The Malik Report
by George Malik on 03/28/11 at 06:26 AM ET
Put simply, the Detroit Red Wings face off against the Chicago Blackhawks tonight (7:30 PM EDT, Versus/TSN2/WXYT) probably wishing that their three remaining games against Chicago didn’t involve as many damned high-stakes as they do.
The Wings had hoped to have the Central Division and at least 2nd place in the Western Conference wrapped up by now, but thanks to a combination of injuries and wasted opportunities, the Wings find themselves tied for second with the San Jose Sharks (both teams have 97 points, and the Wings will burn their game in hand over San Jose tonight as the Ducks-Avs tilt is the only other game on the schedule)—and if the Hawks were to manage to defeat the Wings three times (tonight and on April 8th and 10th), their 9-point deficit between themselves and the Wings would to three in a hurry, and, perhaps moreover, it’s highly likely that 8th-place Hawks would guarantee themselves a playoff spot.
Given the Wings’ injuries and ups and downs of late, they aren’t exactly overwhelming favorites as an international spotlight begins to focus upon them, as the Globe and Mail’s David Shoalts suggests:
Chicago Blackhawks at Detroit Red Wings (7:30 p.m., TSN2). Wings have injury woes and their defensive game is in a shambles.
While the Wings are sporting about a 3.00 goals-against average over their past three games, when you take this month’s 12 games, that drops to 2.5, but they’ve only scored about 2.42 goals per March game, which is obviously directly related to the injuries to Brian Rafalski, Todd Bertuzzi and Johan Franzen (who hopes to return to the lineup tonight) and Pavel Datsyuk.
And while the Wings find themselves in a battle for 2nd place heading into tonight’s game, hoping to build off their 4-2 win over Toronto on Saturday, the Anaheim Ducks snapped a two-game Chicago winning streak on Saturday, defeating the Hawks 2-1, and as the Hawks have basically alternated wins and losses throughout March, they find themselves in a particularly desperate attempt to simply make the playoffs, as ESPN Chicago’s Jesse Rogers notes:
With a chance to solidify a postseason spot and put some distance between themselves and the No. 8 and No. 9 seeds, they came up short in their 2-1 loss to the Anaheim Ducks on Saturday at the United Center.
The Ducks’ regulation victory vaulted them past Chicago into the No. 7 seed, while the Hawks stayed in the top eight, but by only a point. They were helped by a Dallas loss to Nashville which dropped the Stars to No. 10 while Calgary posted an improbable victory over Edmonton to take over the No. 9 seed. The Flames have played three more games than the Hawks.
The Hawks have 88 points, the Flames, 87, and the Stars, 86.
With their next three games on the road, including back-to-back contests in Detroit and Boston on Monday and Tuesday, the Hawks’ hold on a playoff spot is precarious, but they continue to control their own destiny. Every team ahead of them and the one directly behind them has played more games, allowing the Hawks to earn some points in the final two weeks while those teams are idle.
The Hawks are without two key contributors in David Bolland (concussion) and Patrick Sharp (knee), and they talked about the necessity of winning with much more regularity over their last eight games with the Chicago Sun-Times’ Adam L. Jahns…
At one point, it looked as if 95 points would be enough to advance, but now some, including Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville, estimate it will take 97 or 98.
“If you can get 99, you should be pretty safe,” defenseman Brian Campbell said. “We’ve got some games in hand on some teams that we need to capitalize on.”
The Hawks (88 points) have played fewer games than teams they’re chasing. They have two in hand on the Nashville Predators (92 points) and one on the Anaheim Ducks (89 points). Behind the Hawks, the Dallas Stars have played the same amount and trail them by two points, while the Calgary Flames are one point behind but have played three more games.
“We want to keep winning games,” winger Patrick Kane said. “Maybe we go .500 [in the last eight games], but that’s not good enough. It gets us to 96. Hopefully, we’ll be better than .500.”
And the Chicago Daily Herald’s Tim Sassone:
We need to get some points on this road trip,” Hawks coach Joel Quenneville said Sunday. “There’s some disappointment today, but we’ve got to be excited about the challenge ahead of us. It’s a great opportunity to move ahead and we have to take care of business.”
