The Malik Report
by George Malik on 08/29/11 at 02:45 PM ET
Updated 9x with video and Conklin/Conner talk at 2:13 PM: According to DetroitRedWings.com’s Bill Roose, more than a few Red Wings took part in an informal skate this morning…
Players at #RedWings informal skate include Lidstrom, Holmstrom, Cleary, Miller, Conklin, Chris Conner, Janik, Eaves.
Also skating this morning with #RedWings are #Oilers forward Shawn Horcoff and former #NHL goalie Manny Legace.
Joining the #RedWings informal skate at City Arena are Jakub Kindl and Jan Mursak.
The sound of skates cutting the ice echoed through the City Sports Center on the lower East Side on Monday morning as some of the Red Wings returned early from the offseason to begin their 2011-12 campaign for the Stanley Cup.
Danny Cleary was the first Wing on the ice, at 10:03 a.m., for the first in a series of informal skates, with which the Wings unofficially launch a season. He was joined in short order by the captain, Nicklas Lidstrom, veteran Tomas Holmstrom, returning goaltender Ty Conklin, who will play behind Jimmy Howard this season, Patrick Eaves, Drew Miller and Jakub Kindl.
Shawn Horcoff, the captain of the Edmonton Oilers, who, like Miller, is a former Spartan, also attended.
The News’s story already includes three pictures from this morning’s skate, so I’m guessing that they’ll post a photo gallery shortly…
5 DETROIT RED WINGS
Why: Always in the discussion for the division title, the Red Wings caused a divide in the THN offices and ultimately ended up here. Kris Draper and Chris Osgood retired, but neither player plays a key role on the team anymore - it’s the loss of Brian Rafalski that will be felt the most. But the Wings have a knack for effective under-the-radar signings and defensemen Ian White and Mike Commodore fall into that category. The team is still led by the veterans who brought it a Cup four years ago: Pavel Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterberg, Johan Franzen and Nicklas Lidstrom. Despite year-in, year-out concerns over goaltending, Jimmy Howard has proven worthy of the gig, though improvement is still necessary. The Wings bring a deep collection of players who collectively can play any style of game and, by now, everybody knows what to expect from them. The question always asked of this team is if they are too old, so we’ll save everyone the trouble and just answer it now: No. No they are not.
So the Wings are apparently still quite good in the Hockey News’s staff’s eyes, but not good enough to win the Central Division or finish in the top half of the West, probably because several of their staffers chose to suggest that the Wings wouldn’t make the playoffs for the sake of stirring s*** up…
Update: Via RedWingsFeed, here’s a video of Lidstrom speaking to the press from the Windsor Star’s Dave Waddell:
Update #2: Yahoo Sports’ Dmitry Chesnokov clarifies why Pavel Datsyuk won’t play in the Ovechkin-Kovalchuk charity game in Moscow:
Pavel Datsyuk is another one who will miss the event — he is taking his daughter to school on Sept. 1.
Update #3: Here’s MLive’s Ansar Khan’s report from this morning’s skate:
“When it’s the end of August and you’re back on the ice skating, you know training camp is just around the corner and it’s almost time to get back to work,’’ Lidstrom said. “It’s nice to get the time off, nice to go on vacations, but we’re also looking forward to getting going again, start playing.’‘
It might be Lidstrom’s final season, but, as usual, he’s not looking that far ahead. Tomas Holmstrom, his longtime teammate, might be approaching his final season, too. Neither player has ever missed the playoffs – the Red Wings have made it to the postseason 20 years in a row – and both expect the team to be contending for the Stanley Cup again. The Red Wings have been eliminated in the second round by San Jose in each of the past two seasons.
