The Malik Report
by George Malik on 03/16/12 at 04:54 AM ET
At least the San Jose Sharks did the Red Wings a favor on Thursday night. After an “off-day” which was anything but a day of rest and relaxation for Red Wings’ fans nerves, Saturday night’s opponent defeated the Nashville Predators 2-1 in a shootout with, according to the Detroit News’s Gregg Krupa, Mike Babcock watching the Predators climb to within a point of Detroit in the Central Division standings.
That’s particularly important given the Wings’ 3-8-and-1 record of late, and while we’re all hoping that the Carolina Hurricanes’ 2-0 win over the St. Louis Blues at least kept the gap between Detroit and St. Louis to a theoretically closeable 8 points, the reality of the situation is that when the Red Wings get back to work today, they’re going to be hoping to preserve home-ice advantage over an incredibly highly likely first-round opponent in Nashville, and given the fact that the Wings had to shut down and send home Nicklas Lidstrom on Thursday and then Chuck Pleiness provides us a refresher course on Detroit’s body count. Lidstrom won’t put his skates on again until Monday…
“We’re giving him a few days off to see how it responds,” Holland said in a phone interview Thursday. “Let’s re-evaluate him on Monday.”
Holland said trainer Piet Van Zant told Lidstrom to ‘shut it down’ until the Wings returned home Monday allowing him four days to do more healing.”
“Frustrated and discouraged would be the words to use (how he feels),” Holland said. “The doctors really felt a couple of weeks was going to be sufficient enough to get him up and running. But he’s not ready. There’s no time frame.”
“He’s better, but not to the point he needs to be to practice full out,” Holland said.
And therein lies the rub for all of my dear readers who are predicting that Lidstrom won’t return until sometime in mid-April: Lidstrom told both Fox Sports Detroit’s Ken Daniels and Larry Murphy and Expressen’s Gunnar Nordstrom (this all comes from the Wings-Ducks wrap-up, by the way, so I am citing my sources here) that as soon as he can a) get his foot in his skate without pain that he can’t bear, he will b) require a few practices to get his legs back under him, but c) as he has been able to work out with little to no limitations, once his ankle is salvageable it will take all of two days, maybe three, for him to return to action.
Which means that it’s entirely possible that he could be back for Wednesday’s game in New York, or, because bone bruises are perhaps the most unpredictable of orthopedic injuries in terms of their recovery time, regardless of their severity, the age of the person involved or that person’s bone health, Lidstrom is very literally day to day, folks, so while I adore you, my dear readers, for f**k’s sake, come back in off the ledge. He is day-to-day, and until he comes back, we cannot and should not freak ourselves out by walking the 50th-floor window ledge panicking about an injury that is very simply day-to-day, or as Pavel Datsyuk (who may or may not return on Saturday; we’ll see how his knee feels today) says, “Day by day by day.”
And that’s really my message to all of my fellow Wings fans today:
Yes, the team is struggling like a motherf***er to the point that I’m cursing and worrying and feel jittery as hell just like you do, but by the hockey gods, self-flagellation is, as Babcock might say, “A complete waste of time,” as well as your energy, effort and frankly, your, “I picked the wrong week to stop sniffing glue!” comments.
Seriously. I’m as moody and morose and anxious person as a Wings fan who also happens to battle chronic depression and anxiety can be, but Jesus, gang, even I’m keeping a more even keel than you are, and this morning, I’m running on about five hours of sleep over the past two days, recurring anxiety attacks and a call from my lawyer this morning informing me that the result of the legal matter that took me away from the blog in mid-February was, to paraphrase, “I’m sorry, but you got screwed up the exit tube with no lube.” And with all of that s*** going on and having to stay up to six or seven to recap the Wings’ wretched road trip games, I’m on a more even keel and am much more positive about the Wings’ fortunes than you are, which scares me.
I hate the unknown as much as you do, but we just don’t know with Lidstrom’s injury, we just don’t know why exactly the Wings are struggling, and we just don’t know whether they’re gonna pull out o their nosedive into the team that, well, I’ll let the Detroit News’s Ted Kulfan describe the Wings’ current predicament via his “Sweet Sixteen”:
8) Detroit – The Red Wings have to get healthy and get their mojo back. They’re very beatable right now, nobody fears them.