“We want to keep winning games, that the biggest thing,” winger Patrick Kane said. “Maybe we go .500, and that’s not good enough. Maybe that puts us at 96 points but we don’t get in. Hopefully we’ll be better than .500. We just have to worry about Detroit right now and try to take 2 points there. It’s a tough schedule remaining, obviously. We have them three times and a couple tough games against Boston and Tampa Bay.”
The Red Wings come into tonight’s game banged up but comfortably 7 points ahead of the Hawks. Center Pavel Datsyuk (foot) and goalie Jimmy Howard (sprained shoulder) won’t play, but Johan Franzen is expected to return from his injury. Joey MacDonald starts in goal. The Hawks were about as down as they’ve been all season after the loss to Anaheim, but with this a playoff-type feel to these games it’s necessary to have a short-term memory like in the postseason.
“We have to get upbeat again in here and start worrying about what’s ahead of us,” Kane said. “It’s not a game we’re going to get back. I’m sure Detroit wants to send a message to us that they don’t want us to make the playoffs.”
The Wings don’t want to face the Hawks, either, despite the fact that they’re not only missing Bolland and Sharp, but Troy Brouwer also finds himself stuck in a 17-game goal-less streak. The Daily Herald’s Sassone reported that the Hawks practiced with the following lines on Sunday, with Brouwer playing alongside Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane in an effort to get him going offensively…
Quenneville jugged his lines the day after Saturday’s 2-1 loss to Anaheim but said he wasn’t sure if that’s how they would look Monday at Detroit. The lines were:
Brouwer – Toews – Kane
Bickell – Kruger – Hossa
Kopecky – Dowell - Frolik
Stalberg – Johnson – Pisani
“These lines today, I’m not exactly sure, we’ll see going into tomorrow if we go back to the way we finished the game last night,” Quenneville said. “It’s an option. There could be a makeup of more of a traditional checking line.”
Quenneville knows he needs to get Brouwer going offensively. Brouwer hasn’t scored a goal in 17 games and has just 1 assist in that stretch.
“Whether it’s him or (Bickell), we need more physicality up front,” Quenneville said. “We need more of a net-front presence in zone or on the attack. We need those guys to be more involved.”
And while the Chicago Tribune’s Chris Kuc reports that the Hawks have gotten their penalty-killing unit back on track of late…
In their last 10 games, the Hawks have allowed just two power-play goals in opponents’ last 23 opportunities for a 91.3 success rate. That has bumped them to 25th in the league with at 79.2 mark. On the road, where they will play their next three games, the Hawks are 16th in the NHL at 82.4 percent.
“It definitely shouldn’t have taken that long, but we finally at some point in the year just said ‘enough is enough’ and everybody cleared up every question they had,” said Jake Dowell, who averages 1 minute, 22 seconds on the penalty kill per game. “We’re all on the same page and knowing when one person pressures, the rest of the guys have to pressure. We’re doing a good job of when (opponents) are breaking out we’re not letting them get clean entries and they have to dump it and we get clears on that.”
Between their relative lack of experience up front (per the Sun-Times’ Adam L. Jahns) and their struggles against the Getzlaf-Perry line on Saturday (via ESPN’s Jesse Rogers), the Hawks talked about playing defensively-oriented hockey going forward, as Comcast Sportsnet Chicago’s Jesse Boden noted:
“We’ve done [blown leads in the third period] too many times this season. We’ve been playing well defensively, haven’t allowed too many goals, yet we lost the game,” said Troy Brouwer after the entire team was put through a half-hour workout Sunday morning (save for Patrick Sharp and Dave Bolland). “Just had a couple little letdowns that led to their goals. We’re taking the positives we can. We didn’t get a lot of help in the standings and have to get ready to go into Detroit.”
It’s a Wings team the Hawks see three times these final two weeks and Patrick Kane knows what their arch-rival’s probably thinking.
“It’s a huge game for us tomorrow, obviously,” he said. “I’m sure Detroit wants to send a message to us that they don’t want us to be in the playoffs and get a little redemption on us. But if we go out and play the way we should, we should be okay.”
The way the Hawks “should” play – especially since Sharp joined Bolland on the sidelines – is defense-first. Going by the numbers, they’ve allowed three goals (and scored seven) in the last three games. They got burned on the only two they allowed Saturday by the best line in hockey right now, while their own offensive stars had trouble generating enough pressure.
