The Malik Report
by George Malik on 04/01/11 at 01:59 PM ET
Updated 8x at 5:50 PM: Ugh. The Red Wings will remain without their biggest steadying force not named Nicklas Lidstrom on Saturday as Pavel Datsyuk remains unable to return from a “lower-body injury,” per the Free Press’s Helene St. James:
The Red Wings won’t have Pavel Datsyuk available when they play Nashville Saturday, though he’s practicing and improving daily.
Mike Babcock said this afternoon Datsyuk will miss a seventh straight game because of a lower-body injury. Mike Modano (groin) practiced and will play, and Jimmy Howard is back in goal after missing a week because of a sore left shoulder.
Sans Datsyuk, the Wings need to win Saturday’s game very badly…
It’s a significant game for the Wings for several reasons: They’ve lost to Nashville four straight times, by a combined score of 13-4, and need to send a message as the Predators could end up being the first-round opponent. The Wings also need to respond to Wednesday’s 10-3 embarrassment.
“Mentally, have we made a decision that we’re going to get going? I believe we probably have,” Babcock said. “The reality is, any adversity you face in life, you want to respond to it. I think we’ve had enough. It appears like we’re starting to get healthy – that’s a real plus. But the reality is, we have five games left, and it’s very important that we take a step in the right direction.”
And MLive’s Ansar Khan reports that Datsyuk may play on Sunday...
Datsyuk has been skating, seemingly at full speed, for several days and continues to say he feels better and is getting close. After today’s practice, he said he was going to consult with the team doctor before determining if he could play. Coach Mike Babcock then said Datsyuk is out, and his status for Sunday’s game against Minnesota at Joe Louis Arena is unknown.
Here are the lines they skated with today, which, of course, will be different for the game now that Datsyuk has been ruled out. Now word yet on who will be scratched:
Franzen-Datsyuk-Holmstrom (Modano working in)
Update: Per the Red Wings’ Twitter account...
Howard chatting with reporters after practice, says ‘everything feels good.’
Modano is good to go tomorrow according to Mike Babcock. Pavel Datsyuk is out.
Babcock: (Nashville) has four lines that just work hard and compete hard.
Babcock: We’re hoping that (Helm) is going to be the type of leader that Draper is ... a core Red Wing.
Update: The Detroit News’s Ted Kuflan seems to think that Datsyuk’s injury is…perhaps a case of the Wings being over-cautious:
Pavel Datsyuk looked healthy in Friday’s practice at Joe Louis Arena, but apparently isn’t healthy enough to play on Saturday against the Predators in Nashville. Red Wings coach Mike Babcock told reporters after practice that Datsyuk, who has a lower-body injury, won’t play in the projected first-round playoff preview.
“He’s not playing,” said Babcock, who wouldn’t speculate when Datsyuk could return, or explain the extent of his injury.
Saturday’s game will mark the Red Wings’ seventh straight game without Datsyuk, who is third on the team in scoring and points (22 goals, 35 assists). Datsyuk declined to tell reporters how he felt immediately after practice — or if he could return to the lineup soon — and left the locker room quickly for what he claimed was a meeting with a team doctor. Datsyuk appeared to skate without pain in practice, and was at one point on a line with Johan Franzen and Tomas Holmstrom during drills.
“I can’t tell you,” Datsyuk said, when a reporter asked if he felt any lower-body pain in Friday’s practice. “You don’t work for the Red Wings.”
Franzen remains hopeful Datsyuk will return to the lineup soon, but also cautious, knowing the Red Wings still have five regular-season games left before the playoffs.
“He probably needs a few games to get ready for the playoffs,” Franzen said. “But I don’t know (when he could return).”
Update #2: Via Red Wings TV, Jimmy Howard was in a good mood on Friday…
• If you’re interested in that sort of thing, ESPN’s Sean Allen posted his last fantasy hockey “forecast” for each and every one of the NHL’s 30 teams, and ESPN’s Pierre LeBrun offered this assessment of one of the Wings’ would-be unrestricted free agents (he politely kept Nicklas Lidstrom out of the discussion):
Jonathan Ericsson, Detroit Red Wings ($900,000 cap hit this season): He makes this list because he’s an intriguing name. At 27, his development seems to have hit a snag this season and he’s largely been a disappointment. Yet, his skating ability, size and offensive potential no doubt would lure several NHL teams to take a chance on him. That’s if he even gets to July 1. The Red Wings have a way of keeping the players they really want.
It’s all about the money…
• NHL.com’s Dave Lozo also mentioned Lidstrom but focused on Teemu Selanne in a story about the NHL’s 0ver-40 crowd…
• MLive’s Ansar Khan reiterated some of the Wings’ Thursday points of emphasis in a Friday morning notebook, and he offered some new observations about their defensive difficulties, too:
“It’s been too sloppy. We haven’t been executing in our own zone,” Kronwall said. “Get back to the puck, win battles, make the first good pass out of our zone. We have to do a better job in the neutral zone. We have to do a better job in the offensive zone as well. There’s a lot of things we can improve on.”
