for the Red Wings, is certainly aware of Pulkkinen’s skill set.
“He’s a special player when he’s on his game,” Fischer said. “I only hope, for his career, that he’ll find the consistency of production, but he’s a good player.”
And the Russians spoke to NHL.com’s Aaron Vickers about trying to solve Petr Mrazek:
What may concern Russian captain Yevgeni] Kuznetsov is Czech Republic goaltender Petr Mrazek. Mrazek’s 2.75 goals-against average and .917 save percentage has been impressive, but it was his orchestration of a stunning upset of the Americans in the round robin—essentially pushing them into the relegation round—that should cause Kuznetsov’s Russians concern.
In other words, goaltending is usually the difference in an elimination game.
“It’s difficult to say right now how we’re going to win,” Russian coach Valeri Bragin said through an interpreter. “They have a really good goalie and we played against them in the pre-tournament games. They play an aggressive style. This year the Czech team is not looking like it was last year or years before. It’s a good opponent.”
• People tell me that there are activities involving something called “pig skin” today, and that they may compete for audiences at the Winter Classic between Philadelphia and the Rangers today (3 PM EST, CBC/NBC), and The Hockey Writers’ Monica McAlister offers her take on the Wings’ Winter Classic chances.
As noted this morning, the Wings aren’t exactly the team most likely to welcome the 24/7 cameras into their locker rooms, and the NHL is considering holding a Winter Classic in Washington DC, in the New York City area, and they’re getting another hard push from the self-promoting Blackhawks as well, and on top of that, NHL chief operating officer John Collins stated that the Wings might want to figure out how to promote both a Comerica Park-based Winter Classic with a push to build a new rink…
And given the fact that the City of Detroit is headed for the largest civic bankruptcy in U.S. history, and that Wayne County’s executives are under federal investigation for a ridiculous amount of open corruption, it’s hard to believe that the Wings would find anyone willing to help publicly subsidize a rink that may have to be built entirely via private funds (and again, the llitches aren’t keen on diverting casino revenues for the next five to ten years to build a $400 rink on their own), so we’ll have to see how things unfold. I don’t think a Winter Classic will happen in Detroit for another two years, minimum…
• Regarding Winter Classics past, The Score’s Cam Charron, via RedWingsFeed, notes that the Wings didn’t do a spectacular job of blocking shots at Wrigley Field, but this comment seems kind of silly given that we’re talking about one game’s worth of shot-blocking performances:
By contrast, the wimpiest team outdoors are the 2009 Detroit Red Wings from the Classic at Wrigley Field in 2008. They blocked just five of 47 shot attempts for a rate of just 10.6%. The Red Wings are also significantly “worse” at blocking shots than the other teams on the list, blocking just 19.6% of all attempts.
• As Yahoo Sports’ Greg “Puck Daddy” Wyshynski notes, today marks the end of Versus and the launch of the “NBC Sports Network,” and footage of Def Leppard flipping the Stanley Cup over is only one of the major gaffes that a once fly-by-night network endured during its rocky tenure;
• And I have to let you know that my availability will be limited both today and tomorrow afternoon. The mom chose to be ferried to an important appointment tomorrow afternoon instead of today, which might mean a later morning skate report than I’d prefer, and I must regrettably state that I’ve got to head out the door as the Wings’ beat writers are entering the locker room because the people I live with have informed me that we have a national emergency on our hands known as, “Low pop levels and no paper towels.” The joys of living “with family”
Update #1: I can only nod my head regarding this CBA prediction from the Hockey News’s Ken Campbell:
The collective bargaining agreement: As much as most fans loathe it, much of 2012 will be dominated by a battle between millionaires and billionaires over the roughly $3 billion in revenue the NHL now creates. Surely both sides couldn’t be reckless enough to allow that all to fall by the wayside for the second time in less than a decade, could they?
The league has maintained the current system only needs to be “tweaked,” but you can be sure its definition of a tweak will be much more dramatic than what the players have in mind, or at least it should be. What the system actually requires, if the CBA is to meet its stated objectives from the owners’ standpoint, is a complete overhaul and that’s not likely to happen if the league wants to keep playing.
The reality of the situation is the current CBA has not improved the lot of the small-market franchises one iota and has done absolutely nothing to encourage parity on the ice. The salary cap, more specifically the floor and not the ceiling, has created far more problems than it has solved. And the owners and GMs will once again have to be saved from themselves by tightening up the system to a) limit the lengths of contracts; b) prevent teams from front-loading deals; or c) both.