Nobody but their own sleep-deprived fans, eh?
Anyway, back to the injuries, per Pleiness. Here’s the dealy-o on MacDonald...
Add Joey MacDonald to the list of walking wounded. MacDonald, who started in the Wings’ loss in Anaheim, is experiencing back spasms. Jordan Pearce was recalled from Grand Rapids and will dress as Jimmy Howard’s backup Saturday.
“It looks like it’s day-to-day,” Holland said. “Hopefully he’ll get better by Monday.”
Here’s Holland’s update on Pavel Datsyuk…
Pavel Datsyuk appears to be getting closer to returning. He had arthroscopic surgery on his right knee on Feb. 21.
“He’ll tell us when he trusts it,” Holland said. “He’s practiced hard this week. It’s a matter of him trusting it, feeling comfortable with it and feeling comfortable with his condition. Now it’s a matter of Pav telling us when he’s ready to play.”
And we’ll head back to Khan regarding the players you and I might have thought no one would have missed in Jakub Kindl (strained oblique muscle) and Jonathan Ericsson (broken wrist)—but man, do the Wings ever miss ‘em:
Defenseman Jakub Kindl, who said he has a strained oblique muscle, won’t be ready until sometime next week. Saturday will be the sixth game in a row he has missed. He has been practicing all week.
“It’s a nagging injury, a 2-3 week injury,’’ Holland said.
Holland said defenseman Jonathan Ericsson (chip fracture in left wrist on Feb. 25) is ahead of schedule.
“I was told by doctors (on Friday) that he’s healing a little faster than they expected,’’ Holland said. “The thinking now is that it’s going to be another couple of weeks and in late March, hopefully he’ll be playing.’‘
Do you want to know what Holland thinks about his team? Here’s what he told Khan:
Holland watched the past two games – losses to Los Angeles (5-2) and Anaheim (4-0) – from [the GM’s meetings in] Florida. The Red Wings are 3-7-1 in their past 11 games, but until these past two outings, Holland felt the team had been playing well through the injuries.
“There were some good signs,’’ Holland said. “We’d like to get a little more out of some people. Fortunately, we banked a lot of points earlier in the year. Until these last two games, I thought we played well in some of the losses, in Nashville and Philly. We had a good first period last night, but got down 1-0 and seemed to sag. Even when you have injuries you have to find ways to win games. The wheels came off the last couple of games. But you can turn it around in a hurry, too.’‘
If you want gloom and doom, the Detroit News’s Gregg Krupa will happily rhapsodize to fuel all your St. Patrick’s Day Pre-Drinking needs…
If they do not stay ahead of the Predators, the Red Wings risk starting the playoffs on the road along with possibly every series after that. On the road, they are 16-20-1. While there may not be that much carryover into the playoffs, which is called the “second season” for a reason, the only other teams in the NHL with at least 20 losses on the road entering play Thursday were the Oilers and Blue Jackets.
Datsyuk will play when he can. But why does it seem wisdom would dictate holding him out until he is really, really ready, so that come the playoffs, Datsyuk is Datsyukian?
The Red Wings seemed to begin turning things around against the Ducks. But a talented, hot goaltender, Jonas Hiller, helped slam the door. And, as [Niklas] Kronwall said, and other players agreed, the Red Wings spent too much time “shooting ourselves in the foot.”
The road back begins with eliminating those maladies against the Sharks on Saturday.
“Whenever you’re losing a lot, it’s not the best,” said Valtteri Filppula, who continues a stellar season, even picking the pace up a bit, with Datsyuk down. “But I think we were playing well during the season and now for parts of the game we are playing well. So, I don’t think we should be too bad confidence-wise. I think we just have to keep playing, and hopefully we can win.”
The Free Press’s Helene St. James also states the obvious—the Red Wings minus Nicklas Lidstrom don’t possess not only what we’ve come to believe is their “trademark swagger,” but what is in fact Lidstrom’s stone-dead calm and leadership imparting a, “We can rebound from anything” mentality upon his teammates:
General manager Ken Holland said the Wings are “discouraged and disappointed” that Lidstrom is still in pain when he puts his boot on; he was expected to only miss a week or so when the injury occurred. He was hit on the outside of the ankle, where there is only a thin layer of skin, and bone bruises can take awhile to heal.