The result increased the pressure on them this week to hunt for points against two teams that are among the league’s best, but have hardly been dominant at home. The Wings are 20-12-5 at The Joe. The Bruins are 18-13-5 at The Garden. The Wings won’t have Pavel Datsyuk or goalie Jimmy Howard Monday against the Hawks, but Johan Franzen’s expected to return after missing four games with a groin injury.
The Hawks insist that they’re ready to make a hard playoff push, however, as NHL.com’s Brian Hedger notes:
“It’s felt like the playoffs the past 15 to 20 games,” Kane said. “We’ve been playing pretty well, as of late. We just can’t get down on ourselves when we let one slip away. Obviously, it’s unacceptable and we want to make sure we play better, but we’ve got to get that good feeling back in here and I think it probably starts with the guys who were here last year, part of that Stanley Cup winning team.”
Coach Joel Quenneville agreed. He said the final stretch run should be looked upon as a good challenge rather than a mental burden.
“It’s a fun situation,” he said. “Every game’s big. Every game’s fun. Everybody wants to play in these type of games. You should be excited. These are playoff games. Everybody likes to play in these settings, where every shift’s important and every play’s important. We’ve been tested over the last couple years in these type of situations, so it should enhance us as we go along here, as the stage gets bigger and more important.”
The Chicago Tribune’s Chris Kuc, who suggests that Corey Crawford will oppose Joey MacDonald in the nets, sets up tonight’s game as follows...
Series: Hawks lead 2-1.
Last meeting: Hawks won 4-1 on Jan. 22 at Detroit.
HAWKS (40-26-8) vs. RED WINGS (44-22-9)
3.16 (3) Goals for 3.17 (2)
2.69 (12) Goals against2.79 (17)
23.9 (2) Power-play pct.22.6 (4)
79.2 (25) Penalty-kill pct. 83.3 (13)
Storyline: The Blackhawks will try to right the ship after suffering a tough loss to the Ducks on Saturday night that snapped their two-game winning streak. This is the first of a three-game trip for the Hawks, who are 17-11-8 on the road. They have won three straight at Joe Louis Arena. Like the Hawks, the Wings are 5-3-2 in their last 10 games after losing three of their last four. Henrik Zetterberg leads Detroit in scoring with 22 goals and 53 assists.
And NHL.com’s David Kalan penned the following preview:
Season Series—The Blackhawks have taken two of three from the Wings this year, including a 4-1 victory at the Joe on Jan. 22.
[Blackhawks team scope]: Chicago will visit Boston and Columbus after facing the Wings, which is no easy road to travel. In addition, the Hawks are still without leading scorer Patrick Sharp, but fortunately for Chicago, the rest of its top guns have picked up the pace. While Jonathan Toews has been leading the offense of late, Marian Hossa (18 points in 15 games) and Patrick Kane (14 points in 13 games) have also kept the team on the scoreboard.
Red Wings [team scope]—The Red Wings are in first place in the Central Division, and with Nashville, their nearest competitor, five points away, Detroit seems a safe bet to win the division title. Their No. 2 seed in the West is hardly safe, however, as San Jose has been hot on the trail. Throw into the mix that the Wings are currently battling several injuries and there is plenty of reason for concern as the playoffs approach.
Who’s Hot—Danny Cleary and Henrik Zetterberg have done their best to carry Detroit’s beat up offense, with each tallying four points in the last four games. … While Hossa and Kane have each been impressive of late, Toews has been the most productive, with 24 points in his last 17 games.
Stat Pack—The Blackhawks made noise two years ago when they brought two former Red Wings into the fold in Hossa and Tomas Kopecky. While Hossa has proved a crucial offensive piece in his two seasons in Chicago, one wonders if Kopecky was brought in specifically for what he knows about Detroit. If that’s the case, it’s proven a shrewd move. Kopecky has four of Chicago’s 10 goals against the Red Wings this season.
Puck Drop—While Detroit’s pursuit of the No. 2 seed in the West is important, the bigger priority for the Wings is to get the roster as healthy as possible before the postseason starts. The stakes are far higher for the Hawks, whose fate could very easily rest on what happens during this road trip. Fortunately for Chicago, Detroit isn’t too far from home and it hasn’t felt like it is lately either. The Blackhawks have won in their last three visits to the Joe.
