Kukla's Korner

The Malik Report

Red Wings practice day news: Luongo will start against Kron-Wall of Pain and the Wings

Updated 9x at 9:52 PM: The Red Wings flew to Vancouver after last night’s 3-1 win over the Flames, and today’s mid-day news topics included, the Wings are much less worried about trade talk or Henrik Zetterberg’s goal-scoring slump than they are in finally passing the acid test that is tangling with the Vancouver Canucks on Thursday.

The Canucks defeated Chicago 3-2 in overtime on Tuesday, with Cory Schneider making 37 saves, so it should come as no surprise that the Vancouver Sun’s Jim Jamieson reports that a team that had its way with Detroit in their last meeting (2-0 loss to the Wings in will start the goalie who carried them during a 4-2 stomping upon the Wings on December 21st:

#Canucks coach Vigneault says Luongo gets the start in goal vs #RedWings tomorrow.

On the Wings’ side of things, MLive’s Ansar Khan reports that Mike Babcock did indeed hold Jimmy Howard and Pavel Datsyuk out of practice to give his All-Stars a rest,and the Free Press’s Helene St. James offers quips from both teams via Twitter...

Henrik Sedin on Kronwall: I told the guys in here when he came into the league he’s going to be a top d-man in this league for a long time.
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#RedWings still 30 mins from practice at Rogers Arena, but Abdelkader, Miller, Kindl & others got here early to get in workout
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Vigneault confirms Roberto Luongo in for #Canucks tomorrow against #RedWings
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Vigneault calls #RedWings “one of the most physical teams in the league”
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Vigneault says WIngs “are the best team in the league as far as net-presence”
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Henrik Sedin on Kronwall: I think he plays a fair game. He’s not a guy that’s going to come out and make cheap shots or anything like that.
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Tomas Holmstrom, who missed Tuesday’s game because of swollen knees, is on the ice here at Rogers. But he also skated Tuesday a.m.
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Jimmy Howard missing from ice, too. Maybe just a day off for All-Stars.
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Abdelkader skating in Datsyuk’s place at practice. Kindl skating as forward, not d-man.
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Ok, here’s instruction time http://t.co/9OrssWgT

And St. James reports that, despite the Canucks’ assertions that the man who Aftonbladet’s Per Bjurman describes as the, “Kron-Wall of Pain” needed to “get beaten up” (thanks, Kevin Bieksa) at some point after nailing Ryan Kesler, who went ballistic...

And let’s not forget that even the NHL agreed that Jannik Hansen got away with running Jimmy Howard on the game-winning goal...

 

So tomorrow night’s game should possess a significant amount of piss-and-vinegar physical play), Kesler told St. James that he would not specifically target Kronwall for revenge (Raise your hands if you believe him. Nobody? Yeah, me neither):

After practice today, Kesler, a Livonia native and forward for the Canucks, downplayed that there’d be any carryover effect when the teams resume their rivalry Thursday (10 p.m., FSD).

“I think first and foremost we’re looking for two points,” Kesler said. “It’s obviously a really good team over there. We’re going to have to play them hard and play them fast.”

The Canucks are three points behind the NHL-best Wings in the Western Conference, despite being in a much weaker division. They won when the teams played here on Dec. 21, in a game featuring a highlight reel hit by Kronwall. Kesler was furious after getting slammed into the boards early in the third period. He was near the puck and had his head down, and Kronwall wasn’t called for a penalty on the play.

After the game, Kesler said, “I saw that he’s backing up, put my head down for a second, he hits me,” Kesler said. “That’s obviously his go-to move. My only problem with the hit is that he doesn’t stand up for himself afterwards. I think if you’re going to hit guys like that, you’re going to have to drop the gloves.”

Asked about facing Kronwall again, Kesler said today, “Obviously you’ve got to keep your head up when he’s on the ice.”

With all due respect, methinks that Kesler, Maxim Lapierre and Bieksa will be going after Kronwall and the Wings’ players with all sorts of gusto tomorrow night.

I’m writing this as the Wings practice and their press corps offers Twitter updates, so we’ll end for the moment with a few more tidbits from Khan:

Cleary also not skating today. Kindl filling in at forward. Holmstrom is skating.
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Here are lines Wings are skating with: 93-8-44, 51-40-26, 20-43-4, 96-48-39
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Defense pairs for Wings at practice: 5-18, 55-23, 52-22

Update the 1st: Via RedWingsFeed, here’s the Detroit News’s Ted Kulfan’s note about the scraptastic meeting between the Wings and Canucks last time around:

You can bet the Vancouver Canucks will be aware of Red Wings defenseman Niklas Kronwall on Friday night. It was Kronwall who had a big hit on Livonia native Ryan Kesler on Dec. 21, and got Kesler irate — he went after Kronwall but the defenseman wouldn’t fight — during Vancouver’s 4-2 victory that evening.

