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The Malik Report

Red Wings practice updates: Zetterberg’s still out, Kronwall’s in (?)

Most recently updated at 4:38 PM with Paul MacLean on WDFN: According to both the Detroit Red Wings’ Twitter account and the Associated Press’s Larry Lage, the Red Wings returned to practice today to prepare for their first-round series against the Phoenix Coyotes minus one Henrik Zetterberg, who’s still hampered by a sprained left knee:

Red Wings leading scorer Henrik Zetterberg says he’s out for least Game 1 against the Phoenix Coyotes. Zetterberg arrived at Joe Louis Arena on Tuesday morning with a brace on his left knee and got a ride to the dressing room on the back of a cart.

Third-seeded Detroit opens the playoffs Wednesday night at home against sixth-seeded Phoenix.

Zetterberg says he doesn’t know if he’ll play in Game 2 on Saturday. He was injured last Wednesday when he was checked by Bryan Allen in the 3-0 loss to the Carolina Hurricanes.

Here are some quips and quotes from the Wings’ Twitter account:

First practice of the playoffs is underway at JLA. http://t.co/MwAgYmq
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Everybody is present an accounted for except for Zetterberg.
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Cleary: We’ve been waiting for a while now. Every game here means a lot and the guys are looking forward to it.
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There is a big crowd of media around the captain today. http://t.co/hPEZuFP
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Lidstrom: It is a new year, a new series. It helps to know the players you are facing, but nothing from last year carries over
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We’ll keep you posted on Filppula’s beard as the playoffs progress. http://t.co/KSfT4x6
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Patrick Eaves, sporting a full beard will shave this afternoon. Hudler hasn’t made his mind up yet, but suggested a moustache.
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Zetterberg is at the podium. He will not play in Game 1. Did not skate today, but he is able to ride the bike.
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The standings board in the locker room gets a playoff makeover. http://t.co/FI3nfAu
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The standings board in the locker room gets a playoff makeover. http://t.co/FI3nfAu
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Helmer said he won’t shave his beard before Game 1 tomorrow. ‘I’ve been working on it for three months,’ he said
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Babcock: The good thing about him (Zetterberg) is that there are a few days between Game 1 and Game 2
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More Babcock news: Joey MacDonald is the number two goalie, even with Ozzie practicing.
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Babcock with high praise for Franzen and Howard during his daily press conference.

More practice updates and video will be posted shortly, and the Detroit News’s Ted Kulfan leads the pack of Wings beat writers with this practice update:

As expected, Henrik Zetterberg was not on the ice when the Red Wings took to the ice for the start of Tuesday’s practice.

Coach Mike Babcock said after Sunday’s season finale in Chicago that Zetterberg, who is listed as out with a lower-body injury (likely his knee or ankle), would not be ready for the start of the playoffs Wednesday against Phoenix.

Niklas Kronwall (shoulder) was on the ice and will be ready to play against the Coyotes.

Also Tuesday, the Wings recalled defenseman Brendan Smith and Doug Janik, and forward Cory Emmerton, from the minor-league affiliate Grand Rapids Griffins.

Update #1: Here’s Mike Babcock speaking to WDFN’s Shep and Sharp:


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According to Red Wings GM Ken Holland, Jimmy Howard may need to prove himself as a playoff goalie, but he told Art Regner that Howard will remain the Red Wings’ go-to goalie, win or lose this spring, after signing a 2-year contract extension:

Catching up with Holland late last week, I reminded him of his reasoning for extending Howard three years ago, and I asked Holland if he was hesitant to commit to Howard long-term because he still has not cemented himself as Detroit’s No. 1. That he still needed to prove himself—especially during the playoffs.

“I think that’s a trick question,” Holland said. “Other than a few superstars, how many players really in this league are cemented in their positions?  Ninety percent of the players in the league have to produce on a regular basis. Coming back to Jimmy, are we going to judge everything on one playoff? I think no. He’s 27, and except for a stretch in the middle, I think he’s played pretty well. He can give us the type of goaltending that we need to win.”

Assuring Holland that I wasn’t trying to trick him, I told him that I just wanted to know where he’s coming from in regards to his goalie.