As Kuc’s preview noted, much of the Wings’ cushions over San Jose, Nashville and even the playoff pack which the Blackhawks are a part of disappeared thanks to a 3-game losing streak prior to their 4-2 win over Toronto on Saturday, and they don’t just want to break the Hawks’ dominance over the Wings at Joe Louis Arena while righting their listing ship.
The Wings want to stop getting broken in the literal sense of the term. The Wings received good news regarding Jimmy Howard on Sunday, hearing that he’s suffered nothing more than a slight left shoulder sprain via his collision with Joffrey Lupul, but he’s not going to play tonight, leaving Joey MacDonald and the recently-recalled Thomas McCollum as the Wings’ goalies (Chris Osgood will be out till the end of the regular season), and while Johan Franzen hopes to return from a groin injury, Pavel Datsyuk’s still out with a mysterious “lower-body” injury, and his absence has negatively affected the Wings both offensively and defensively.
Howard was as relieved as the rest of “Hockeytown, No Limits” on Sunday, as MLive’s Ansar Khan noted...
“I’ll be ready for the playoffs. We got enough games left. Still a couple of weeks away,’’ Howard said. “Hopefully this doesn’t keep me out (too long). Hopefully I can come back possibly Wednesday. I’m going to do the best I can to try to get back as soon as possible, icing it like crazy and continue to work with (trainers).’‘
Howard said he “dodged a bullet.’‘
“I was just hoping it wasn’t anything serious and it wasn’t. The MRI came back, it was fine, just a sprain,’’ Howard said. “My arm just got caught underneath him. Where my glove was, my arm didn’t really spread out and he just landed on my shoulder.’‘
But Wings coach Mike Babcock was a little more cautious regarding Howard’s desire to at least back up MacDonald for Wednesday’s game against St. Louis:
Coach Mike Babcock said Howard is “going to take a little break.’‘
“I don’t know exactly when he’ll be back,’’ Babcock said. “The bottom line, just like any other player who’s got an injury, he’s got to get back and get healthy and get playing. Ideally it won’t be very long.’‘
Khan reported that the Wings practiced with the following lines—and it’s as rare as can be for the Wings to practice on Sunday, so I’m guessing that they’ll get a day off after Wednesday’s game against St. Louis, assuming that they salvage their 5-game home stand (they’re 1-1-and-1 right now) with two wins…
Modano-Filppula-Holmstrom (Datsyuk working in)
If all goes well, Johan Franzen will return from his groin injury tonight, though Wings coach Mike Babcock told the Macomb Daily’s Chuck Pleiness that he might hold Franzen back...
“I’m playing,” Franzen said. “I was skating with max speed. It usually takes 2-3 games to get back to 100-percent.”
Babcock said they’ll wait to see after the morning skate today if he will play.
“What we do here is we got medical people who decide those things,” Babcock said. “He says he skated good today. If he’s available, he’ll go.”
And as Franzen expressed enthusiasm about his likely return to the Detroit Free Press’s George Sipple, noting that he and his teammates are excited about playing against the Blackhawks so many tmies over the last three weeks of the regular season…
“Going to be good games,” Franzen said. “Good rivalry between the clubs.”
Franzen said he’d keep his shifts short and said there are enough games left for him to get back up to speed before the playoffs. “Usually takes two or three games to get back 100%,” Franzen said. “Seven is plenty.”
Babcock delivered good news regarding Pavel Datsyuk, while underlining the importance of coming out strong tonight…
Babcock said he expected Pavel Datsyuk to be ready to return for either Wednesday’s home game against the Blues or Saturday at Nashville. Datsyuk will miss his fifth straight game tonight with a lower-body injury.
Babcock said he expects the same desperation from the Blackhawks that he saw from the Maple Leafs in the Wings’ 4-2 win Saturday. The Leafs are seven points behind the Sabres for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.
And the Wings’ interim starter expressed enthusiasm galore about starting tonight (he’ll probably get another start against the Hawks before all is said and done):
“It’s been great this year,” said MacDonald, who has appeared in 20 games with Grand Rapids (American Hockey League) and 13 games with the Wings this season. “The best thing about it is I’ve gotten a chance to play some. It’s not like I’m sitting on the bench for two or three weeks at a time and then get thrown in. It’s an opportunity. Tomorrow night try to come out and give the team a chance to win.”