“Obviously you have to keep your head up when he’s on the ice,” Kesler said of Kronwall, who is among the league’s best open-ice hitters.

Sometimes, though, opponents tend to think Kronwall’s hits are on the edge, such as the hit on Kesler. For that reason, it’s best to know where Kronwall is on the ice.

“People are aware of him and you should be, he’s one of those guys who can really step up and make one of those big hits,” Canucks forward Daniel Sedin said. “But you can’t let it get under your skin. You just have to keep playing hard.”

Update #1.5: Here’s an initial report from the Vancouer Sun’s Elliott Pap:

After nine days between games, Roberto Luongo will return to the Vancouver Canuck nets Thursday night when his team faces the first overall Detroit Red Wings at Rogers Arena (7 p.m., Sportsnet Pacific, Team 1040). Luongo was in a ball cap Tuesday when backup Cory Schneider turned in a sublime 37-save performance against the Chicago Blackhawks. Prior to that, the Canucks were off for five days during their all-star break. Luongo beat the Wings 4-2 on Dec. 21, stopping 38 of 40 shots.

“They have world-class players,” Luongo said, describing the Red Wings lineup. “They’re very well-coached, they know what it takes to win and they’re very disciplined. If we want to have a chance to win, we have to play our game plan to a ‘T’ and not give those guys any free passes.”

This will be the third of four meetings between the teams. Detroit prevailed at home, 2-0, on Oct. 13.

“It’s two of the best teams in the league going at it,” Luongo continued, “There is always a lot on intensity and a playoff atmosphere. Those are fun games to be playing in and I don’t expect anything different. We’ve always had good games against them and exciting to be a part of. I expect more of the same tomorrow.”

All Canucks players were on the ice for today’s practice and it’s not likely that coach Alain Vigneault will make any lineup changes. The Canucks have won three straight and lead the Northwest Division by a comfortable 11 points over the Minnesota Wild.


Update #2: The Flint Journal’s Brendan Savage posted a power rankings round-up column which does not yet include this assessment from the CBC’s Tim Wharnsby...

1. DETROIT RED WINGS (34-16-1) After a disappointing effort in Montreal before the all-star break, Detroit bounced back with an efficient effort in Calgary. (Last Week: 1)

• Also in the “number-based valuations” category, NHL.com’s Mark Cubeta wants you to know that Henrik Zetterberg’s struggling to score—seriously, I believe that after using Easton sticks for the vast majority of his career, he hasn’t gotten the “recipe” right with the Warrior sticks he’s using now…

Henrik Zetterberg:—Sure the Red Wings are cruising along, but it definitely hasn’t been because of the play of Zetterberg. The veteran forward hasn’t scored in his last six games (despite the Wings winning five of them) and is still in search of his 10th goal of the season. Zetterberg also has just 1 assist in his last five games and his 6 power play points on the season aren’t helping his fantasy owners. At this point, if you still have him on your squad, you’re likely stuck with him and there’s no sense in trying to deal him with so little value—you have to just hope he turns things around.

I know that every time Zetterberg stops scoring, people panic and insist that his back has finally caught up with him, but I think he’s going to be fine. He won’t post many goals this year, but Zetterberg isn’t “old and busted” just yet;

• I know that in the hockey equipment world, Detroit is an “A” market, to the point that every Wings player is at least paid something to use someone’s skates and sticks (in case you didn’t notice, even Cory Emmerton has a deal with Easton), if not gloves, helmets and other protective gear, and Fox Sports Detroit’s Mike O’Hara reports that Detroit’s status as a big player in the sports sponsorship world is both strong and rising;

• In valuations of a different kind, GriffinsCentral’s Jason Kasiorek posted a slat of first-half Griffins Grades on Winging it in Motown, and Griffins coach Curt Fraser told the Grand Rapids Press’s Peter J. Wallner that he expects much, much more out of his team going into the second half of the AHL season:

“We should be seven, eight points ahead of where we are,” Fraser said. “But when you lose your goalie for a while and you have youth that have such bright futures, inconsistency can be an issue.”

Tying together experience with steady play is the goal of the second half. Following Tuesday’s All-Star Classic, the Griffins resume the AHL season Friday with an 18-17-4-4 record in the North Division. It’s a division so tight they have moved from fifth to second on a given night. Young stars such as Gustav Nyquist, Chris Conner and Joakim Andersson have spent time with the Red Wings and returned again. There also have been injuries to goalie Joey MacDonald (concussion), Conner (broken hand), Chris Minard (concussion), Travis Ehrhardt (shoulder) and illness (Jan Mursak with strep throat).