“If we were to judge all the Red Wing players that have been through here—and I’m talking about the very best by the time they were 26—a lot of them wouldn’t have accomplished what they have,” Holland said. “We would have cleaned them out at 27.”

Also: MLive’s Ansar Khan spoke to Tomas Holmstrom about doing his damnedest to make slight alterations to his game to not deal with more waved-off goals (before talking about how the media types who blathered on yesterday’s conference call picked the Yotes to beat the Wings):

“I try to do [avoid contact] every game, but sometimes those calls against you might come more frequently,” Holmstrom said. “What can you do? I’m not going to change my game.”

Holmstrom believes that the refs are at least paying close attention to him, if not calling a sort of crease rule whenever he’s near the net…

“It looks like that, especially on me,” Holmstrom said. “You see other games, guys run over the goalie and they still allow the goal. That would never happen to me. They seem to change the rules, when it fits them. If you’re outside the crease it should be a good goal. Now, if you have your butt in the crease and skates outside, it’s goaltender interference. So I don’t really know. I don’t think they know themselves.”

Holmstrom knows that goalies bump him on purpose, which tends to draw referees’ eyes…

“The refs got to do a review, because that happens a lot,” Holmstrom said. “The goalie coming out and making contact with me and then the puck passes by and they shove backwards and put on a big show.”

And he does hope that the refereres’ “incidental contact” calls will be subject to video review next season…

“They do it on a high stick, why not do it on (goalie interference)?” Holmstrom said. “You’re taking away a good part of the game. You need to go to the net hard, that’s where you score goals.”

But Wings GM Ken Holland says that the NHL’s GM’s weren’t interested in the concept of expanding video review—though he’s a proponent of the concept, obviously—and as such, the Wings have asked Homer to move out just a little bit:

“Mike (Babcock) has talked to Homer about moving four, five, six inches out,” Holland said. “It’s not only where your feet are, it’s where your butt is. You can be in the blue (crease) if you’re not affecting the goalie. It’s a difficult call for officials.”
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“In the Stanley Cup playoffs, you’re going to have bad calls,” Holland said. “Got to shake it off and continue to do our thing. If the goal is called off, you got to go back there.”

Update #2: Here’s Khan’s practice update:

Detroit Red Wings defenseman Niklas Kronwall’s status for Game 1 against Phoenix will be determined either after Wednesday’s morning skate or the pregame warmup.

Kronwall missed the final five games of the season with an upper-body injury. He got in his first full practice on Tuesday and said he feels good, but he’s not sure about his status for the opener.

Henrik Zetterberg confirmed what coach Mike Babcock said on Sunday: He won’t play in the opener and remains day-to-day after that. Zetterberg did not skate. He worked out and got treatment while continuing to wear a brace on his left knee.

Chris Osgood continues to practice and feel better, but Babcock said Joey MacDonald will back-up Jimmy Howard, at least for the start of the playoffs.

Update #3: Here’s Helene St. James’ practice report from the Free Press,confirming that Zetterberg has yet to skate and that Kronwall’s status will be determined tomorrow morning:

Zetterberg has been out since hurting his left knee Wednesday at Carolina. Teams won’t disclose much about injuries this close to the playoffs, but Zetterberg didn’t hide the brace he wore when he spoke to reporters today, and his voice didn’t exactly brim with enthusiasm. He kept his answers short, saying that “I’m feeling better,” “I’m day-to-day,” and “The percentage would say I’m not playing tomorrow.”

If the injury at all has to do with his MCL, the recovery time usually is four weeks.

“He’ll continue to be day-to-day till he’s back,” coach Mike Babcock said.

Zetterberg naturally wishes he could play: “It is tough—it’s the first playoffs that I’m not really healthy,” he said. “This is the best time of year, and you want to be out there.”

Even without Zetterberg, the Wings have enough skilled players to field four solid lines. Based on today’s practices, these are the groups that will start Game 1:

Franzen-Datsyuk-Holmstrom
Cleary-Abdelkader-Bertuzzi
Modano-Filppula-Hudler
Draper-Helm-Eaves

Update #4: Here are Khan’s quotes from Zetterberg...