“Stop the carousel rides in our own zone, where it seems like teams get wound up and they just start circling,” [Jimmy] Howard said. “(If) we just stay in spots, talk it out a little more in the defensive zone, communication will eliminate a lot of guys doubling up on coverages.”
Players said they must stop trying to do each other’s job.
“On the ice when you get a little spread out, there’s miscommunication and some breakdowns in coverage and holes are created,” Mike Modano said. “And then everyone tries to back up that guy and it kind of snowballs.”
“It’s not always looking for the perfect pass,” [Nicklas] Lidstrom said.
• The Red Wings’ “Twenty Straight” website focuses on the Wings’ run to the Stanley Cup Finals in 1995. I touched the Cup at the Ponchartrain Hotel prior to the finals and felt terrible about it. Since then, however, I’ve all but groped from and drank from the Cup (I was at Cheli’s when Lebda dropped it) with no ill effects;
• According to MLive’s James Schmehl, Fox Sports Detroit will announce its “April in the D” song contest winner tonight;
• And we’ll finish with polar opposites. First, from the Wings’ YouTube channel, Miss America digs the Wings…
• And I thought that this was plain old interesting, per the Bay City Times’ Cory Butzin, who spoke to Wayne State University women’s team-bound goaltender Karissa Grapp about some of the side benefits of playing for a team that has Red Wings ties:
The Warriors will provide fully-fitted equipment for Grapp twice during her time at Wayne State. And she also gets a chance to work with the artists who paint the goalie masks for the Detroit Red Wings.
“We get our goalie equipment straight through Vaughn, which is one of the biggest equipment dealers in the NHL,” Grapp said. “(WSU) wants to go early before the NHL orders their equipment. The guy who does the goalie helmets for the Red Wings also does them for Wayne State.
“I get to design any colors on my goalie pads as long as they’re approved by the equipment manager. And I can get anything painted on my helmet that I want.”
Update the third: Also from Khan’s practice update:
“Any adversity you face in your life you want to respond to it. I think we’ve had enough,’’ Babcock said. “It appears we’re starting to get healthy, that’s a real plus. But the reality is we have five games left and it’s very important we take a step.’‘
And here’s Babcock’s presser:
Update 3-and-a-half: From St. James:
“Mentally, have we made a decision that we’re going to get going? I believe we probably have,” Red Wings coach Mike Babcock said. “The reality is, any adversity you face in life, you want to respond to it. I think we’ve had enough. It appears like we’re starting to get healthy – that’s a real plus. But the reality is, we have five games left, and it’s very important that we take a step in the right direction.”
Only five games remain for the Wings to get themselves straightened out.
“We want to play better, especially defensively, tightening up defensively and just having a more sound game heading into the playoffs,” Nicklas Lidstrom said. “When you’ve lost to an opponent four straight times you want to beat them when you get a chance, get a win against them and play well against them. But we know the details of our game have to improve and have to be better to have any success in the playoffs.”
Update #4: I missed this, but the CBC’s Elliotte Friedman answered a mailbag question worth revisiting...
My question involves the current Red Wings goaltending situation. When the Red Wings attempted to sign Nabokov, I read many articles and blogs where it was stated that they felt the Red Wings were sending a wake-up call to Jimmy Howard. After seeing him leave the game like he did this past weekend, and taking into consideration Chris Osgood’s most recent setback with his sports hernia, I look back to when that contract offer was submitted to Nabokov and wonder if Kenny Holland knew then that Ozzie’s injury was severe enough or had the potential to possibly threaten the rest of his career and think he needed to add another piece of NHL calibre goaltending in the event Howard were to get hurt was well?
Kind Regards, Desmond Ryan, St. John’s, NL
Ultimately, the Red Wings make such decisions for one reason: Will it help them win? Last weekend, I was talking to three players who’ve signed extensions over the years rather than test unrestricted free agency: Henrik Zetterberg, Tomas Holmstrom and Howard. I asked them why they didn’t bother to hit the open market, and they all said some variation of this: “Why would I leave? It’s a great organization to play for and we’re always a contender to win it all.”
That’s why your key point is the Osgood injury. His setback was disappointing to the organization because at the deadline they believed he’d be returning. Otherwise, they’d have acquired someone else after the Nabokov experiment failed. As for Howard, if they didn’t believe in him, they wouldn’t have signed him to the two-year extension. (Although, I do think the entire process unsettled him, since he admitted he was trying not to think about the contract.)