“There are no simple answers – we have a lot of young guys, but we have veterans, too,” said center Jamie Johnson. “Consistency is a team thing. We have to make a plan to play a full 60 minutes, then make it a full week and then just make a habit of it.”
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Nyquist, a forward and the Griffins’ lone representative in the all-star game, leads the team with 40 points (12-28) in 39 games. Andersson, meanwhile, has been one of Fraser’s most consistent players. The center, Detroit’s second choice in the 2007 draft, has 11 goals and 25 points and a plus-six in 40 games.

“He’s been terrific for us,” Fraser said. “He has a bright future.”

The second half opens favorably for the Griffins with five consecutive home games, and eight of 10 at Van Andel through the end of the month.

“It’s a good time to get going,” Fraser said. “I think we’re ready. We just have to figure out a way to manufacture points every game.”

• ESPN’s Pierre LeBrun addressed two Wings-related points in his chat with fans…

Andy (NY): Does Detroit have enough assests to trade for a Suter or Praise? What would a hypothetical trade look like? Thanks!

Pierre LeBrun: Well I know like many teams, the Wings covet both players. But I can’t see them having a shot at either this season. It’ll have to wait until the off-season when they’ll have plenty of cap space to pursue both… they won’t be alone, I think the Rangers also covet both and the list is long for teams that want a shot at either player come July 1…Devils GM Lou Lamoriello is tellings other GMs he’s not going to move Parise.Suter? Harder to predict. My gut feeling is that Preds GM David Poile won’t trade him, but even if he does, I can’t imagine he’d move him within the Central Division
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Sergei (Madison, WI): Pierre, I just read your trade rumblings and want to ask you two questions:1. Brad Stuart will be a UFA July 1st, what’s Kenny’s plan? I know Brad still has his home in So Cal, so, wouldn’t it be wise to trade him for a signed d-man now, before he walks? 2. Pretend you’re Wings’ GM and tell me whom/what would you trade for Hemsky and where would he fit in our line up?

Pierre LeBrun: Brad has kids in California so while Stuart loves it with the Wings, I think he’s thinking about whether he needs to be closer to them next season .... or maybe play another year in Detroit? My sense is that he hasn’t made up his mind yet
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David (Arkansas): Hey Pierre, Out of the teams looking good for securing a playoff spot in the Western conference, which teams do you see making a move to beef up the “O” or the “D” and who might you guess they acquire?

Pierre LeBrun: From talks I’ve had, here’s my guess for what teams are looking for but doesn’t mean they’ll get it: Detroit _ top-six forward plus a d-man; Chicago _ defenseman; St. Louis _ top-six forward if they’re still worried about Steen or McDonald (who was cleared this week); San Jose _ top-six forward and/or checking forward; Vancouver _ bottom six forward with size, physicality; Nashville _ top six forward; LA _ top six forward, preferably a winger
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Prince Fielder (Detroit) Pierre - is there anything the hockey team in my new hometown can do at the trade deadline to take the focus off of me?

Pierre LeBrun:  Well I’m not sure trading for either Tuomu Ruutu or Ales Hemsky would take the focus off you smile

• As an FYI, from the St. Ignace News...

Former Detroit Red Wings players, including Randy McKay, Darren McCarty, and Joe Kocur, will take on some pond hockey players at a Red Wings alumni game at 7 p.m. Friday, February 17, at Little Bear East Arena in St. Ignace. Tickets are limited to 520 and are available at the St. Ignace Chamber of Commerce and the St. Ignace Visitors Bureau. Cost is $10.

• And here are a few more practice updates from Ansar Khan..

Holmstrom (sore knees) confirms that he will play Thursday at Vancouver. Babcock confirms Howard and Datsyuk just resting, will play Thurs.
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Babcock said Cleary had some swelling in his leg, nothing significant, and he is expected to play Thursday.

As well as the Wings’ Twitter account:

More from practice: Cleary (lower body) did not practice. Holmstrom (lower body) expected to play tomorrow against VAN.

Update #3: From the Free Press’s Helene St. James, via Twitter...

