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Red Wings overnight report: Worlds updates, on Danny Cleary’s knee surgery and Kronwall the forward?

Updated with a surprising vote of confidence for Jonathan Ericsson at 9:01 AM: Wednesday will be a busy day for the Red Wings’ players participating in the World Championships, with three of the four scheduled games involving Wings participants. Per the schedule post and MLive’s Brendan Savage, with times adjusted:

9:15 a.m. – Slovakia vs. Kazakhstan; [1:15 PM Canada vs. Switzerland]; 2:15 p.m – Sweden vs. Germany

So Tomas Tatar and the Slovaks will face Kazakhstan, Kyle Quincey will suit up for Canada, and in the biggest game of the day, Johan Franzen, Calle Jarnkrok, Niklas Kronwall and Henrik Zetterberg will face off against Germany…

Which gave Russia a rough go on Tuesday. While discussion of Ryan Suter’s future, Valtteri Filppula scored 2 goals in Finland’s 5-2 victory over Switzerland, and Pavel Datsyuk at least seemed to find his footing in Russia’s 2-0 victory over Germany.

Respectively, in terms of the players’ respective performances:

Filppula scored the 4-2 and 5-2 goals on his only two shots of the game, playing 17:50 on Mikko Koivu’s left wing, and IIHF.com’s Risto Pakarinen describes Filppula’s goals as follows:

It was Switzerland that controlled the game most of the second period, but with 3:15 remaining in the period, [Jarkko] Immonen got another chance when he and Granlund forechecked the puck to Finland in the Swiss zone. Immonen got the puck at the bottom of the faceoff circle and lifted it quickly over Berra’s shoulder with a backhand shot.
...
In the shift that followed, Jesse Joensuu got a checking to the head penalty. Mark Streit quarterbacked the Swiss power play, and after a few passes between him and Roman Wick, Streit fired a slap shot from the point. Lehtonen made the initial save, but the rebound went straight to Wick, who shot it in through the Finnish goalie’s five-hole.
...
Valtteri Filppula scored his first of the tournament when Goran Bezina was in the penalty box. Juuso Hietanen ripped a slapshot from the point, Berra’s rebound ended up in Jussi Jokinen’s stick, but instead of just slamming it in, he made a two-meter pass to his right, and Filppula had an easy task to shoot the puck into an empty net at 9:46.
...
In his next shift, Filppula repeated the trick, but this time from the left. Ossi Väänänen’s shot got redirected twice on its way to the net and it came straight to Filppula who made it 5-2 with 8:04 remaining in the game.

“We got better shots today and Jussi made a great pass in my first goal. We got a lot of rebounds, and we had more traffic in front of the net. I haven’t worried about the goals since we’ve won, but of course I’ve had high expectations of myself, especially since I get to play on power play, so it was nice to get a couple,” Filppula said.

Filppula didn’t actually earn that much coverage from the Finnish media: his video interview with Helsingin Sanomat is “geo-blocked,” and Ilta Sanomat just captured a few comments from an interview with Canal Plus (very, very roughly translated)...

“Of course, it’s nice to score. I felt better than in the previous games,” Filppula said to Canal Plus in an interview.

Filppula and the number one line, which consists of him and Jussi Jokinen and Mikko Koivu, has been criticized. Now it’s been successful.

“Today was another step in the right direction (in terms of play),” Filppula said.

He gave a longer interview to YLE.fi’s Sami Laine...

“Every game is difficult, and the goalies played well. This certainly gives us confidence and hopefully we can be even better in our next game,” said Filppula when evaluating the game after the third period.

Filppula knew why Finland was able to score against Switzerland more than once.

“More of the passes were to players in scoring positions, and when opponents are more difficult to defend, we find it easier to shoot the puck.”

Finland’s number one line’s structure has been discussed quite a bit after the first two games. In particular, Jussi Jokinen’s role seemed unclear to some people. On Tuesday, Filppula, Jokinen and Mikko Koivu answered their critics.

“Today we got better passes and shots and we broke through on the second goal. Jussi (Jokinen) made a really great pass on the first goal. The puck was bouncing anyway, so we were able to [untranslatable]. In that sense, I’m also pleased with our success,” Filppula said.

At the Helsinki Arena’s eight “binoculars,” Filppula and the lions scored the 4-2 and 5-2 goals in the third period. Personal success seemed to come to him on cue.

“It’s always easier. I’ve been able to play on a lot of big wins, and then the expectations get higher. So it was a good thing that success came. I don’t make myself that stressed about expectations, however, because we’re winning games, which is the most important thing. I’ve been in a confident mood and it’s been fun to play,” the winger said.