PREDICTION: The dark horse prediction is neither side will file to terminate the CBA 120 days prior to Sept. 15, which would allow it to roll over for another year. The more likely one is the two sides will somehow come to an agreement at the last hour, which will include a significant rollback with players getting less than 50 percent of revenue, but continued Olympic participation. However, even though the owners will talk tough, this agreement will still not fully satisfy their needs and the bellyaching will continue.
I certainly hope that the cap “floor” is lowered to more realistically address the needs of smaller-market teams, and that the NHL doesn’t lock out the players as a matter of course.
Update #3: Per MLive’s Ansar Khan, Conner might not be down for a simple conditioning stint:
Red Wings assigned forward Chris Conner to Grand Rapids today. Babcock said they’ll recall him when they need him.
Here’s the Macomb Daily’s Chuck Pleiness’s early practice update as well;
Quick update from practice at City Arena, Darren Helm and Tomas Holmstrom both didn’t skate and both won’t play Tuesday night in Dallas.
Both are suffering from groin injuries.
“It feels a lot better,” Helm said.
Helm won’t even make the trip.
“I’m going to stick around here and get treatments,” Helm said. “Hopefully I’ll be ready for the weekend and the father’s trip. They want me to stay off longer. They have more experience than I do so I’ll listen to them and stay off it longer.”
Update #4: Here’s what the Wings sent out while I was grocery shopping:
RED WINGS REMOVE CONNER FROM IR
… Veteran Forward Reassigned to Grand Rapids …
Detroit, MI… The Detroit Red Wings today announced that veteran forward Chris Conner has been removed from the team’s Injured Reserve List and reassigned to the Grand Rapids Griffins (AHL). Conner has made six appearances with Detroit (1G-2A-3P) and 20 with Grand Rapids (7G-16A-23P) this season, his first with the organization. The 28-year-old native of Livonia , Mich. missed a total of nine NHL games after fracturing his hand on December 13 in Pittsburgh .
Currently 24-13-1 on the 2011-12 campaign, Detroit will next face the Dallas Stars tomorrow night (8:00 p.m. EST – FSD & 97.1 The Ticket) at American Airlines Arena. The Red Wings’ next home game is scheduled to be staged on Thursday, January 12 at 7:30 p.m. versus the Phoenix Coyotes. The first 7,500 fans in attendance for this ‘Bobblehead Thursday’ match will receive a free Danny Cleary bobblehead compliments of Dodge RAM, the official truck of the Detroit Red Wings. Tickets to all upcoming Red Wings home games are available at the Joe Louis Arena Box Office (313-396-7575), all Ticketmaster (800-745-3000) outlets, and online at DetroitRedWings.com.
• Here’s what Conner had to say to the Macomb Daily’s Chuck Pleiness...
Right after practice the Wings reassigned Chris Conner to Grand Rapids. Conner has been out since Dec. 13 when he broke his left hand at Pittsburgh.
“I’m excited to start playing again, Conner said. “I want to keep going, keep getting better. I’m confident I can get back to playing like that and hopefully I’ll be here soon.”
In six games in Detroit Conner has a goal and two assists. He was also a plus-2.
• Conner also spoke to the Detroit News’s Ted Kulfan, and it’s hard to figure out whether the Wings are sending Conner down sot hat he wouldn’t have to clear waivers (10 games or 30 days = time to waive a player who has to clear waivers if you want to have the flexibility of sending him down) or whether he’s going down for conditioning purposes:
“We just want him to get rolling,” coach Mike Babcock said. “He’s there until we need him.”
Recent call-ups Joakim Andersson and Gustav Nyquist will remain with the Wings for the time being, including for Tuesday’s game in Dallas. Darren Helm and Tomas Holmstrom are still unavailable because of groin pulls.
Conner, a Livonia native, said he’ll use the time in Grand Rapids to get his timing back and hopefully return to the Wings as soon as possible.
“I’m happy I can play and when I get playing, do the best I can to get back here,” Conner said. “I’m excited to just get playing. I haven’t played in a couple of weeks. I just want to play. I want to keep going, keep getting better, and do my best to get back here soon.”
Helm said he could resume skating later in the week and hopes to return to game action this weekend.
• Here’s Mlive’s Ansar Khan’s practice report as well:
Conner has been out since Dec. 13, when he broke his left hand in a game at Pittsburgh. He had one goal, two assists and a plus-2 rating in six games with the Red Wings.
“I’m excited to start playing,’’ Conner said. “I want to keep going, keep getting better. I’m confident I can get back to playing like that and hopefully I’ll be here soon.’‘
Forwards Darren Helm and Tomas Holmstrom, each out with a strained groin, did not practice today and won’t play Tuesday at Dallas (8 p.m., Fox Sports Detroit).