Babcock said Datsyuk and Howard got maintenance days to rest up. Danny Cleary missed practice with minor injury
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Holmstrom cleared himself to play, so all should be available for Thursday game against Canucks

And here’s MLive’s Ansar Khan’s practice day report:

Tomas Holmstrom skated for the second day in a row and said he’s ready to play Thursday against the Vancouver Canucks (10 p.m., Fox Sports Detroit). Coach Mike Babcock confirmed it. Holmstrom, who had a bad, but not unexpected, reaction to Synvisc injections in both knees Thursday, said, “Now it’s pretty much 100 percent.’’ A Red Wings’ power play that has gone 6 for 57 (10.5 percent) in the past 20 games could use him.

“I thought (Jan) Mursak played great last night (3-1 win in Calgary), worked real hard, showed good speed, but our power play hasn’t been very good of late,’’ Babcock said. “Tommy helps our power play, get him in.’‘

Forward Danny Cleary did not skate, but Babcock said he will play Thursday.

“Had something with his leg and gave him a day off,’’ Babcock said. “Nothing major at all. Just a little swelling.’‘

All-Stars Jimmy Howard and Pavel Datsyuk were given the day off, Babcock said. They’ll play Thursday.

“Told Pav and Howie they weren’t allowed to be at the rink,’’ Babcock said. “Told them they had to go to Grandville Island, check out the sights.’‘

Assistant coach Jeff Blashill filled in for Howard. The former collegiate goalie said it was the first time in eight years he has donned the equipment.


Update #4: From the Free Press’s Helene St. James, Justin Abdelkader is doing just fine:

Abdelkader on blocking Iginla shot: My whole leg went numb. I couldn’t feel my foot, so I thought something was wrong with my skate.

• If you want to read a gushy Canadian Press article about Cody Hodgson, you’ll have to do so on your own;

• The Canucks’ website posted clips of Mason Raymond, Sami Salo, Ryan Kesler, Maxim Lapierre, Kevin Bieksa, Roberto Luongo and coach Alain Vignueault talking about trying to get bodies in front of Jimmy Howard in what they hope is a very physical game.

Something tells me you want to see the Kesler and Bieksa interviews. Kesler suggests that Kronwall requires you to “keep your head up” in a semi-glare…

Bieksa suggest that the Wings and Canucks at least don’t like each other very much when Team Sweden plays Team Sweden…

 

And Vigneault made sure to insist that the Canucks will “take a page” out of the Wings’ book by screening the hell out of Howard:

 

I’m bolding this for partisan emphasis’s sake: let’s face it, folks; the Canucks tend to gush about the Wings and then try to beat the snot out of ‘em, so given their insistence that they would match the Wings’ skill and will prior to crashing and banging their way to a win in December, I don’t think there’s any real doubt here. The Canucks are going to be snowing and running Howard to try to piss him off, and of course Kesler and Bieksa will try to smoke Kronwall in one way or another.

• The Vancouver Sun’s Cam Cole is wondering whether the Canucks should trade Cory Schneider, and Elliott Pap amended his off-day report:

“They have world-class players,” Luongo said, describing the Red Wings lineup. “They’re very well-coached, they know what it takes to win and they’re very disciplined. If we want to have a chance to win, we have to play our game plan to a ‘T’ and not give those guys any free passes.”

This will be the third of four meetings between the teams. Detroit prevailed at home, 2-0, on Oct. 13.

“It’s two of the best teams in the league going at it,” Luongo continued, “There is always a lot on intensity and a playoff atmosphere. Those are fun games to be playing in and I don’t expect anything different. We’ve always had good games against them and exciting to be a part of. I expect more of the same tomorrow.”

All Canucks players were on the ice for today’s practice and it’s not likely that coach Alain Vigneault will make any lineup changes. The Canucks have won three straight and lead the Northwest Division by a comfortable 11 points over the Minnesota Wild.

• And the Vancouver Province’s always bombastic Tony Gallagher suggests that the Canucks haven’t nearly had as hard a road in the Pacific Division as the Wings have had in the Central, and as such…

Everyone knows both teams will be flying Thursday night, tearing at each other’s throats because each team knows what they’re up against. But what happens Saturday afternoon in Colorado when Vancouver plays the Avs? Will that be another day off? The Wings simply don’t take them or at least not nearly as many.

“They’re big guys like (Pavel) Datsyuk, (Henrik) Zetterberg, (Johan) Franzen and even Brad Stuart, those guys set the tone and go every night,” observes Vancouver backup goalie Cory Schneider, who watches a lot of hockey both from the bench and around the league. “I’d agree, they don’t take nights off.”

“We’ve had a few more bad ones this year than we did last,” admitted Daniel Sedin. “Last year I would say we were better but now is the time when nobody can afford one. We’ve got to be better than we have been playing lately, but I think it’s going to come.”