“He’s not playing,’’ Babcock said Tuesday. “The good thing about it is we got a couple days before the next game (Game 2 on Saturday afternoon). So he’ll continue to be day-to-day until he’s back.’‘

Asked if he expects to return in the first round, Zetterberg said, “It’s tough to say. Just got to see how it reacts.’’ He was injured on Wednesday on a hit by Carolina’s Bryan Allen.

“It felt really funny when it happened,’’ Zetterberg said. “We’re working on it. We’re (making) progress. Hopefully, it will be shorter than what we thought. Had similar (injury) before. It wasn’t as serious. I didn’t miss that much time.’‘

And Kronwall:

“I’m going to see how it feels tomorrow,’’ Kronwall said. “Today, I felt really good, so I’m very optimistic right now.’‘
Said coach Mike Babcock:“Kronner was real good today, but we always like to see what happens after some time on the ice. We’ll see how is is tomorrow and we’ll make that decision tomorrow night.’‘

Here are the lines they skated with today:

Franzen-Datsyuk-Holmstrom
Cleary-Abdelkader-Bertuzzi
Hudler-Filppula-Miller/Modano
Draper-Helm-Eaves

Lidstrom-Stuart
Ericsson-Rafalski
Kronwall-Salei/Kindl
Smith-Janik

Howard
MacDonald
Osgood

Chris Osgood continues to practice and feel better, but Babcock said Joey MacDonald will back-up Jimmy Howard, at least for the start of the playoffs.

Update #5: Here’s Babcock’s presser:

And a “teaser” of the Wings’ playoff-opening montage from the Wings’ website:

 

Update #6 other stuff: The AP’s Larry Lage will post a feature article on Jimmy Howard later today, but for now, we have the following placeholder:

Red Wings goaltender Jimmy Howard says he feels calmer than he did as a rookie in the playoffs a year ago.

Detroit hopes that leads to a great performance Wednesday night at home against the Phoenix Coyotes in a first-round playoff rematch.

Phoenix forward Shane Doan says goalie Ilya Bryzgalov is probably the best player in the series and the Coyotes will be counting on him against Detroit’s talented forwards.

The Red Wings will be without Henrik Zetterberg, whose injured left knee will keep him out of the series opener.

• The Wings and Amway are holding a contest giving away

pucks signed by Wings players;

• If you’re keeping score at home, The Sports Network is picking the Coyotes in seven, and Fox Sports’ Spector is picking The Coyotes as well, and most of NHL.com’s staffers are picking the Wings to beat the Coyotes, with only Dan Rosen figuring that the Wings can win the Cup;

• And in Coyotes news, Phoenix recalled defensemen Oliver Ekman-Larsson and Nolan Yonkman from the AHL today, and PhoenixCoyotes.com’ Luke Lapinski offered a passionate defense of the Coyotes’ ability to make a serious playoff run;

• Also: the CBC’s posted a series preview in its story about Zetterberg.

Update the 7th: Nicklas Lidstrom spoke to WJR’s Paul W. Smith and Steve Courtney today:


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Mickey Redmond will appear on the “Drew and Mike Show” on WRIF tomorrow, too.

Perhaps the best news of the day, from the Wings’ Twitter account—Al Sobotka’s holding his annual pre-playoff barbecue. It’s very good luck.

Update the 8th: Ready to read some tea leaves? Here’s Zetterberg talking to DetroitRedWings.com’s Michael Caples:

“Yeah, you know you want to be playing this time of year and today is tough,” Zetterberg said. “It’s the first playoff that I’m not really healthy.”
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“My lower body, it felt a little funny when it happened,” Zetterberg said. “So you know, we’re working on it. Making progress. Hopefully it will be shorter than what we thought. I have had similar before, wasn’t as serious. I didn’t miss that much time then.”

Wings coach Mike Babcock said that while Zetterberg will not be available for Game 1, he hopes that the forward can take advantage of the extra day off before Saturday’s Game 2.

“Yeah, he’s not playing,” Babcock said. “The good thing about it is that we’ve got a couple days before the next game, so he’ll continue to be day-to-day until he’s back.”
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“It’s tough to say,” Zetterberg said when he was asked about the possibility of returning during the first round. “We just have to see how I react.”