• The St. Clair County Community College Foundation reports that it raised $12,000 via a charity hockey game with the Detroit Red Wings’ Alumni Association;
• The Birmingham Seaholm Highlander’s Adam Banichu reveals that the Red Wings actually have a concussion specialist on call….
Dr. Kenneth Podell is associated with the Division of Neuropsychology and the Sports Concussion Safety Program at Henry Ford System.
Podell was also one of the founders and developers of the company Impact Testing System. He is also the Concussion Administrator for the Detroit Lions, Red Wings, Tigers, Wayne State and 9 Metro Detroit area High Schools.
• WXYZ’s Tom Leyden filed both a Friday practice report in which the Wings discussed their points of emphasis going into Saturday afternoon’s game…
“For us the most important thing is sending a message to ourselves that we’re going to turn it around and start to play the way we need to play,” said defenseman Brad Stuart. “That’s probably our biggest concern, just worrying about us, not sending a message to them or anybody else. Let’s get it going in here in this room and let each other know that we’re all in this to win games and to compete for each other and that’s going to be the most important thing for us.”
“I think we have to send ourselves a message,” said goaltender Jimmy Howard, who is expected to start tomorrow in Nashville after missing two games with a shoulder injury. “Just looking at the guys across the room and knowing that you’re going to go to battle for each other. Everybody likes each other in this dressing room and personally, I don’t care what’s going on with the rest of the conference. I care what’s going on with this team and after the other night, we have a very veteran team and I’m sure they just hit the erase button and going back out there.”
Even still, there is a certain urgency associated with facing a squad you might face under elimination conditions within the next two weeks.
“Yeah, of course when you’ve lost to an opponent four straight times you want to beat them when you get a chance to get a win against them and play well against them to,” said captain Nicklas Lidstrom. “We know the details of our game have to improve and have to be better for us to have any success in the playoffs.”
Another highlight of today’s post-practice media session was Mike Babcock’s assessment of fourth-year forward Darren Helm, who continues to mature and contribute.
“We’re hoping that’s he’s gonna be the kind of leader one day that (Kris) Draper is,” said Babcock. “That’s what we’re hoping for (Justin Abdelkader) and him, that they’re going to be real, core, vested Red Wings that kind of lead the way around here and he, to me, is growing in his game all the time.”
And he posted a video as well:
• And WDFN’s Sean Baligian spoke to Shawn Burr today:
Update the fifth: In the promotional news vein, per DetroitRedWings.com’s Rick Bouwness:
The Red Wings and Fox Sports Detroit will celebrate ‘April in the D’ on Sunday, April 3, when the Minnesota Wild pay a visit to Joe Louis Arena for a 5:00 p.m. showdown with the No. 1 team in the NHL’s Central Division. As part of FSD’s month-long campaign welcoming the onset of spring in the Great Lakes State, the first 5,000 fans in attendance for this game will receive a free Red Wings t-shirt courtesy of the team’s exclusive broadcast partner.
In keeping with the afternoon’s theme, songs played by T Campbell - the Red Wings’ in-arena DJ - on Sunday will all have ties to Michigan; each and every piece of music heard at JLA throughout the day will have been produced in-state, recorded by a local artist, or contain lyrical content pertinent to the region.
Image courtesy of the Detroit Red Wings
• And DetroitRedWings.com’s Dave Burke spoke to the Wings about moving forward while tangling with the Predators:
“We’re trying to have a more sound game heading into the playoffs,” captain Nicklas Lidstrom said. “Of course when you’ve lost to an opponent four straight times you want to beat them and play well against them. We know the details of our game have to improve and have to be better for us to have any success in the playoffs.”
“You have to answer the bell, it’s a physical game [Saturday] and we can be physical too,” Lidstrom said. “We have some big guys and we have to play that same kind of game. You have to hang on to the puck to make plays and take a hit to make the play. You have to do that.”
“We all have to improve as a team heading into the playoffs,” he said. “We have to play a whole lot better than we have the last couple of games. We have five games to correct that, especially our defensive zone play. We need to play a lot better in our own zone and take care of the puck.”
“I thought we had a real good game in there last time and they came out on top,” he said. “They waved off our one power play goal, so that was the difference in that game, but it should be a lot of fun. It’s a good atmosphere in there, the teams are close in the standings and it’s important we rebound from what happened here the other night. It should be a good game.”
“Yesterday we just worked and that was just about getting it back in gear,” Babcock said. “Now mentally have we made a decision that we’re going after it? I believe that we probably have. The reality is that any time you face adversity you face in your life you want to respond to it and I think we’ve had enough. It appears like we’re starting to get healthy and I think that’s a real plus to us, but the reality is we have five games left and it’s real important we take a step in the right direction.”