Andrew Alberts and Aaron Rome sat together and discussed the issue and while admitting to some savage nights off, also pointed out the record in shootouts which hasn’t seen as good as Detroit. But maybe Wings coach Mike Babcock put it best when he described his own approach to a season and by extension that of his players.

“For me the challenge is winning and not so much after you’ve won for one year or one Cup it’s how many can you win, how long can you keep it going,” he said. “This year I hired two new coaches and they’ve given me a whole new way of looking at things and done that for some of our players and it’s definitely helped. In this business if you’re doing what you did last year you’re not going to win. You’re always trying something new trying to get better. Last year for us wasn’t good enough so we’re trying to get better.”

“In the division we’re in, it’s a tough game every night, tough games to play but it’s been good for us and it’s going to be good for us in the playoffs,” says Stuart. “We never get an easy game. Teams are ready for us and we know that. It helps us get ready.”

“This might be the toughest division in history. I would say it is but from Nick Lidstrom on down this organization is all about winning,” says Todd Bertuzzi. “In our division, with everyone winning every night, we can’t afford nights off. It’s just that simple.”

• Compliments aside, the Vancouver Province’s Ben Kuzma got down to brass tacks regarding the Canucks’ desire to win a “statement game” by playing hard, mean hockey against Jimmy Howard and the Wings:

“I’d like to take a page out of Detroit’s book,” said Vigneault. “I feel they’re the best team in the league as far as net presence and always having somebody there — somebody square to the puck and making it hard on the goaltender. We need to screen the goalie more than looking to tip pucks. And they have so many big bodies who like to do that and go in those tough areas. They’re one of the most physical teams in the league.”

Read: “They’re pretty physical, but after watching the Wings answer the bell against the Blues on Monday, we want to see if we can push the Wings to the breaking point in a manner that St. Louis couldn’t.”

Ryan Kesler suggested that the Canucks definitely want to make a statement to the rest of the league against a team he grew up cheering…against…while growing up in Livonia…

“It’s not just that I’m from there,” said Kesler. “They’re such a good team that you want to prove yourself against those guys and it makes it extra special and some bragging rights for the summer. I still get a charge out of it. It’s always fun playing them because we kind of play the same way. But we’re going to have to play them hard and fast because it’s going to be a puck-possession game and we’ve just got to be smart about it.”

And about Kronwall’s hit?

“You’ve got to keep your head up when he’s on the ice,” added Kesler.

Kronwall thought that Kesler had the puck and control of it when he unleashed his hit. And although the Swedish blueliner was adamant that he didn’t leave his feet, the replay showed just that. Regardless, playing on the edge is what makes Kronwall effective and the opposition nervous.

“Any team that goes all the way has to play physical and wear the other team out,” he said. “You can’t skill around any team and it comes down to hard work and playing physical. We’ve shown that we have that edge.”

Did Kuzma take into account the fact that, after the December game, Kronwall actually said that if the replay showed that he left his feet, his hit should have been reviewed by Brendan Shanahan because hits in which players leave their feet don’t belong in the game? Hell no.

As it turns out, it was Henrik Sedin who “pumped” Kronwall’s “tires”...

“I told the guys in here that he was going to be a top D-man in the league for a long time,” said the Canucks centre. He’s effective because he can hit, make plays and put up points. I think he plays a fair game. He makes big hits but he’s not a guy who’s going to come out and make cheap shots or anything like that.”

And after Sedin suggested that the Canucks must out-puck-possess the Wings…

“They like to hold on to the puck and they’ll bring it back once or twice and then give it to the forwards,” added the captain. “You’ve got to be tight and you can’t lose patience otherwise they’re going to beat you. And they’re going to play you hard or beat you with skill and those are fun games to be a part of.”

Roberto Luongo did a fine job of suggesting that the Canucks don’t need to make a statement…but do need to do just that:

“We’re past the point of statement games,” said Canucks goaltender Roberto Luongo who gets the call against the Wings. “We know what we’re capable of. But it is a huge game. There’s always a playoff atmosphere and I don’t expect anything different. They have world-class players, they know what it takes to win and they’re very disciplined. If we want to have a chance we can’t give those guys any free passes.”

If the Wings don’t spot the Canucks 2-0 and 3-1 leads like they did in their 4-2 loss a little over a month ago, it’ll help, but something tells me that it might be discipline that wins the day, because as much as the Canucks insist that they respect the Wings, just like the similarly thin-skinned Blackhawks, “respect” tends to turn into a furious physical assault combined with some nasty post-whistle shenanigans once the puck is dropped.