Update eight and a half: Here’s Z’s presser:

Update #9: Here’s a combined update from Chris McCosky and Ted Kulfan, rounding up the quotes of the day:

“He’s not playing (Wednesday) and the good thing is we have a couple of days before the next game (Saturday),” coach Mike Babcock said. “He will continue to be day-to-day until he’s able to play.”

Zetterberg, who missed the last two games of the regular season, still hasn’t skated. When asked if it was realistic to assume he’d play in the first round, he said, “It’s tough to say. Just see how it reacts.”
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“You want to play this time of the year, obviously, so it’s really tough,” Zetterberg said. “It’s the first playoff time that I haven’t been really healthy. I feel a little better and we’re working and making progress. Hopefully it’s shorter than what we thought.”
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“Kronner was real good today but we always wait to see what happens after he’s off the ice for a while,” Babcock said. “We will see where he’s at tomorrow and make our decision at game time.”

Chris Osgood (sports hernia) took a lot of reps during practice and said he felt no limitations physically. But after not playing in three months, he is still going to be the third goalie behind starter Jimmy Howard and Joey MacDonald.

“He’s not (ready to be the backup) right now, but once he gets practicing and gets going, who knows?” Babcock said. “Right now, Joey Mac has done a real good job for us and Howie will be in the net.”

Update nine-and-a-half: Here’s Caples on Kronwall:

Niklas Kronwall skated with the Wings Tuesday afternoon and competed in team drills for the first time since he suffered an upper-body injury in practice last month.

“I’ve been on the ice a few times, but hadn’t skated with the team yet,” Kronwall said. “This was the first time. It felt really good, it felt a lot better than any of the other days. It’s definitely a good positive.”
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“You just want to play this time of the year,” Kronwall said. “It’s the best time of the year, and I’m hoping that I’ll feel just as good as I did today tomorrow. I’m hoping I’ll get the nod from the trainers, and from coach.”

Wings coach Mike Babcock said that a decision on Kronwall will be made following Wednesday’s morning skate.

“Kronner was real good today, but we always like to see what happens after some time on the ice,” Babcock said. “We’ll see how he is tomorrow, and we’ll make that decision at game time tomorrow night.”

Update nine and three quarters: Fox Sports Arizona’s Todd Walsh posted audio clips of Lee Stempniak...

Dave Tippett…

And Adrian Aucoin making quick comments before the Coyotes flew to Detroit:

Update #10, #10: NHL.com’s Brian Hedger’s Zetterberg update involves the same confusing quotes:

“He’s not playing,” Babcock said. “The good thing about it is we’ve got a couple days before the next game. So he’ll continue to be day-to-day till he’s back.”

Zetterberg is able to ride a stationary bike to keep his cardiovascular conditioning up and is able to do other activities to try and speed the recovery process—yet he didn’t sound too optimistic when asked if he expects to play at all in this series.

“It’s tough to say,” Zetterberg said. “We’re just going to see how it reacts. As soon as I’m ready I will be in there.”
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He wouldn’t confirm it was actually his knee that is injured, but Zetterberg did say “it felt really funny” while describing the injury immediately after it happened.

“We’re still working on it and (making) progress,” he said after Detroit’s practice on Tuesday. “Hopefully it will be shorter than what we thought.”
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“You want to be playing at this time of year, so it is tough,” the 2008 Conn Smythe winner said. “This is the first playoff that I’m not really healthy. This is the best time of year and you want to be healthy.”

Update 10.1: The Wings’ PR department posted this release today:

RED WINGS RECALL SMITH, JANIK ANDEMMERTON FROM GRAND RAPIDS

… Detroit’s Quest for a 12thStanley Cup Begins Wednesday Night at The Joe ...

Detroit, MI… The Detroit Red Wings today announced that three players have been recalled from the American Hockey League’s Grand Rapids Griffins to serve as ‘Black Aces’ during the team’s impending Stanley Cup Playoff drive. Forward Cory Emmerton has been called up from the Griffins, as have defensemen Doug Janik and Brendan Smith.