MacDonald spoke at length to the Detroit News’s John Niyo about his yo-yo existence, telling Niyo that he truly began to believe that he could play at the NHL level while tending the nets for the New York Islanders, who plucked him off waivers from the Wings in 2008 (and the italics are Niyo’s)...
“That was huge,” said MacDonald, who figures to hear his name called again tonight as the last man standing in the Wings’ net, with both Jimmy Howard (shoulder) and Chris Osgood (injured reserve) idled by injuries. “Before that, you’d get called up and you’d play a game or two here and there and you’d tell yourself, ‘Ah, I think can be a backup in this league.’ But that year I basically started the season No. 1 and finished the season No. 1. And after that you’re thinking, ‘Yeah, I can play in this league, and I can play against the best. So I think that was a big turnaround for me.”
Before suggesting that his 13-game stint has “Joey Mac” believing that he can do the job if the Wings have to turn to him in the playoffs because of his familiarity with his NHL teammates:
“But you know what? It’s not like I got called up a week before the playoffs for the first time,” MacDonald said. “I’ve been here most of the year, and I think I’ve played pretty well. So I’ll just keep doing that and try to get the fan support behind me.”
“It’s a strange world,” said MacDonald, who boasts a 2.05 goals-against average and .928 save percentage. “When I signed here, you never know: You see goalies sit down in the minors the whole year and goalies not get hurt.”
MacDonald suggested that he had no problem coming in to relieve Howard on Saturday, picking up a big win…
“It’s tough to come in in relief, but that’s the life of a backup goaltender,” said MacDonald, who enters tonight’s game with a shutout streak of 109 minutes, 45 seconds that stretches over four games. “You have to be ready at all times and be able to keep your focus and do what you do.”
And he shrugs off the suggestions that he’s got a hard lot in life trekking up and down I-96, seemingly getting a practice or a game in before an early-morning call regarding one of what seem to be an inordinate number of Chris Osgood setbacks…
“I know when I was younger, you’d get frustrated when you’d get sent down,” he said. “But (when) people say, ‘You’re 31 and playing in the AHL,’ I’m like, ‘Yeah, but guess what? I’m still playing the game of hockey, a game I love playing.’ And look what happens this year. … When you do this, you’ve got to have a positive outlook. When you do go down, you just play. And if you perform well, your time will come.”
He’s done just fine while playing for the Wings, as Nicklas Lidstrom suggested to the Detroit News’s Chris McCosky...
“We have confidence in Joey,” captain Nick Lidstrom said. “He’s been playing a few games now and he’s playing well.”
MacDonald hasn’t allowed a goal in the last 109:49, covering four games. He stopped all seven shots he faced Saturday, preseving the 4-2 win.
And if you’re looking for a little motivation, fire and/or passion coming from the Wings as they prepare to face off a against a team whose playoff hopes they can dash (or can surrender the Central Division to Nashville if they lose their three games against the Hawks and Saturday’s tilt in Nashville), I’m happy to report that the Wings are still furious...
About the fact that opposing players can run Wings’ goalies at will, while Tomas Holmstrom can’t stare at an opposing goaltender wrong without witnessing a goal waved off due to his perceived proximity to goalies who are now making more contact with him than anything else. Kris Draper was particularly angry at Joffrey Lupul’s suggestion that the Leaf forward was pushed into Howard:
“It’s my fault, is that what you are saying?” he said.
Not exactly. The question was whether he thought goalie interference should’ve been called on the play.
“If Homer ( Tomas Holmstrom ) fell on him it would have been,” Draper said.
“I was just trying to find the puck and obviously I didn’t do a good enough job of that,” Draper said. “But I definitely didn’t push him on to Howie, and I was as concerned as everybody else when I saw that he was hurt.”
Howard disagreed, but you can bet that the Wings will push the Hawks out of the way if Kopecky or Brouwer plan on imitating Holmstrom…
“(Lupul) is going to the net trying to create havoc and watching the replay, it was a pretty good play; sitting on his rear end and putting it in the net,” Howard said. “It was a tough play. I was coming out to cut down the angle and it was just an unfortunate occurrence. My arm got caught underneath me. The way my glove was, my arm couldn’t spread out and I landed on the shoulder.”