Update #5: Here’s a bit more about the Wings’ practice from MLive’s Ansar Khan, who reports that Jeff Blashill acquitted himself decently (read: he didn’t get killed) as the Wings’ practice goalie….

The team gave Jimmy Howard the day off. Goaltending coach Jim Bedard usually fills in during these instances. This time, he talked Blashill into doing it, and let him use his equipment.

“I was just trying to survive, trying to breathe, make sure I made it through the day without a heart attack,’’ Blashill said. “I called my wife and told her hopefully I’ll be home, but not sure.’‘

Blashill played goal for Ferris State from 1994-98. He said this was the first time he’d been in net since filling in for a practice while serving as an assistant coach for Miami (Ohio) eight years ago.

“I haven’t played net in a long time, so it was a lot of fun,’’ Blashill said.

He said players took it easy on him.

“Luckily, we won last night (3-1 in Calgary); if we had lost there might have been more head shots,’’ Blashill said. “The D were playing the shooter extra hard just to make sure they didn’t get the shot off.’‘

And Khan does confirm that Justin Abdelkader will play tomorrow despite taking a slap shot off his right leg in Calgary:

“Just a bruise,’’ he said. “My whole leg went numb. I couldn’t feel my foot, I thought something was wrong with my skate. It hit that nerve and went straight down my leg, so it was kind of a really weird feeling. Got back to the room, just get the feeling back in my foot and made sure everything was good.’‘

>Update #6: Very interesting: the Vancouver Sun’s Ben Kuzma notes that the Canucks are also hoping to rebound from a spotty performance against the Blackhawks, who forced Cory Schneider to stop 37 shots in the Canucks’ 3-2 OT win:

“I’ve played on teams before where we’ve had some great stretches of hockey but didn’t have a winning record,” [Chris] Higgins noted Wednesday as the Canucks prepared for Thursday’s meeting with the first overall Detroit Red Wings. “We’re playing very mediocre hockey right now and still getting the results. I think it’s a sign of a good team but, at the same time, you’d like to feel more in tune with the way you’re playing.”

The Canucks were off-key for more than a few stretches in the month of January but still manufactured a 7-2-2 record. They allowed their opponents more than 30 shots eight times. They had individual periods where they had two shots (twice), three shots and four shots. They squandered third-period leads against non-contending Tampa Bay and Edmonton but pulled out victories in shootouts. It was hardly a month of artistry. Picasso needn’t worry.

“Obviously if you’re giving up 35-plus shots, and those kind of quality opportunities to the opposition, you’re probably not going to be on the winning end too much,” Higgins agreed. “It’s a long season, 82 games, and sometimes you’re in stretches where the team play dips a little bit. I think that’s a hard thing for fans and reporters to understand. I think when you play a couple of seasons in the league, you realize every team, no matter how good or how bad, goes through those periods.”

Goalies Roberto Luongo and Cory Schneider and rookie centre Cody Hodgson were Canuck stalwarts in January but not many others in the lineup were able to make the same claim. Obviously they hope February, a month fraught with 10 road games and one stretch of five games in seven nights in four different time zones, produces more consistency of performance. Canuck head coach Alain Vigneault bristled when it was suggested his players were lacking structure, leading to numerous odd-man rushes and defensive breakdowns in certain January outings. In Tuesday’s middle period against Chicago, the Canucks were out-shot 15-6.

“In such a competitive league, where the quality of the teams is so good, to expect any team to dominate a full 60 minutes is ludicrous,” Vigneault said. “I mean, we played a great team [Tuesday]. They have some highly skilled players. We had a really good first period and, in the second, they had a push. Yeah, we might have made some mistakes with the puck,” the coach added. “We didn’t play high percentage in certain situations where we normally do. Chicago is a good team and they can push and capitalize on that. In analyzing the month of January, I think in some instances we were really good and, in some instances, you have to give credit to the other team because there are some good teams in this league.”

None is better than Detroit right now. The Wings sit atop the league’s toughest division and, with a record of 34-16-1, are three points clear of the Canucks, who hold one game in hand. Vigneault would like his players to show the net presence Detroit exhibits on a regular basis with the likes of Tomas Holmstrom, Dan Cleary and even Todd Bertuzzi.

“I feel Detroit is the best team in the league as far as net presence and always having somebody there, somebody square to the puck making life really hard on the other team’s goaltender,” Vigneault explained. “It’s one area where we can improve.”

Also: ESPN Chicago’s Jesse Rogers reports that the Wings-Hawks game on February 19th will start at 12:30 PM EST instead of 3 PM EST as NBC’s picked it up.