Update 11: The Red Wings told DetroitRedWings.com’s Dave Burke that they’ve officially flipped the playoff switch, at least in terms of their focus:

“Just night and day different,” Babcock said after Tuesday’s practice. “Not just the practice, but how they were sitting around before practice, how the (pre-practice) meeting was, you know, it doesn’t matter who you are.”
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“There’s 16 teams battling for the Cup now, and instead of having 82 games, now it comes down to winning a series,” Lidstrom said. “It’s a different mindset. You could tell in practice that it was a different mindset out there.”

Lidstrom is quite wary of the Coyotes (and Ilya Bryzgalov)...

“They play a very good system,” Lidstrom said. “They don’t give up any 3-on-2s or 2-on-1s. They just play a very sound system, defensive system, (in the) neutral zone and defensive zone. So they’re very tough to get scoring chances against.”

And while the Wings are well aware of the fact that the Coyotes are out for revenge…

“We beat them last year in the playoffs, and they’ve got a long memory,” Babcock said. “Just like everybody else. They’ve got real good goaltending, they stabilized their back end, and they’ve got veteran players, and they work hard up front. They’re going to be a real test for us, we understand.”

The Wings are worried about themselves, first and foremost:

“You want to tighten up defensively,” Lidstrom said. “You want to play well in your own zone. Push the shooters to the outside and give them not as good as a chance to score from the outside. Be there for the rebounds and help out the goalies. That’s one of the things we haven’t done a good job on, being there for the rebounds.”

And Lidstrom, for one, is excited:

“We’re all excited again,” Lidstrom said. “It feels like you’re 18 again and heading into the playoffs. We’re all excited about getting going.”

As for Jimmy Howard, he told Michael Caples that he’s no longer facing the jitters that led up to so many goals given up against Phoenix and San Jose last time around:

“I don’t know what it was, to be honest,” Howard said of his nerves then. “It was just a new unfamiliar situation. I had played in a national championship game, a world championships game, the under-18s and the World Junior Championships and everything like that, but when you’re playing for something that you’ve dreamed about your whole life, and then all of a sudden you’re there, it’s different, it’s sort of surreal.”

Howard posted a 5-7 record in last year’s playoffs, along with a .915 save percentage and 2.75 goals-against average. Now in his second full season, the Wings’ young goaltender expects to improve on those numbers.
 
“I feel calmer,” Howard said. “Last year, I didn’t really know what to expect. It’s one thing to be a Black Ace, it’s another thing to actually be out there and playing. The intensity definitely picks up, a lot more guys crashing the net and a lot more scrums in front of the net. You have to be that much more focused.”
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“There’s not a lot of ‘what-ifs’ going through your mind this time around,” Howard said. “Last year, trying to predict things in your mind of how things are going to happen, and I was asking a lot more questions to the coaches and to [Chris Osgood] everything like that to try to better myself, and this year, you know having the taste of the playoffs, it will make me that much more focused.”

Osgood’s teammates and coach believe Howard can deliver:

“We have a lot of confidence in Howie,” captain Nicklas Lidstrom said. “He’s been playing well for us and we’re going rely on him.”
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“We think he’s really played well when we’ve played against good goalies at the other end,” Babcock said. “He’s going to play against a real good goalie in (Ilya Bryzgalov), and you know, I think the kid’s prepared. He’s battled hard. He’s played really well with the exception of a couple months when the wheels were off the tracks there, but that happens to everybody sometimes, and you know I think since his (contract) negotiation’s been done he’s been excellent, so good for him.”

Also: the Coyotes’ website posted the Yandle interview via Flash audio.

Update #12: Quickies:

1. MLive re-posted Ken Holland’s interview on WDFN from yesterday;

2. NHL.com’s Jerry Brown rehashed some Bryzgalov quotes (best player in the series, says Doan, etc. etc.);

3. Jimmy Howard also spoke to the APs Larry Lage in a pre-playoff summary...

The Detroit Red Wings made a commitment to Jimmy Howard back in February, signing him to a contract extension. Howard thinks having that out of the way is going to help him.