And, put simply, the Wings don’t have the luxury of overlooking anyone right now. There are two more games left on their home-stand and the Wings have a boatload of to-do’s, including cutting down their goals-against average, cranking up their offensive machine (regardless of who’s in or out of the lineup, especially as Babcock tends to rest players down the stretch), not backing down when teams try to send late-season “messages” by resorting to stupid attempts to intimidate the Wings physically, keeping their PP and PK units humming along and ensuring that their home record improves…
But the bottom line for the Wings is that they’ve had a mediocre 5-4-and-3 March, following up a 9-and 5 February that was supposedly “not good enough.” If 9-and-5 isn’t good enough going toward the playoffs, then 5-and-7 sure as hell doesn’t cut it. The Wings have to channel their inner Charlie Sheen and embrace “winning” once again, for their own sakes.
Never mind the sakes of fans like you and me who get sick of the, “Uh oh, the Big Red Machine looks vulnerable” talk this time of year, usually when that crap’s not true. And the Wings kinda do look vulnerable right now. It’s up to our Red Wings to stop that talk in its tracks by piling up some much-needed wins, and there’s no time like the present to offer their critics and opponents an ever-so-polite Detroit Salute (see: Joe Louis’s fist, in motion, or the alternate version, which involves raising one’s middle finger).
Per the NHL’s media website, Brad Watson and Kyle Rehman will referee tonight’s game, and Johnny Murray and Shane Heyer will work the lines.
Red Wings notebooks: Of Promotional Note, via the Red Wings’ media department:
Detroit, MI… Excitement abounds in Hockeytown as anticipation continues to grow for the Detroit Red Wings’ 20th consecutive Stanley Cup Playoff drive, scheduled to begin in mid-April versus a to-be-determined opponent. The Red Wings and WDFN 1130 AM will help the best fans in the NHL get in ‘post-season mode’ in the coming weeks, joining forces to conduct a daily retrospective featuring great moments from each of Detroit’s past 19 playoff runs.
Beginning on Monday, March 28, Red Wings fans will be able to relive unforgettable moments from throughout Detroit’s incredible playoff appearance streak by tuning in to the Sean, Terp & Killer Show (weekdays, 3:00 – 6:00 p.m.) at 4:20 p.m. and by visiting www.twentystraight.com. A new Red Wings playoff history highlight will be featured on-air and at this special micro site every day, with a different year being profiled on each successive post.
In addition to enjoying a three-week-long trip down memory lane, Red Wings fans will also be afforded the opportunity to win several exciting prizes throughout the duration of this promotion. One lucky WDFN listener will win a Hockeytown Café gift card or autographed Hockeytown Authentics memorabilia item every weekday, with a four-pack of Red Wings playoff tickets set to be given away weekly. Furthermore, visitors to WDFN.com will have the chance to win an Ultimate Fan Experience Package (to be redeemed during the 2011-12 NHL season), further details of which will be revealed in the near future on-air at 1130 AM as well as on the official WDFN and Detroit Red Wings social media platforms (Facebook & Twitter).
Of Promotional Note, part two:
DTE Energy and the Detroit Red Wings are Going Green!
Wednesday, March 30th is DTE Energy “Going Green” Night and the first 5,000 fans through the gates receive a commemorative t-shirt. In keeping with the “green-themed” evening, over 50 groups will be in attendance from “green-conscious” organizations as well as 500 attendees who won tickets to the game from DTE Energy sponsored contests. Additionally, energy experts from DTE Energy will be on the concourse outside section 115 distributing free information on energy efficiency and renewable energy.
&bull: Not of promotional note, but pretty cool, per the Free Press’s George Sipple:
Nick Lidstrom is tied with Wayne Gretzky for 16th place for the most NHL games played (1,487). Lidstrom’s next power-play goal will tie him with Phil Housley (129) for fifth place in NHL history among defensemen.
• And the Detroit News’s Chris McCosky...
With one more point, defenseman Nick Lidstrom will become the first player in NHL history age 40 years or older to record at least 60 points in a season.
“I hadn’t thought much about that until somebody mentioned it last night,” he said. “I guess I have to get that one point.”
Lost in all the late-game commotion Saturday was a brilliant defensive play by Lidstrom. In the second period, with the game tied 1-1, Lidstrom stopped a three-on-one-rush, calmly going to a knee to stop a crossing pass in front of Howard.