Otherwise, I can tell you that MTV3’s Antti Ramanen says that Jimmy Howard was complaining that Filppula wasn’t answering text messages, and that Filppula replied by saying that Howard was trying to call his American number (so they’d get things sorted out), and that he hoped that the Finns would win their game against the U.S. on Sunday for bragging rights…

But that’s all I found from the Finnish sites I’m aware of. The game seems to have gotten a bit of a short shrift as it’s a round-robin game against something less than a marquee opponent.


Datsyuk didn’t fin the same level of personal success, but he looked to have gained his stride while continuing to play with Yevgeni Kuznetsov and Nikolai Kulemin in Russia’s 2-0 victory over the hard-checking Germans (and don’t forget to vote for Datsyuk in EA Sports’ Cover Vote showdown against T.J. Oshie, which closes on May 10th).

Datsyuk went 10 and 3 in the faceoff circle, had 2 shots and played 17:04, and after the game he did speak to IIHF.com:

Sports.ru’s Ilya Elchaninov assessed the performance of Datsyuk’s line thusly;

In the 18th minute, Kuznetsov’s shot in the post, but he couldn’t see the rebound, lying naked near Zherdev. Datsyuk has also been very useful: a deke, smartly covered area and extended the team’s attack. With Malkin instead of Kuznetsov for a short change on the line, Paul brought Gino into a scoring position, but Evgeni hesitated. In the last two minutes, Pavel was clocked by Christoph Schubert, when Datsyuk cleared the puck from the Russian zone, angering the German veteran. Datsyuk’s magic was enjoyable. In fairness, he may have earned the title of the most useful player of the game, creating lots of plays for linemates and making so many takeaways that he could have had a triple-double. Kulemin played hard, was helpful along the boards and had a good chance in the second period.

In other words, Datsyuk looked mobile, strong on his stick and made an equal number of Datsyukian dekes and smartly-timed takeaways, no longer looking like a player hampered with knee and/or wrist issues that seemed to hobble him over the first two games, and he didn’t look lost on the big ice.

He was also all over Schubert on several occasions, and late in the game, Schubert lost his helmet in a shoving match and actually dropped his glove and popped Datsyuk, who just kept pushing and shoving and made sure that he cleared the puck away from the Russian blueline while being more or less mauled (and no penalty was given to Schubert).

Datsyuk did play with Malkin on the power play and during the occasional regular shift, but Championat.ru’s Farid Bektemirov noted that Russian coach Zinetula Bilyaletdinov felt that Datsyuk hasn’t been under-utilized as of yet.

It bears mentioning that, as Gazeta.ru’s Oleg Koloshev notes, the Germans gave the Russians a scare on the eve of their biggest military holiday—today, May 9th, is “Victory Day,” commemorating the Russians’ defeat of Germany in the second world war—and Sovetsky Sport’s Dmitry Ponomarenko notes that the Russians lost to Germany by the same score in their opening game in last year’s Worlds, so this game involved the theme of revenge in more ways than one, and it should come as no surprise that Sergei Shirokov dedicated the victory to Russian military veterans.

It should also come as little surprise that some Russian news and sports outlets took the day off after posting their stories, so, aside from the usual geo-blocked videos, I can offer you photo galleries from Sportbox.ru, Championat, Gazeta.ru and Sports.ru, but little else.


In terms of other teams which are participating in the World Championships, Slovakia’s Tomas Tatar reiterated his, let’s say lighthearted comments from an interview with SITA while speaking to Sport.sk’s Ondrej Hutan (and as usual, this is roughly translated)...

Tomas Tatar: “I’m not looking for babes in Helsinki”

From the beginning of the World Championship, the Slovak ice hockey team had a busy schedule, playing three difficult games in four days. After Wednesday’s game against Kazakhstan, they can relax a bit as they’ll have two days without a game.

Players can finally see the center of Helsinki and take part in a team activity designed to liven things up, riding go-carts. “We have a lot to do now, but the program is already looking forward,” admitted forward Tomas Tatar, who isn’t looking for babes in Finland, nor does he plan to.

Question: Have you seen anything in Helsinki?

Tatar: “Nothing, not even downtown, because we live near the airport and have a busy schedule. But after the game against Kazakhstan we have some time off because we have a two day pause between games.”

Question: How have you spent your time thus far?

Tatar: “Specifically, I’ve been getting massages, because we’ve had three games in four days, and you have to recover. I’ve spent the rest of my time with the guys and we’re actually still preparing for our next opponent. It’s really quite difficult.”

Question: What do you want to see most of all in the Finnish capital?