Update #7: Here’s The Score doing “face paint” talk with Ty Conklin:

They did the same thing with Jimmy Howard a few weeks ago:

Update #8: I do believe that we’ve got a case of “Writer Taking Team Too Seriously” via this segue from the Vancouver Province’s Ben Kuzma:

It’s like a young comic stealing the show from the veteran performer. Asked what he would do to upstage Cory Schneider’s puck-handling faux pas Tuesday that ended with the Vancouver Canucks goaltender diving across the crease and flinging an arm up in desperation to rob Brendan Morrison of a sure goal, Roberto Luongo was ready with some fresh material.

“I’m going to try a backhand sauce up the middle and dive back to see if I can get it,” Luongo said Wednesday.

Cue the laugh track.

Truth be told, there’s nothing funny about facing the top-ranked Detroit Red Wings. The league’s best puck-possession team also goes to the net with purpose and can make it a rough night for any stopper. Coach Mike Babcock can also ice eight players who have hit double digits in goals.

“It’s a mix of both,” said Luongo. “Babs is a big believer in shooting pucks on net — whether it’s a good or bad angle and create rebounds and scrambles. When you add the fact that they’re got five or six guys who can do the unexpected, it’s pretty dangerous. As a team we’ve got to be sharp. They’ve got a lot of weapons.”

The Canucks topped the Wings 4-2 in a Dec. 21 meeting at Rogers Arena but hitting that goal total again might be tough because Detroit doesn’t waste opportunities when in possession.

“To get the puck away is a real challenge,” said Canucks coach Alain Vigneault. “They like to hang on and when you have good gap or back pressure, they’ll make the high percentage play and put in back and then put it in an area they can battle for it.”

Talk about a clunky transition…

• Via RedWingsFeed, here’s Barry Merlose’s Wings-Nucks preview….

• DetroitRedWings.com’s Bill Roose spoke to Mike Commodore about his fight last night…

Earlier this season, defenseman Mike Commodore offered a challenge, but the Flames’ Tim Jackman chose not to reciprocate. At the time, it was Commodore’s first game-action in well over a month and when Jackman didn’t oblige his request, the Red Wings’ defenseman wasn’t overly disappointed.

“It just didn’t happen,” Commodore said at the time. “And that’s fine because I had enough on my plate, to be honest, I probably would have lasted about four-seconds and been exhausted.”

It was a different story Tuesday night when Commodore again extended an invitation to Calgary’s tough guy in the Wings’ 3-1 victory at the Scotiabank Saddledome.This time the two squared off deep in the Wings’ zone with the fight lasting 13-times longer than Commodore thought a December bout with Jackman would have lasted. And though he received a small cut along the left eyebrow, Commodore provide the energy which is expected of him from the Wings’ coaching staff.

“It just happened to work out,” said Commodore, about his second fight as a Red Wing. “I wouldn’t say that the game was chippy or anything like that, but it sometimes works out like that where you run into each other. It was fine.”

At 6-foot-4, Commodore has been in the lineup in five of the last six games, and 12 of the last 18, giving the Wings a physical presence on the blue line in that sixth defensive spot, that coach Mike Babcock says is still up for grabs between Commodore and Jakub Kindl. Besides the five-minute major Tuesday night, Commodore also had a game-high three blocked shots with two hits, including a big first-period hip check on Jackman, which probably helped pave the way for their later fight.

“Obviously anytime a guy steps up for his team you really appreciate that and that’s a positive thing,” Babcock said. “He worked hard, so we’re just looking for someone to grab that job and hold on to it, because you don’t want to be going in and out on a nightly basis.”

• And I got my wallpaper for this month from Monkeywrench 32, and you should, too.

Seriously, who wouldn’t want one of these?

Image via MW32.com

Update #9: Jeebus, I’m never gonna get my off-day nap. Here are a few more notes from the Vancouver Sun’s Elliott Pap, who offers this quip about Luongo…

Luongo should be well rested after a five-day all-star break and then having Tuesday off while Cory Schneider did handstands to beat Chicago 3-2 in overtime. Bobby Lou has opposed the Wings once this season. He prevailed 4-2 on Dec. 21, stopping 38 of 40 shots.

“It’s two of the best teams in the league going at it,” Luongo said Wednesday following practice. “There is always a lot of intensity and a playoff atmosphere. Those are fun games to be playing in and I don’t expect anything different. We’ve always had good games against them and it’s exciting to be a part of. I expect more of the same.”

Luongo carries a 20-10-4 record, 2.39 goals against average and .918 save percentage into tonight’s contest.