“Kessel was coming in on his off-wing and as he brought the puck up to shoot it, I am just taking that lane away if he is passing,” Lidstrom said. “If he’s shooting, I can’t get there so I just tried to lay down and make myself big in case he passes. That’s what he did and I got a stick on it. That was an important play at that point in the game.”
• In the prospect department, part 1: Red Wings prospect Thomas McCollum stopped 26 shots in the Toledo Walleye’s 4-3 loss to Cincinnati on Sunday—and for those of you keeping score at home, take note of the fact that the Walleye have signed Red Wings prospect and defenseman Bryan Rufenach, who just finished his senior season at Clarkson University, to a try-out, and Rufenach had an assist on Sunday—and while the Toledo Blade’s Mark Monroe reports that the controversial loss (the Walleye tied the game in the eyes of everyone but referee Curtis Marouelli), McCollum expressed excitement galore to the Monroe about his call-up by the Red Wings:
“Obviously, it’s really exciting,” McCollum said. “Anytime you get to put on an NHL jersey, especially for the Detroit Red Wings, it’s a huge honor. I’m just going to go up there and enjoy the process and have fun.”
Detroit’s starting netminder Jimmy Howard was injured Saturday night and his backup, Chris Osgood, is on the injured reserve list. MacDonald, who started his pro career in Toledo playing for the Storm in 2001-02, has played in 13 games for the Red Wings this season. Howard, Detroit’s No. 1 netminder, suffered a shoulder injury. McCollum said he will be in Detroit for the morning skate today and that he will be backing up.
“It sounds like Jimmy will be ready for Wednesday,” McCollum said. “So maybe I’ll be back [in Toledo] on Tuesday.”
McCollum was the Red Wings’ first round draft choice in 2008. He was picked 30th overall. He started this season in Grand Rapids, Detroit’s American Hockey League affiliate. He had a 6-11-2 record with a 3.16 goals against average in Grand Rapids. McCollum started his 14th straight game for the Walleye Sunday. Entering the game he had posted an 11-8-2 record with a 2.70 goals against average for Toledo. Walleye coach Nick Vitucci said he is not sure if McCollum will be back in Toledo for the team’s last three regular season games next weekend. But McCollum said he expects to be back and wants the chance to help Toledo make it into the ECHL playoffs.
“I really want to be back here,” he said. “I’ve been here a month and a half. And I’ve really grown close with a lot of the guys here. We’ve made a solid push so far. I’m really looking forward to making this interesting.”
In the prospect department, part 2, the biggest news involves University of Notre Dame forward Riley Sheahan, who registered two assists in Notre Dame’s 2-1 win over the University of Notre Dame at the NCAA Division I semifinal tournament. Both US College Hockey Online’s Jim Connelly and Inside College Hockey’s Jeff Howe provide recaps, with Howe speaking to Sheahan after the game…
“The big thing we focused on was back pressure,” Sheahan said. “We had to come back really hard, keep them to the outside. They were taking a lot of shots that were tipping off sticks, going wide or up into the mesh. We were focusing on getting back hard and having good coverage in our own end.”
And he named Sheahan one of his “three stars”:
3. Riley Sheahan, Notre Dame: He had two assists, and he won a key battle in the corner before delivering a feed to set up the team’s game-winning goal.
Notre Dame’s win earned them a berth in the NCAA’s Frozen Four tournament in St. Paul, Minnesota, where they’ll play against the University of Minnesota-Duluth on April 7th, hoping to advance to play against the winner of the University of Michigan-University of North Dakota semifinal.
• The other Wings prospect who made significant headway on Sunday was Farjestads BK forward Dick Axelsson, who scored the game-tying goal in Farjestads BK’s 2-1 win over AIK in the Swedish Eliteserien semifinals. FBK swept AIk to advance to the Eliteserien finals, where they’ll play the winner of the Skelleftea-Lulea series, which is tied 2-2. Axelsson has posted 4 goals and 2 assists over the course of 9 playoff games.
• Things haven’t gone so well for Everett Silvertips captain Landon Ferraro. The Silvertips were shut out 2-0 by the Portland Winterhawks on Saturday, and on Sunday, Everett lost a 7-2 decision. Ferraro has been held off the scoresheet over the course of the series thus far, but he’s not at 100%—he’s still recovering from both sports hernia surgery and a post-surgical groin pull.