Tatar: “I don’t know exactly, but I won’t be looking for babes” (laughs).

Question: Why, because Finnish girls are ugly?

Tatar: “I’m here to focus on hockey.”

Question: Are you prohibited from looking at them?

Tatar: “It’s not that, because, like I said, I’m in Finland because of hockey, not looking sideways at girls.”

Question: Coach Vladimir Vujtek says that you’re planning to ride go-carts. Will you enjoy it?

Tatar: “That’s great, I’m looking forward to it very much. That kind of thing is very fun, so that’ll be on Thursday.”

Question: And you could go to a Hungarian restaurant…

Tatar: “Although that would be fine, I probably won’t get anything special for dinner. Maybe it would be a better example to enjoy our sausages before Saturday’s game” (laughs).

Question: What kind of food can you eat at the hotel?

Tatar: “I have to admit that it isn’t like anything before because last time we had meat patties. It could change a bit.”

Question: What do you say about the practice facility, which is almost 40 meters underground and is carved in stone?

Tatar: “It’s strange, and for the first time I can train in a cave” (laughs).

And it’s more of the same in an interview with Pravda.sk:

“We haven’t missed anything, because there are many games in a row. After Kazakhstan, we’ve scheduled an activity, but still no walk to the city center,” said the 21-year-old winger, and continued. “So far we’ve spent our free time resting in our hotel rooms, have had some massages, and hung out with the guys, but we’re primarily preparing for difficult games.”

Tomas Tatar has the great pleasure of not having to practice on Thursday and engaging in a planned activity. “After the game against Kazakhstan I’ll take time to see something. I don’t know what to expect from Helsinki at all. I most certainly won’t watch the girls, instead hockey. We can look at the girls, but I don’t want to. I’m here because of hockey, and girls go party,” said the young forward. “Plus me…” thought Tatar, and said with a smile, “Well I do.”

Most of the Slovak national team’s training sessions have been held in a tiny lobby in the Hartwall Arena in Helsinki, which is carved into rock. To get into the players, they must close an elevator and go down four floors. “Something I’ve never experienced, it’s my first cave,” laughed the player who belongs to the Detroit Red Wings overseas, and whose coach, Mike Babcock, is following the championship at this venue in person.

The World Championships’ grind worries me, at least in terms of injuries and the mental wear and tear on the players participating in it.

Between May 4th and 15th, each and every one of the Wings’ 11 playing participants will have played in 7 games, and if they make the quarterfinals and medal rounds, they’d play in up to 3 more games in 4 more nights, yielding a potential slate of 10 games played over 16 days.

That’s a mental as well as a physical struggle, and I can imagine that Petr Mrazek, who’s in Stockholm with the Czechs, but is more or less playing caddy to his goaltending pal Jakub Stepanek, might be a little tired of the grind when he’s been going to and from the hotel next to the Globen Arena, the practice rink, Hovet, and then back to the hotel.

It’s not exactly the stuff of scintillating excitement, and even if you’re one of the Wings’ Swedes (or Filppula), and you’re playing in front of your family and friends, you don’t exactly receive a decent amount of time to spend with them.

Life, like hockey, is a grind, but the Worlds are particularly difficult in that regard, and by the time even the medal-winners are finished, I’m sure that despite the building blocks in terms of self-confidence that they’ve laid upon a strong foundation for a solid 2012-2013 NHL season, they’re going to want to take a few weeks off and just not think about hockey.

 

For the Swedes, who don’t believe that Jonathan Ericsson will return until after this weekend, there is good news in that both Andreas Lilja and Nicklas Grossmann told Aftonbladet’s Per Bjurman that they’d be willing to come over and help Sweden’s cause if invited, but that doesn’t help the Swedes up front—they lost Joel Lundqvist to a broken orbital bone on Monday, and Fredrik Petersson to a broken wrist after their first game, so Expressen’s Mattias Ek reports that it’s at least possible that Niklas Kronwall may be asked to play up front…

The injuries could force Niklas Kronwall forward

The damaged state of Par Marts’ team might mean that one of the Tre Kronor’s six defensemen will play forward against Germany.

The hottest tip is that it will be Detroit’s Niklas Kronwall.

“It’s been a long time since I played forward. There were some games actually when I played for Djurgarden,” said Kronwall to Hockeyexpressen.se.

With Joel Lundqvist out of the World Championships, the Tre Kronor have access to only 11 forwards against Germany.

Coach Par Marts said that one of the Tre Kronor’s defensemen would play on the fourth line to help Niklas Persson and Johan Larsson.

Forward for Djurgarden

The question is which one of the Tre Kronor’s six defensemen that can play double.