The Wings aren’t used to playing without their captain, who in addition to everything else, provides a calming influence. They don’t have the depth to hide his loss, and they don’t work as well without him.
They could at least be reinforced by their other top player Saturday; Holland said it’s up to Pavel Datsyuk, who had knee surgery Feb. 21, to decide if he can play against the Sharks. His return can’t come soon enough—the Wings have lost three in a row.
“The reality is—as a group right now—we’re not working hard enough, we’re not playing with good enough structure, and therefore we don’t look very skilled,” coach Mike Babcock said. “We’ve got to have a look in the mirror and get it fixed. You go through adversity every year, and we’re getting our share right now. We have to get our head around the fact that you’ve got to get through the neutral zone. That may be the toughest thing we’ve done here lately—we’re not executing quick coming out of our own zone, we’re not getting through the neutral zone.”
The Wings face a Sharks team fighting for a playoff spot. If the Wings don’t perform better than the first two California stops, their losing streak isn’t going to end.
“We believe we have enough intensity in here,” Henrik Zetterberg said. “Over the course of the year, you will have little slumps, and it’s up to us to make it as short as possible.”
It’s been a wee bit long, Hank. Like three going on almost four weeks.
We’ll turn things over to the players and that relentlessly optimistic coach for good via Khan:
“The biggest thing is you got to get your team playing,’’ Babcock said. “Eleven games left, we need to get people back and healthy and we need to get playing good. But instead of waiting for the cavalry, why not get playing now?’‘
“Where we finish is where we’re going to finish,’’ Babcock said. “But you got to go in (the playoffs) feeling good about yourself to give yourself an opportunity, and I can’t imagine we’re feeling very good about ourselves right now.’‘
They’re not working hard enough or playing with structure, Babcock said, making them look like a team that lacks skill. They have scored 11 goals in their past six games (1-5-0) and are 0-for-27 on the power play in their past seven.
“We’re not spending enough time in the O-zone.’’ Babcock said. “If you turn the puck over coming through the neutral zone you spend your shift in your own zone. We have to get our head around the fact we have to get through the neutral zone. That might be the toughest thing we’ve done here lately.’‘
Said forward Valtteri Filppula: “I guess somehow things don’t go the way you want and you start thinking too much and playing slower.’‘
The Red Wings have lost four in a row on the road, where they are 16-20-1 and assured of not finishing with a winning record for the first time since 1998-99 (16-20-5). That was the only time in the past 19 seasons they have had a losing road record. Players planned on enjoying a day off Thursday before getting back to practice on Friday.
“Take a day off and just think about something completely different,’’ Niklas Kronwall said. “Regroup, have a good skate on Friday and come back ready to play on Saturday. Because right now we’re not playing as a team and we’re making it too easy on the other team. We’re not going anywhere the way we’re playing right now. At the same time, we feel we got a good group in here, just have to stay positive and keep believing in ourselves.’‘
That’s the somewhat ironic bottom line—the Wings are certainly not “themselves” in terms of style, confidence or substance without Lidstrom, Datsyuk et. al., but they are most guilty of over-thinking and over-worrying to the point that their play has become so indecisive that it’s a serious-ass liability.
Kind of like us over-thinking and over-freaking-out about our favorite team. Maybe we all need to think a little less and narrow our focus to that “next game” as opposed to trying to play out the playoffs now. But that’s just my theory.
Also of Red Wings-related note this morning:
• After Mitch Albom penned the lovely article about Shawn Burr needing an assist as he battles cancer for the second time, the Wings issued a press release regarding Saturday’s game between the Shawn Burr Foundation and the Red Wings Alumni in Fraser;
• In the developmental hockey vein, part 1: If you find yourself wanting to watch a little hockey this evening and tomorrow, as DetroitRedWings.com’s Rick Bouwness and the Free Press’s Tom Lang remind us that the CCHA semifinals are taking place today, with the final taking place tomorrow, all at Joe Louis Arena and on Fox Sports Detroit or FSD Plus:
More Details: CCHA finals
Where: Joe Louis Arena.