Update the sixth: Ouch, per the Grand Rapids Griffins’ Afternoon Shift:
We’ve talked a lot – probably too much – lately about points, winning percentages, permutations and the Griffins’ playoff possibilities. So it’s time to let someone else do it, through an intriguing web site that calculates the chances of teams from a variety of sports and leagues to make the postseason.
Sports Club Stats, created by Ken Roberts of Raleigh, N.C., is a stat geek’s dream and a math-phobic fan’s nightmare all wrapped into one. As explained on the site’s home page, it sheds light on a team’s odds of making the playoffs, how today’s games impact those odds, and how well they need to finish the season to have a shot.
In short, the site digests standings and schedule data, simulates results for all remaining games thousands of times, then presents its odds in a way that is, dare we say it, fun and relatively easy to comprehend. We can’t understand much less vouch for the methodology and algorithms used, but we found it interesting to wade through the numbers to gauge the site’s take on the Griffins’ playoff chances, as well as those of other AHL and NHL clubs.
First, the bad news: if the results are to be trusted, the Griffins currently have a 6.1% chance of making the playoffs. The good news is those odds jump to at least 43% if they reach 90 points (5-1 or 4-0-2), 78% if they finish with 91 points (5-0-1), and 96% if they can run the table over their final six games.
Also, per Griffinshockey.com’s Karen Patterson, captain Jamie Tardif and forward Francis Pare are having superb seasons…
The Griffins’ all-time top-10 lists contain familiar alumni like Travis Richards, Michel Picard, Jiri Hudler, Tomas Kopecky, Matt Ellis and Ryan Oulahen, among others. The 2010-11 campaign has seen captain Jamie Tardif and third-year pro Francis Pare surge into that elite group in several categories. Tardif has spent his entire pro career in Grand Rapids, aside for three games with the Iowa Stars and Manitoba Moose during the 2006-07 season. During his tenure in the Griffins jersey he has accrued 78 goals and 74 assists for 152 points in 310 games.
His 310 career games played entering the month of April places the talented right wing third on the team’s all-time list. Only Richards (655) and Picard (364) have totaled more games as a Griffin. Tardif’s commitment and overall health have played a large role in him climbing to third so quickly. Although his 2008-09 season was cut short due to injury, the Welland, Ontario native has played at least 70 games in four of five full seasons in Grand Rapids.
This season, Tardif leads the team in goals (27) and has moved into second place on the all-time list with 78 for his Griffins career, after not even being listed among the top-10 at the start of the year. He might need a little more time to take over the top spot, as Picard resided in that position with 158 tallies. Like many hard-working hockey players, Tardif recognizes that success does not come without assistance, as he credits the role fellow linesmen Tomas Tatar and Ilari Filppula have played this season.
“I think we’re a great fit,” the 25-year-old Tardif said. “You’ve got one of the most skilled guys in the whole league as far as hands go with Filppula and Tatar’s a great scorer, play maker, kind of does everything. It’s my job to get the puck to them but also to get open because they make unbelievable passes. They’ve gotten me some great goals, and I’ve gotten them some great assists. It’s a great line.”
And Kyle Kujawa, Gustav Nyquist’s doing OK as he makes the transition from a dominant player amongst his NCAA-playing peers to a youngster playing against seasoned pros:
“It all happened really quick, I think the contract was done late Thursday night,” said Nyquist, who signed an entry-level contract with the Detroit Red Wings before inking an amateur tryout contract to join the Griffins for the rest of the season. “They called me and said they had a plane ready for me Friday morning. I went down there at 4:30 and played at 7:00.”
Upon signing, Nyquist was rushed down to Cedar Park, Texas, where he played his first two AHL games, notching an assist in his first game and adding a goal the following night.
“It was long and stressful, but also fun,” recounted Nyquist. “That was a blast.”
“I’ve always thought education is important,” Nyquist said. “In Sweden, you can’t really do both, you have to choose if you want to go to school, or if you want to play hockey.”
In doing so, Nyquist had to stick to the Swedish junior leagues for a few years, turning down the opportunity to make money and play professionally in Sweden in order to maintain college eligibility. Education is something Nyquist, a finance major, takes seriously, and he felt the University of Maine was the right fit for him.
“I felt really comfortable with all the coaches there,” explained Nyquist. “I liked the teammates and coaches up there, and the fact that it’s the biggest sport around. I think we sell out almost every night at home. That’s probably the biggest reason I decided to go.”
Update the seventh: According to Fox Sports’ Trevor Thompson...
#PavelDatsuyk not making the team flight to #Nashville. #RedWings #Predators #NHL
Update the eighth: According to The Canadian Press, Sergei Fedorov scored a goal and added as Metallurg Magnitogorsk defeated Salvat Yulaev 4-3 in Ufa, pushing the series to six games (Magnitogorsk still trails Salavat 3-2);
• And the Calgary Herald posted a photo gallery commemorating Gordie Howe’s 83rd birthday.
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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.