“Erik Karlsson would probably like to play at forward,” says Colorado’s Gabriel Landeskog to Hockeyexpressen.se, and smiles. With 78 points in the NHL, Karlsson is the obvious offensive choice. But going back to playing forward would mean getting some time on the penalty-kill.

Therefore, it’s believed that it’ll be Niklas Kronwall. Earlier in his career, he jumped up as a forward for Djurgarden.

“Last time I played forward, I was overworked. Man, skate, skate, skate, skate, you get totally exhausted. The other guys are skating in the right position,” said Kronwall to Hockeyexpressen.se.

“Whoever has the opportunity to do so will do pretty well in the end, anyway, I think.”

Votes for Hedman

Who would you vote for?

“Who would it be? I don’t know if we have a natural one. Erik karlsson would probably fit. Free rein,” says Kronwall.

The defensive specialist Niklas Hjalmarsson doesn’t want to play forward.

“If I could play forward? No, I don’t think that’s possible. Absolutely not,” said the Chicago defenseman, who scored one goal during the NHL season. “I probably would choose a more aggressive defenseman.”

Farjestad defenseman Jonas Brodin, 18, scored his first World Championship goal against Demark.

However, at forward…

“I’ve actually never played forward, I don’t know how,” says Brodin to Hockeyexpressen.se.

And he suggests that, in turn, NHL defenseman Victor Hedman [should play].

“He’s good at following attacks and jumping up,” says Brodin.

“Easier to play forward

And if Colorado’s Gabriel Landeskog had been allowed to coach for a day, the answer is obvious, at least after a little pondering.

“In all honesty, I would like to see Victor Hedman. It would be fun,” says Landeskog.

Why Hedman?

“He’s always saying that it’s much easier to play forward.”

Staffan Kronwall got away from the forward talking.

In all honesty, this is more whimsy than anything else. The Swedes will probably go with 11 forwards and wait to find out whether Patric Hornqvist will join them, and, as Henrik Zetterberg told Radiosporten’s Lena Lundqvist and Martin Sundelius, the Swedes are actually more worried about suffering a letdown against the Germans:

After three straight wins against, in order, Norway, the Czech Republic and Denmark, everything should be hunky-dory on the Swedish World Championship team.

But injuries to Jonathan Ericsson and Joel Lundqvist have contributed to some dark clouds surrounding the Tre Kronor. Add to this a third period against Denmark in the last game, in which Sweden lost their initiative and the Danes almost caught up with them, going from 6-2 to 6-4.

Coach Par Marts was really disappointed with his players’ performance in the final period, and called it a, “Big pancake of shit” in a Radiosporten broadcast on Monday night.

Tonight, Germany is waiting, which, like Denmark, is a team that Sweden just has to win against.

“I think they play very defensively and tight around their goalie. There’s a good chance that we’ll have the puck a lot, and it’s important that we are aggressive and come into their little box of defenders in front of the net so we can hang a few goals out there,” says Tre Kronor forward Henrik Zetterberg to Radiosporten.

Germany is perhaps not one of the group’s strongest teams, like Denmark. How likely is it that there will be a similar kind of game where you lose focus at the end?

“Yeah, it’s up to us that it doesn’t [go that way]. Hopefully we’ve learned something. Now we’ll play for 60 minutes.

The Germans hung around and hung around and hung around some more against Russia, so I’m sure that as games are progressing and positioning in the A and B Group standings become more important, we’ll see less loosey-goosey hockey and more serious business, and, obviously, the home team doesn’t have the luxury of letting up without invoking some serious controversy.

For the record, the Wings’ website is keeping up with their participants’ individual statistical performances as well…

 

Back over on this side of the pond, while you and I were talking about where Ryan Suter might end up, you might remember that the Detroit News’s Ted Kulfan said that Danny Cleary’s knee surgery was scheduled for Tuesday, and the Free Press’s Helene St. James provides a much-needed update on his status:

Red Wings forward Danny Cleary underwent surgery on his left knee Tuesday morning, as expected.

General manager Ken Holland told the Free Press that the surgeon “removed floating debris and repaired torn cartilage.”

Holland said the surgery went well and that Cleary will be ready for the start of training camp, which is at least four months away.

Cleary said as early as March he’d need surgery in the postseason after his knee got progressively worse after first acting up in November. Cleary had to undergo regular treatments to drain fluid buildup and received injections of a gel substance to offset bone grinding on bone late in the season. He also got a large dose of anti-inflammatory before the playoffs began.