“You got new additions and the young kids coming up. Everybody’s going to step it up a notch,’’ Holmstrom said. “Nick is playing his best hockey. For sure, I think we’re all excited. We’re not satisfied with what happened last year, we want to go all the way and win the Stanley Cup.’‘
Brian Rafalski, Kris Draper and Chris Osgood retired, while Mike Modano is likely to retire. Defenseman Ruslan Salei wasn’t re-signed and is playing in Russia. The Red Wings added defensemen Ian White and Mike Commodore and backup goaltender Ty Conklin through free agency. Young defenseman Brendan Smith and forward Cory Emmerton will compete for roster spots. Young forward Jan Mursak got a taste of NHL action last season, appearing in 17 games as a injury replacement. This year, the speedy right wing will be a regular in Detroit and competing for a spot in the lineup and ice time.
He is commuting daily from Saginaw, where his girlfriend resides.
“I’ve been skating at home (in Slovenia) for three weeks,’’ Mursak said. “I’m excited for training camp to start.’‘
Update #4: Waddell also spoke to Jan Mursak…
And Tomas Holmstrom:
The Homer interview is five minutes long!
Update #5: Here’s the Free Press’s Helene St. James’ report:
Training camp doesn’t even start for almost another three weeks—Sept. 17 in Traverse City—but a handful of Wings start skating as soon as enough guys are back in town. As Labor Day gets closer and school starts, more and more players will join in. For many, it’s a great way to help ward off injuries.
“I like to have a little more time to skate,” Holmstrom said. “It feels better when you get it an extra week of skating. Usually, it takes a longer time for groins and knees to really tune them up.”
Holmstrom, 38, and Lidstrom, 41, already have been working out together off the ice, which requires Holmstrom (according to him, anyway) to keep an eye on the captain.
“I have to try to get him going once in awhile—he looks a little bit tired, but it might be age,” Holmstrom said. “No, he’s in great shape. I think he works out harder now than he did a couple of years go by.”
Lidstrom took home his seventh Norris Trophy as the NHL’s top defenseman in June, the same week he signed a one-year contract. He gamely put up with a question about whether this would be his last season.
“I have the same approach as last season—just one season at a time,” he said. “I’m not looking too far ahead, I’m just looking forward to heading up to Traverse City in a few weeks and getting ready for training camp, and after that, getting ready for the season. When it’s the end of August, and you’re back on the ice skating, you know that training camp is just around the corner. It’s almost time to go back to work. It’s nice to get the time off, nice to get a vacation, but we’re also looking forward to getting going here again and getting playing.”
Update #6: Yahoo Sports revealed its top 100 fantasy hockey players’ list, and Pavel Datsyuk ranks 14th, Henrik Zetterberg 31st, Jimmy Howard 48th and Nicklas Lidstrom 60th…discuss…
Update #7: the Kelowna Capital News’s Warren Henderson spoke to former Kelowna Rockets forward Mitchell Callahan, who’s skating with his Major Junior hockey team at present, about his goals for the Wings’ prospect tournament and main camp…
While Callahan knows his chances of catching on with the Wings this season is likely next to non-existent, the club’s American Hockey League affiliate in Grand Rapids is a more realistic destination for the 5-foot-11 winger. And there is also a slight chance—perhaps 10 to 15 per cent according to Huska—that the Whittier, Calif. native would return to Kelowna as an overager. However the 2011-12 season unfolds, Callahan remains surprised at how quickly and unexpectedly success has come his way, and will be content with wherever he lands.
“Everything has kind of been overwhelming, how quickly it’s happened for me and my family, so I’m not putting too much pressure on myself,” said Callahan, a hard-nosed forward who was drafted by Detroit in the sixth round of the 2009 entry draft. “But it’s every kid’s dream to play pro. If I end in the A (AHL) then, I’m going to be really excited about that. If I don’t come back to Kelowna, then I’m going to miss it. It’s the Rockets who gave me a chance and helped me get where I am today.”
If Callahan doesn’t return, his final numbers in Rockets colours will read: 128 points and 440 penalty minutes in 204 games. But according to Huska, it was much more than numbers that Callahan brought to the organization.