“It’s not one of those things in the back of your mind,” he said. “It frees you to just go out and play.”
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“I feel calmer,” Howard said. “Last year, I didn’t really know what to expect. The intensity definitely picks up and a lot more guys crash the net.”
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Detroit drafted Howard in the second round of the 2003 draft after he starred for three seasons at Maine, and gave him time to develop with the AHL’s Grand Rapids Griffins. The native of Ogdensburg, N.Y., was runner-up for rookie of the year last season after ranking in the top five in wins, goals-against average and save percentage. Howard won 37 games this season with a 2.79 GAA and .908 save percentage, nothing stellar.

“I had a hiccup Christmas time and it wasn’t pretty,” Howard explained. “Pucks just weren’t hitting me.”

Pucks seem to bounce off Howard more than most goalies, giving teams second and third chances to score, but his teammates are certain he’ll help them rebound from a relatively disappointing run that ended in the second round of the playoffs last year.

“We have a lot of confidence in Howie,” defenseman Nicklas Lidstrom said. “He’s been playing well for us.”

That’s a pretty harsh assessment of Howard’s style of play, but that’s just the Wings fan in me talking. And the goalie.

4. The Detroit Examiner’s Paul Harris spoke to several Wings about the task of playing focused hockey every night:

“We’ve played well at times but sometimes our focus lacked,” Rafalski said after practice on Thursday afternoon. “There’s focus during the playoffs.”

The Red Wings hope that will be the case when Game 1 gets underway at Joe Louis Arena shortly after 7 p.m., on Wednesday. That the turnovers, defensive lapses and, at times, just a plain lack of intensity will disappear when one mistake could end a team’s season. There is a small bit of evidence of that Detroit can quickly focus. After being embarrassed in a 4-2 loss to the Chicago Blackhawks at JLA on Friday night, the Wings bounced back to beat the Blackhawks 4-3 on Sunday at Chicago’s United Center in a game with playoff-type intensity. The Blackhawks needed a win to assure itself of a playoff spot (But they got in anyway because Minnesota beat Dallas later in the day). The Red Wings also want to play better at home, where they were only 11-13-4 since Dec. 1 ( 21-14-6 overall at JLA) than they have recently.

Detroit’s road record of 26-11-4 was the league’s second best.

“We have to turn it around and play the game, basically, we have been on the road,” defenseman Niklas Kronwall said. “Bring that home.”

And Tomas Holmstrom made a wise comment about screening Bryzgalov:

Tomas Holmstrom, Danny Cleary and a few others will try to get up close and personal with the Phoenix netminder … without being called for goaltender interference, of course … especially Holmstrom.

He said that with taller goalies like Bryzgalov’s, he has to move from side to side more when he sets up just outside the crease because their height allows them to see over him if he stands in one place.

And 5. From the Macomb Daily’s Chuck Pleiness, more Zetterberg tap dancing:

“It’s tough to say,” Zetterberg said when asked if he expects to return in the first round. “(We’ve) just got to see how it reacts.”

Zetterberg has yet to skate since getting injured last Wednesday on a hit by Carolina’s Bryan Allen. Zetterberg did an off-ice workout, while wearing a brace on his left knee.

“He’s not playing,” Wings coach Mike Babcock said about Zetterberg’s status for Game 1. “The good thing about it is we’ve got a couple days before the next game So he’ll continue to be day-to-day until he’s back.”

Game 2 isn’t until Saturday afternoon at Joe Louis Arena.

“It felt really funny when it happened,” Zetterberg said of the injury. “We’re working on it. We’re (making) progress. Hopefully, it will be shorter than what we thought.”

Zetterberg said he had a similar injury before.

“It wasn’t as serious,” Zetterberg said. “I didn’t miss that much time.”

Make it thirteen: Here’s Paul MacLean on WDFN…


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And the Wings’ website updated its playoff preparation photo gallery.

I don’t know what the hell to say about Nicholas J. Cotsonika’s ranking of the Wings as only the sixth-best team in the playoffs…

6. Detroit Red Wings: Just like the Flyers, the Wings are deep and experienced, looked strong for a while, finished flat and believe they can turn it on now. They need goaltender Jimmy Howard to be better in his second playoff run and Henrik Zetterberg to return from a knee injury. When they won the Cup in 2008, he won the Conn Smythe Trophy as the playoffs’ most valuable player. He’s out for at least the opener.