Today’s semifinals—Miami (Ohio) (23-13-2, 15-11-2-1) vs. Western Michigan (19-3-6, 14-10-4-4), 4:35 p.m.; Michigan (23-11-4, 15-9-4-1) vs. Bowling Green (14-23-5, 5-19-4-3), 8:05. Saturday’s games—Third place, 3:35; championship, 7:35.
TV: FS Plus for semis, FSD for final.
Tickets: Priced $10-$65, available at the Joe Louis Arena box office, Ticketmaster locations or olympiaentertainment.com. Call 313-471-6611 for more information.
I also thought it was quite appropriate that the object of many Wings fans’ free agent prospect-signing’s desires in Western Michigan defenseman Danny Dekeyser won the best defensive defenseman’s award at the CCHA’s awards banquet at the Fox Theatre on Thursday;
• In the developmental hockey department, Red Wings property version:
The Grand Rapids Griffins’ website posted its “Griffiti” magazine for March, and its articles include a profile of and YouTube interview with Fabian Brunnstrom, an article chronicling Chris Minard’s comeback, YouTube interview included, a story about two promising “sled Wings,” if you will, and a discussion of the Grand Rapids Griffins graduates’ contributions to the Wings during their 23-game home-ice winning streak.
• In the realm of predictability, the CBC’s Tim Wharnsby plays captain obvious in the latest-breaking power rankings list of the week:
6. DETROIT RED WINGS (44-24-3) The Red Wings can’t get anything going with their captain Nicklas Lidstrom and best forward Pavel Datsyuk on the sidelines with injuries.(Last Week: 5)
I don’t care about the audio-video delay. This is totally appropriate in this instance:
Oh, Sifl n Olly…“With fire, and clocks, passing through…fire….”
• Speakign of people I would usually make fun of, Paul points us toward an excellent “For Further Reading” article about refereeing from the Vancouver Province’s somewhat mercurial Tony Gallagher, who believes that obstruction and interference are far too rampant, and perhaps shift competitive balance against the Detroits and Vancouvers of the NHL (and if you want to take a gander at Yahoo Sports’ Nicholas J. Cotsonika’s three periods column while you’re at it, he doesn’t need the cape);
• In the, “I have no idea what to do with this” category, via DetroitRedWings.com’s Bill Roose:
Every blue moon, a professional athlete inspires city, school or community leaders when dedicating a new building or re-naming a stretch of road or highway. It’s not every day that a racehorse owner is inspired in quite the same way. While it’s inevitably happened, it hasn’t happened in the case of Mr. Hockey – until now.
Howe Great, a three-year-old colt on the road to the Kentucky Derby, is named after Red Wings legend Gordie Howe. Barry Irwin, CEO of Kentucky-based Team Valor International owns the horse, and came up with the name for the son of Hat Trick, a stallion that he purchased a few years ago. The stallion’s name also is a nod to the Gordie Howe hat trick – when a player gets a goal, an assist and gets into a fight in the same game.
The attraction to hockey all started after Irwin, a Californian who isn’t much of a hockey aficionado, purchased Hat Trick. Liking the name so much, he scoured Google looking for a hockey-themed moniker for the new colt. That’s how Irwin learned details of Howe’s amazing career, which cover 32 pro seasons, including 25 with the Wings, where he won four Stanley Cup titles.
Gordie and his son, Marty Howe, met a Team Valor partner during a Las Vegas autograph show, which the hockey legend was appearing last year. It was then that Gordie first learned of the thoroughbred that carries his name.
“He liked the horse and thought he would make it to the Derby,” said Marty, of the chance encounter with the TVI employee.
Irwin and TVI certainly know something about the horseracing business. After all, they own Animal Kingdom, last year’s Kentucky Derby champion. And jockey John Velazquez, who rode Animal Kingdom to the crown at “the two most exciting minutes in sports”.
• And because I don’t mind this entry completely going off the rails given the lack of sleep, bad news and bad Wings news…I was thrilled that Pro Hockey Talk’s James O’Brien plugged my Wings-Ducks quick take, but he slagged The Fifth Element, which I think is a brilliantly silly film. So here’s my word of warning: bad Wings thoughts can be the proverbial cherry in your water:
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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.