“He’s been a great poster boy for us just in regards to a player just coming in as a walk-on,” said [Rockets coach Ryan] Huska. “He was a guy nobody knew when he first came, he played so hard and got everybody’s attention in that first training camp.
“He’s turned out to be a guy over the last three years here that I think has turned into a fan favourite. He’s pretty high on our list for our coaches because he works and competes every time he’s on the ice. He’s definitely going to be one of the guys we’re going to miss if he does end up playing in Detroit’s system.”
And the Canadian Press’s Chris Johnston had this to say about Brendan Smith, who’s in Toronto this week to attend the NHLPA’s “Rookie Showcase”:
Twenty-six promising prospects gathered Monday for the NHL Players’ Association’s rookie showcase, a two-day event that will see them pose for photos used on Panini and Upper Deck trading cards and autograph other merchandise that will be sold during their rookie season.
Edmonton’s Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and the five players selected behind him in the 2011 draft were all invited — travel complications kept Devils prospect Adam Larsson, taken at No. 4, from making it — along with others who might be ready to make the leap to the NHL this year.
They include two members of the 2007 draft class (Montreal’s Aaron Palushaj and Detroit’s Brendan Smith), one undrafted player (Maple Leafs goaltender Jussi Rynnas) and a number of blue-chip prospects.
5. Brendan Smith, D, Detroit: The biggest question is how much NHL action he’ll see this season with an organization famous for giving young players all kinds of time to develop. The 22-year-old defenceman had a respectable 32 points in 63 games with the AHL’s Grand Rapids Griffins last year and could help fill a void in Detroit following the retirement of Brian Rafalski. Smith is considered one of the organization’s top prospects.
Update #8: The Detroit News posted a video of the players skating:
Update #9: DetroitRedWings.com’s Bill Roose spoke to Ty Conklin about returning to the Wings:
“It’s good and it makes it a lot easier, knowing how to get to and from the rink. Knowing where the grocery store is. Knowing people and familiar faces, it makes it easier,” said Conklin, who compiled a 25-11-2 recorded with the Wings.
Conklin, who began his career in Edmonton in 2001, and has also played for Buffalo, Columbus, Pittsburgh and St. Louis, was joined at Monday’s skate by Wings teammates Nicklas Lidstrom, Tomas Holmstrom, Danny Cleary, Drew Miller, Patrick Eaves, Jakub Kindl, Jan Mursak, Chris Conner, and Doug Janik. Also participating in the informal skate were Edmonton Oilers captain Shawn Horcoff and former Wings goalie Manny Legace, as well as a pair of NHL prospects – Buffalo Sabres center Shawn Shawn Szydlowski (St. Clair Shores, MI) and Tampa Bay Lightning goalie Pat Nagle (Bloomfield, MI). But being back in familiar territory is a luxury, Conklin said.
“You generally make camaraderie wherever you play and the other goalie, or at least you try to,” he said. “Coming back to people and knowing what they expect, and what type of work ethic is expected. Hard work is expected wherever you go, but knowing the routine makes it nice.”
And he spoke to Danny Cleary about his status as a Bobblehead in waiting, as well as free agent forward Chris Conner, who’s a hometown boy:
Conner, who prepped at Livonia Churchill High School prior to leaving metro Detroit for the Chicago Freeze in the North American Hockey League, eventually finished last season with seven goals and nine assists in 60 games for the Penguins. Now, the 27-year-old forward hopes to make a similar impact for the Wings.
One of Conner’s highlights from last season came against the Wings when he scored on a penalty shot that helped Pittsburgh to a 4-1 home win.
“Obviously, you grew up a Wings’ fan, and it’s a great opportunity,” he said. “But that penalty shot was exciting, because people were watching back home in Detroit. It was fun.”
“I’m not looking at it as my hometown team,” Conner said. “It’s an organization that I want to help win hockey games and that’s what I want to do.”
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