Just like the Flyers, the Wings are candidates to be upset in the first round. They face the Phoenix Coyotes, who pushed them to seven games in the playoffs last year. The Wings were loose defensively this season, ranking 23rd in goals against (2.89). But remember: The Wings were 20th in goals against (2.93) in 2008-09, when they went to Game 7 of the Cup final.

Final update: Here’s the Coyotes’ press for today. After pointing to Jerry Brown’s gusher for Ilya Bryzgalov (which you can read in my second post of the day), the Coyotes’ website posted Dave Vest’s off-day video…

And video interviews with Ray Whitney…

 

Lauri Korpikoski…

 

Lee Stempniak…

 

And Coyotes coach Dave Tippett…

 

WDFN’s Sean Terp and Killer spoke to Tyson Nash, the Coyotes’ TV color commentator, who believes that the Wings are afraid to play Phoenix:

 


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Coyotes.com’s Dave Vest insists that forward Eric Belanger is nothing less than a Detroit-beating x-factor:

Belanger, who signed as a free agent last summer, quietly played a key role in the Coyotes getting to the playoffs. In a season in which Phoenix lost center after center to injury, Belanger has been the constant, playing in all 82 games. He quietly set a career-high for assists (27) and chipped in 13 goals. On top of that, Belanger ranked 18th in the NHL in the faceoff circle at 55.3 percent, his plus-11 rating was third among Coyotes forwards, and he helped make every winger he played with, including Doan, more productive. On Tuesday, I spoke to Belanger about his first season with the Coyotes.

“I had a blast this year,” Belanger said. “It went so fast. Me and my wife were talking about it. This year went fast. And when that happens, you know you are having a lot of fun. For me to be able to stay healthy and be a big part of this playoff push was a big part of it. The group of guys we have here is special.”

I asked Belanger to assess his performance. His answer was succinct: “As a player you don’t like to talk about yourself,” he said. “But I felt my game was where it needed to be in the last month or so, and hopefully I can continue doing what I did in the playoffs.”

Game 1 of the best-of-seven Western Conference quarterfinal series is Wednesday at Joe Louis Arena. Belanger said he thinks the Coyotes will fare well: “They’re a team that likes to play with the puck,” Belanger said. “They like to have control. Their defense is proactive. With our work ethic, I think we will match up pretty good with them. We know what we need to do to have success.”

He added, “I think we have a lot of depth. There is a lot of experience in here. We know goaltending makes the difference in the playoffs, and we have a great goalie. So, you never know what will happen. We played 82 games to be here. It’s a long, hard season, physically and mentally. Now there are 16 teams left and we’re one of them. We should be proud of what we did but it’s not the end of it. We want to be there for a long time.”

Adrian Aucoin filed a blog entry...

Someone asked me if I think our team is better equipped to play in the playoffs this year compared to last year. I’d like to think so. Obviously having a guy like Ray Whitney, who has won a Cup, always makes a big difference. And for some of our young guys, last year’s series was their first taste of the playoffs. Now they kind of know what it’s like and they know what to expect, and that’s a big thing because a lot of times people think that if you come and play hard everything will work out, but it’s a completely different beast.

We’re eager to play the Red Wings again. I think our guys are excited to have a chance to get a little bit of revenge, especially the way it ended last year for us in Game 7. There’s still a lot of bitterness in our room about that. That was a series we could’ve had. Obviously, they were the better team in that series, but we’re a different team now and with their experience I don’t think there’s much room for improvement, and we’ve had a lot of room for improvement.

Playing the first two games at Joe Louis Arena will be challenging but we can handle it because even when we play them at home there’s a lot of Red Wing fans there. Playoff atmosphere is unbelievable; it doesn’t really matter where you’re playing. Obviously, with the way their team has played in the past and with all of the Cups they’ve won there, their fans are quite knowledgeable about the game. But I don’t think that’s going to play into affect. We’ve been a team that’s always worried about ourselves more than anything else. I don’t expect that to change now.

And the Arizona Republic’s Jim Gintonio spoke to Keith Yandle before the Yotes flew to Detroit:

“We have more expectations for ourselves,” defenseman Keith Yandle said. “We want to do better. We just don’t want to get in and be happy with taking Detroit to Game 7. Losing, I think we still have a little of a bitter taste in our mouth. We want to do what we can to win this series and play hard.”