“It feels a lot better, hopefully get on the ice when we get back,’’ Helm said. “Stick around here, get some treatment, get a couple of workouts in, hopefully be ready for the weekend, for the fathers trip.’‘
The team’s annual fathers trip is this weekend in Toronto (Saturday) and Chicago (Sunday). The Red Wings will go with the same lineup they’ve used the last couple of games. Coach Mike Babcock said he intends to use defenseman Jakub Kindl in one of the next couple of games.
Khan says that Howard will start in Dallas, too.
Update #5: The New York Times posted a Johnny Wilson obit;
• And we’re finding out a bit about tomorrow’s opponent. ESPN Dallas’s Richard Durrett reports that defenseman Jordan Benn will play in lieu of concussed defenseman Phillip Larsen, as also confirmed by the Dallas News’s Mike Heika:
The Stars are already thin on defense with Stephane Robidas (foot) and Sheldon Souray sidelines with injuries. Now, Philip Larsen has concussion-like symptoms after getting hit by Milan Lucic Saturday against Boston, so he will sit out Tuesday against Detroit.
``He’s had some concussion symptoms here. They’re very, very, very mild, but we’re going to keep him out for tomorrow’s game. He should probably be with us in the next couple of days,’’ Stars coach Glen Gulutzan said.
That means the Stars have to call up a defenseman from the minors, and they made a little bit of a surprising choice in Jordie Benn. The older brother of Jamie Benn, Jordie has really made a big push up the organization’s depth chart in a very short time. He was selected over Brad Lukowich, Maxime Fortunus and Brenden Dillon.
Here are the lines the Stars were running in practice:
Star Gazing: vs. Detroit (1/3/12)
TUESDAY’S GAME: Dallas Stars (21-15-1, 44 points – 2nd, Pacific Division) vs. Detroit Red Wings (24-13-1, 49 points – 2nd, Central Division) 7 p.m. CT at American Airlines Center
BROADCAST INFO: NBC Sports Network (formerly VERSUS) and Sports Radio 1310 The Ticket
The game’s also slated to air on Fox Sports Detroit.
This Season[‘s record against Detroit]: 0-1-0
at DET, 2-5 L, 11/12/11
vs. DET, 1/3/12
vs. DET, 1/17/12
at DET, 2/14/12
FIVE THINGS TO WATCH
1. The Dallas Stars and Detroit Red Wings meet for their second of four contests this season. Detroit won the previous game against Dallas 2-5. After winning four consecutive games against the Red Wings, the Stars have dropped three of the last four contests against them.
2. The Stars enter Tuesday night’s game with a 101-101-35 all-time record against the Red Wings (.500). It is the only current NHL club that the Stars have a.500 record against. In fact, the Stars hold a .500 record-or-better against 20 of the league’s 30 NHL clubs. Seven of the teams the Stars have a sub-.500 record against reside in the Eastern Conference.
3. Defenseman Jordie Benn, older brother of current Dallas Stars forward Jamie Benn, was recalled from the Texas Stars on Sunday. If both Benns play on Tuesday night, they will be the sixth set of brothers in team history and the third in Dallas Stars history to play a game together. They will also be the 48th set of brothers in NHL history to play game on the same team.
4. The Stars concluded the month of December with a 7-6-0 record (14 points) in 13 games. Dallas had 11 more power play opportunities in December than in November (equal number of games), converting on 8-of-49 chances (16.3%). The Stars lost 42 man games to injury in December, which was more than October and November combined (36 through first two months).
5. The Stars are 11 wins away from earning their 1,500th all-time franchise victory. When they do so, they will be the 10th team in the history of the NHL to accomplish that feat. 731 of those victories have come since the club moved to Texas in 1993. The Dallas Stars are now 27 wins away from tying their win total as the Minnesota North Stars (758).
WHO TO WATCH: LOUI ERIKSSON has earned a point in each of his last seven games against the Detroit Red Wings (5 goals, 5 assists). He has also earned at least one point in 11 of his last 12 matchups against them (8 goals, 11 assists).
BRENDEN MORROW has four goals in his last five games against Detroit.
TREVOR DALEY logged a goal and two assists on Saturday night against the Boston Bruins. He is the only Dallas defenseman to score a goal since mid November (3 goals in that span).
Update #6: If you missed it, Blues defenseman Ian Cole reacted to his suspension and the St. Louis Post-Dispatch’s Dan O’Neill wondered aloud why Pavel Datsyuk wasn’t suspended for popping Barrett Jackman in the chops.
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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.