Also of Red Wings-related note: In the alumni department, Sergei Fedorov scored a goal and added an assist in Metallurg Magnitogorsk’s 3-2 loss to Salavat Yulaev Ufa on Friday, but on Saturday, he and Metallurg were shut out 4-0, so they trail their KHL semifinal series 2-0;
The Maple Leafs saw many of their mistakes on Saturday night turned into goals by the Detroit Red Wings. And the majority of Leafs knew there were bigger things going on against a club that is near the top of the Western Conference standings.
“No excuses, but they played at a very high pace, a noticeably higher pace than the (previous) two games on the road for us,” left winger Joffrey Lupul said. “With a defence that is highly skilled like that, you want to put pucks in and go and try to hit them. But it’s tougher than it looks. (Nicklas) Lidstrom, there is a reason why he is still playing, and playing at such a high level.”
Kadri acknowledged he was in awe of the raucous atmosphere at Joe Louis Arena. No matter who the visitor is in Toronto, the same kind of rocking night almost never transpires at the Air Canada Centre.
“The atmosphere was, well, words can’t explain it,” Kadri said. “It was so loud, but once the puck dropped, I got in the zone and tried to do the things I do well.”
“I was excited to play there,” [goaltender James] Reimer said. “I don’t know if I was intimidated or nervous. They have a great franchise and have won a lot of games. I was up for the challenge.”
• Being vindictive and disliking the Maple Leafs intensely, I’d also like to think that this quip, from the Globe and Mail’s James Mirtle, is a sort of compliment:
Playoff dreams often go to Detroit to die. The Toronto Maple Leafs’ likely did just that this past weekend, as after landing in Motown on Friday afternoon only three points from the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference and optimistic they could claw closer, Toronto is an overwhelming seven points back with six games to play.
Three, maybe four, more wins, after all, is likely all it would have taken to make it, and those are points that were frittered away in November and December.
The dream may have died this weekend in Detroit, where the local team will be playing for its fifth Stanley Cup in 14 seasons, but it was on life support long before the Leafs ever got there. And that’s become an all-too-familiar story for a team about to begin its off-season early for the sixth year in a row.
• As for this, however, I think that the Toronto Sun’s Mike Zeisberger might be engaging in a little sand-kicking:
Despite dropping a hard-fought 4-2 decision to the Detroit Red Wings on Saturday night, the Leafs did show a penchant for going into the dirty areas bordering the Wings crease, a blueprint that played a significant role in both Toronto goals.
Joffrey Lupul literally was on top of Wings goalie Jimmy Howard when, despite appearing down and out, he managed to sweep the puck into the net to temporarily tie the contest at 2-2 in the third period. Lupul’s effort was named play of the day on ESPN’s SportsCenter south of the border.
Upon further review, the goal probably should have been waved off, since Lupul’s skate seemed to bump Howard’s leg just moments before the forward was sent tumbling into the Detroit goalie by Kris Draper. Either way, Lupul’s willingness to go to the net and create havoc could make him Miller’s worst enemy on Tuesday.
Uh, Draper says no…And if we must revisit it…
I’m going to suggest that Spacehog’s “Sand in My Eye” is proper mood music:
• I don’t know whether this quip from the Vancouver Province’s Tony Gallagher, talking about top prospect Cody Hodgson, is a compliment or a dig:
We also understand the Detroit model whereby they put good young prospects in the minors and bring them up when they’re good and ready and that makes sense as well. The Red Wings have had terrific success with that approach and that’s the goal to shoot for. But there are differences between the two organizations.
For starters, when do the Wings get the 10th overall player in the draft as was the case with Hodgson? How long would they leave a player like that rotting in the minors, almost certainly getting frustrated and losing heart, if, when he did come up for cups of coffee the way Hodgson did, he was placed in a position whereby success was highly unlikely.
• I believe this is his second or third column for the Free Press, so they might be keeping Grosse Pointe native Josh Huebner on retainer: the Freep’s resident “Reader Columnist” happens to believe that the NHL needs more dedicated “fighters” who are skilled players as well (they’re hard to find!);
• And if you want to elicit an, “AWWWW” when reading the Windsor Star’s Jason Bolichowski’s tale of 85-year-old Leafs fan Ann Shepley watching her team in person for the first time on Saturday night, I won’t stop you.
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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.