Going down the stretch with a playoff mentality should help; in the postseason, he said.

“Basically, the whole year we played like that,” he said. “It was tough, it was draining, but it’s a new season now, and we know every game counts ,  every game is do or die basically, so we have to be ready for this seven-game series.”

Also in the multimedia department:

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Both NHL.com’s Dan Rosen…


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And Red Wings forward Justin Abdelkader spoke to WBBL’s The Huge Show…


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Here’s WXYZ’s Tom Leyden’s video report from practice...

And, for the record, both the CP’s Bill Beacon and Chris Johnston are picking the Wings to prevail over Phoenix, as is the Sports Network’s Michael Rushton.

Filed in: | The Malik Report | Permalink
 

Comments

Mandingo's avatar

I really don’t understand the need to stick by this “day-to-day” thing with Zetterberg. Why not just say he’s probably out for the entire first round. Everyone knows he’s out at least that long anyway.

What’s the worst that’s going to happen? He comes back early?

Posted by Mandingo from The Garage on 04/12/11 at 04:08 PM ET

Avatar

Probably b/c he’s really out 4-6 weeks.  Dude has to ride a cart from his car.  He’s gone for a while, and Wings will likely be gone first.

Posted by jkm2011 on 04/12/11 at 04:34 PM ET

Crater's avatar

Probably b/c he’s really out 4-6 weeks.  Dude has to ride a cart from his car.  He’s gone for a while, and Wings will likely be gone first.

Posted by jkm2011 on 04/12/11 at 02:34 PM ET

He as bad as you say, and yet he was working out on a bike? I don’t think you’re anywhere near on base.

My prediction is he will come back game3 to give a boost on the road. He will be wearing a pretty restrictive knee brace i’m sure, but he will be back.

Posted by Crater from SoCal on 04/12/11 at 05:16 PM ET

CaptainDennisPolonich's avatar

He as bad as you say, and yet he was working out on a bike? I don’t think you’re anywhere near on base.
My prediction is he will come back game3 to give a boost on the road. He will be wearing a pretty restrictive knee brace i’m sure, but he will be back.
Posted by Crater from SoCal on 04/12/11 at 03:16 PM

No contradiction there. Riding a bike, particularly a stationary one, is not load bearing exercise. It is very conceivable that he could not support his own weight to walk on the bad leg, but could pedal a bike and benefit from it.

Posted by CaptainDennisPolonich from The Land of Fake Boobs and Real Nuts on 04/12/11 at 06:19 PM ET

Avatar

Yup, capt., when I had screws inserted into my broken ankle, the stationary bike and the swimming pool were the only places I felt normal.

Posted by jkm2011 on 04/12/11 at 07:05 PM ET

Jeff  OKWingnut's avatar

Franzen-Datsyuk-Holmstrom
Cleary-Abdelkader-Bertuzzi
Hudler-Filppula-Miller/Modano
Draper-Helm-Eaves

Gator centering the 2 line?  That line has lotsa grit.  smile

Posted by Jeff OKWingnut from Quest for 12 on 04/12/11 at 09:04 PM ET

Nate A's avatar

I’m kinda disappointed that Holland is supporting the advice to move Homer out from the crease. At least publicly. The rule should be called as written, not as the officials feel on that particular night. It took other teams harping at the officials to watch out for Homer to get the change as it is now. Harp back and get em to look out for goalie bumping and overreaction. It’s long past time for the BS to end.

And on that note, has anyone ever seen Ken Holland angry? Even slightly perturbed?

Posted by Nate A from Detroit-ish on 04/12/11 at 09:10 PM ET

The Hurricane's avatar

I’m kinda disappointed that Holland is supporting the advice to move Homer out from the crease. At least publicly. The rule should be called as written, not as the officials feel on that particular night. It took other teams harping at the officials to watch out for Homer to get the change as it is now. Harp back and get em to look out for goalie bumping and overreaction. It’s long past time for the BS to end.

And on that note, has anyone ever seen Ken Holland angry? Even slightly perturbed?

1,000 times AMEN!

Posted by The Hurricane on 04/12/11 at 10:00 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.