Cleary, 33, is at his most effective when he’s able to skate hard, and being slowed by the knee left him with just 12 goals among 33 points in 75 games. He didn’t have any points in the playoffs.

The Detroit News’s Ted Kulfan confirms...

Cleary, who had floating debris removed and torn cartilage repaired, “will be ready for camp,” Holland said.

And he adds something of a Suter counterpoint, perhaps, by talking about Brendan Smith’s desire to earn a full-time job with the Wings…

“That’s the goal, it’s attainable,” Smith said. “I have to have a big summer. It sounds like a cliché, about having a big summer, but I do have to have a big summer. I have to prove I want this job and take the job. This is where I want to be, this has always been my goal. You have to have that mentality and my feeling is, I will be here.”

Though Smith’s future, of course, depends on the decisions made by Nicklas Lidstrom and Brad Stuart:

“We’re counting on them (Smith and forward prospect Gustav Nyquist) to have real good summers and give themselves the best opportunity physically to be here,” Red Wings coach Mike Babcock said. “In saying that, that’ll depend on what we do (in terms of player moves) and how well they play in training camp.”

Smith was pleased with the way things went during his late-season promotion, but realizes gaining strength is vital.

“Bulk up but don’t lose my speed,” the 6-foot-1, 199-pounder said. “Skating is one of my better attributes. But I have to get stronger and not lose any speed.”

Known as more of an offensive defenseman, Smith certainly displayed the skating and passing ability, which always have been his strengths. But the defensive side of Smith’s game improved.

“Instead of looking for the home run pass, you have to use the boards and glass (sometimes),” Smith said. “To jump in and play the minutes I did, I was pretty happy.”


And also of Red Wings-related note as I wrap this up a little early:

• Should it surprise us that USA Today’s Kevin Allen makes but a single mention of Jimmy Howard while suggesting that Jonathan Quick, Tim Thomas, Ryan Miller, Cory Schneider and maybe even Scott Clemensen and Craig Anderson could backstop Team USA’s 2014 Olympic push?

The American goalie pool is deep enough that it’s difficult to know whether Quick, Miller, Thomas or Schneider could be the USA’s No. 1 in Sochi, Russia, presuming the league decides to go.

We can make Quick the favorite based on this year’s performance, but you will find Miller and Thomas supporters in the hockey world who would say Miller’s 2010 silver medal could give him first shot. At 38, Thomas is still among the league’s top goalies. Meanwhile, Schneider and Howard are goalies on the rise. Both should be in the prime of their careers when Sochi rolls around.

• Shifting focus back to the prospect department, Tomas Jurco’s Saint John Sea Dogs resume hostilities with a 2-0 series lead over the Chicoutimi Sagueneens in the QMJHL final tonight;

• Perhaps bridging the gap, via RedWingsFeed, We All Bleed Red on YouTube offers us a clip of Tomas Tatar trying to score on Howard…

• And finally, I have absolutely no idea how today is going to go in terms of Worlds coverage. Paul’s ill and it’s entirely possible that my duties in filling in for the boss will precede my obligation to let you know how the Wings’ players are doing at the World Championships.


One more thing: Hockeytown Authentics will be holding its end-of-season equipment sale to the general public on Saturday from 11:30 AM until 7:30 PM, and I’m guessing that season ticket-holders get first dibs on the gear via a private sale on Friday evening.


Update: SVT, Nyheter24, Hockeysverige’s Uffe Bodin, Aftonbladet’s Emil and Erik Karlsson and Expressen’s Mattias Ek report that Staffan Kronwall, not Niklas, will play as an interim forward for the Swedes today;

• Championat’s Maria Rogovskaya and Sport-Express’s Mikhail Zislis report that Pavel Datsyuk didn’t practice today because he, Evgeni Malkin, Dmitri Kalinin, Ilya Nikulin and Alexei Tereshenko spent today celebrating Victory Day at the Russian Embassy in Stockholm instead of practicing;

• Sport.cz’s Jirka G. Novak reports that Martin Erat will join the Czech team, as might Jakub Voracek, but the Czechs won’t kick Petr Mrazek off the team simply to open up another roster spot;

• And this is impressive: Aftonbladet’s Erik Karlsson reports that Swedish coach Par Marts isn’t sure whether the team should add Erik Gustafsson or Andreas Lilja to the mix because the team still needs a 12th forward (Patric Hornqvist?), and Marts doesn’t want to give up on Jonathan Ericsson despite his injured SI joint:

“He’s key in this, he’s a great player with a tougher style of play. If he can’t play, we want to add one, and, after all, Erik (Gustafsson) might be that guy. We’ll try to be as patient as we can here,” says Par Marts.

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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.