And something we can all agree upon regarding Nicklas Lidstrom:

Canuck captain Henrik Sedin is a large fan of Red Wing counterpart and fellow Swede Nicklas Lidstrom. The two have been teammates on Swedish Olympic teams despite their 10-year difference in age. Lidstrom is 41 and Henrik 31.

“If he can continue to play at this level, he can play until he’s 45 or 50,” said Henrik. “He’s very effective in the way he plays. He doesn’t really have to move much out there because he’s always in the right spot. So it’s impressive.”

A seven-time Norris Trophy winner, Lidstrom is enjoying another fine season with 10 goals, 28 points and a plus-20 rating.

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Comments

awould's avatar

After the game, Kesler said, “I saw that he’s backing up, put my head down for a second, he hits me,” Kesler said. “That’s obviously his go-to move. My only problem with the hit is that he doesn’t stand up for himself afterwards. I think if you’re going to hit guys like that, you’re going to have to drop the gloves.”

What a cry-baby. His ‘go-to move’ is to line a guy up and hit him when the opportunity arises? No shit. That’s like whining that Datsyuk’s go-to move is to deke the pants of a guy and terrify goalies with a sick back hand shot that almost nobody else in the league has. It’s totally legal and it’s what he does. Kesler’s implying that it’s somehow a cheap shot or unfair that Kronwall takes advantage of idiots who put their head down around him; I guess Kesler thought Kronwall was just being nice by giving him the ice?

Also, if you’re going to play hockey, maybe don’t go dropping the gloves every time a guy tees you up with a clean hit. Trying to fight a guy for making a clean hit is a bitch move. I’m so sick of guys starting fights to avenge a solid hockey play. Chris Stewart’s dumb ass move a few games ago was a classic, and it cost his team big.

Posted by awould on 02/01/12 at 07:50 PM ET

scotts0's avatar

So let me get this straight.  Kesler is taking a shot at Kronwall for not fighting after he hit him with a check that Kesler himself said was clean and his own fault? 

I think that hit may have rattled Kesler’s brain a bit.  Check him for concussion like symptoms…or a significant injury at C1 and C2.

Posted by scotts0 from New York on 02/01/12 at 08:44 PM ET

SYF's avatar

With all due respect, methinks that Kesler, TMaxim Lapierre and Bieksa will be going after Kronwall and the Wings’ players with all sorts of gusto tomorrow night.

Burrows, too.

Posted by SYF from Zata's Epic Viking Beard on 02/01/12 at 08:51 PM ET

SYF's avatar

“Had something with his leg and gave him a day off,’’ Babcock said. “Nothing major at all. Just a little swelling.’‘

Swelling?  Abber, remember?  The hotshot Sparty who took an Iginla shot to the back of his right leg?  How’s he doing?

Posted by SYF from Zata's Epic Viking Beard on 02/01/12 at 08:57 PM ET

42jeff's avatar

or a significant injury at C1 and C2.
Posted by scotts0 from New York on 02/01/12 at 05:44 PM ET

+19

Posted by 42jeff from The greater Howard City, MI metroplex on 02/01/12 at 09:27 PM ET

HockeyFanOhio's avatar

Yea, if one team should be upset the Wings should be pissed about Hansen’s run on Jimmy.  Kesler whining about a clean hit is crap.

Posted by HockeyFanOhio from Central Ohio on 02/01/12 at 10:41 PM ET

George Malik's avatar

Kesler, Lapierre, Burrows, Bieksa, anybody who gets a lane in on Kronwall will probably target him. And it sounds like they’re gonna do the same thing to Jimmy, snow showers and Jannik Hansens included.

With all due respect to Canucks fans, the team from Vancouver, in my very biased and grudge-holding opinion, talks the most this side of Chicago and Boston, and yet their skin in terms of just dealing with what happens on the ice and skating away from things resembles what the Flames tried to do to Justin Abdelkader for daring to not get kneed by Cory Sarich last night.

I think we’re gonna see a game that’s just as physical as the Wings-Blues tilt was, if not more so, and I hope the Wings understand that going in, because the last time the Canucks got all complimentary, their words seemed to disarm Detroit’s edge.

Posted by George Malik from South Lyon, MI on 02/01/12 at 11:19 PM ET

HockeytownOverhaul's avatar

I want to see Kesler and Commie go..  Maybe even see Bert give some love

If our big guys (literally, big) show up tomorrow and play physical, Bert, Abby, STuey, Big Rig and Commie, we’ll get the W.  The team has seemed more galvinized and physically confident since our 2 wins over the Boo’s.

I hope Commie tags Kesler and Kesler gets the opportunity to stand by his beliefs.

Posted by HockeytownOverhaul on 02/01/12 at 11:49 PM ET

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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.