The Malik Report
Red Wings trade deadline overnight report, Wings-Blue Jackets set-up and Emmerton’s departing friend
by George Malik on 02/28/12 at 08:03 AM ET
The Detroit Red Wings, who now sit in fourth place in the Western Conference and second in the Central Division thanks to a Blues win on Monday night, will tangle with the Columbus Blue Jackets this evening (7 PM EST, FSD Plus/FS Ohio/97.1 the Ticket) sans the services of Jonathan Ericsson (wrist), Pavel Datsyuk (knee) and Kyle Quincey (groin)...
And they’ll be battling a team in going through a very public divorce with the face of the franchise with only one reinforcement: Brendan Smith, who was called up on Monday to play alongside Jakub Kindl. Kindl will be fighting for his future with the Wings as they give Smith every opportunity to steal the #6 spot on defense a few months early, and that’s the case because the Wings’ only trade deadline move involved a thank-you to Mike Commodore for being a good soldier, shipping Commie out of town so that he can at least try to fight for a contract of his own and an NHL future while actually playing for Tampa Bay.
It’s easy to suggest that Ken Holland is the only person who chose not to add at the deadline, and it’s easy to assume that the Blue Jackets, who deem Detroit to be their biggest rival, would have charged Detroit the same price they did Vancouver for Sami Pahlsson (a pair of 4th round picks), but something that Holland told the Macomb Daily’s Chuck Pleiness had the three remaining hairs on the top of my head standing on end:
“You sit in that room, you work the phones, all your staff is there,” Holland said. “A name comes up, a phone call comes through, you look at everybody, here’s what it’s going to be, everybody’s nodding no, no, no, it doesn’t make any sense. You pick up the phone and say it doesn’t make any sense, so you make an offer and the other guy comes back and says ‘No, no, no, we don’t like what you’re offering.’ Well, that’s all we’ve really got to offer. It is what it is. We like our team, I like our depth. So we’ll see.”
Something that Nashville Predators GM David Poile had to say to the Canadian Press’s Chris Johnston after acquiring both the Wings’ main target, Paul Gaustad, and somebody absolutely no one wanted in Sergei Kostitsyn kept the hairs on my head on end, too:
“The Detroit Red Wings, we’ve been chasing since Day 1 and they’re still No. 1 in our division,” said Poile. “Vancouver was in the final last year; Chicago won a Cup two years ago and they made a good acquisition today; the St. Louis Blues are tracking as one of the top teams in the league this year; (and) the San Jose Sharks maybe have lost a few games lately but we’ve played them twice in the playoffs and they’ve beat us twice in the playoffs. I could go on and on. I don’t think there’s much to separate any of us.”
Ditto for these comments made to Fox Sports Detroit’s Art Regner...
“In order to get bigger, we’ve got to reduce the skill level,” Holland said. “I think that’s something that has to happen over time, over two to three years. You can’t sit here and think, in one day, you’re going to change your team from a skill team, that we’re going to eliminate skill and add size.”
The Wings are who they are, and that’s fine with Holland. He’s more than happy to take this current roster and let them play the year out. Depending on how they do will determine what direction the team will go during the offseason. Trade-deadline day use to be a free-for-all, a trade being announced every 30 seconds. Holland said that those days are long gone.
“It’s a draft-pick and prospect league,” Holland said. “What I mean by that is that a lot of your team has to be homegrown.”
Parity is also an issue. So many teams are still in the hunt for a playoff spot that there are many more buyers than sellers. Term and length of contracts also plays into the mix.
“We’re committed to a retool, a rebuild,” Holland said. “We like some of our kids. That was part of the Commadore trade today. We want Brendan Smith to play. (Gustav) Nyquist is a young player we like, and there are some others. We didn’t want to do anything foolish today and sacrifice a whole bunch of future pieces for a one-shot run.”
And these comments made to the Macomb Daily’s Chuck Pleiness aren’t bad, either:
“At the end of the day there just wasn’t a fit,” Wings general manager Ken Holland said. “We tried to make a couple of moves. There weren’t a lot of rentals. It has a lot to do with how many teams are in the hunt for a playoff spot.”
And it wasn’t a salary cap issue this season like it has been in the past for the Wings at the deadline, having just under $4.8 million to spend.
“We weren’t close at all (to making a deal),” Holland said. “Talked to a lot of teams, we made some offers, but … There wasn’t a fit, so we weren’t close on anything. There was three or four players we would have liked to have added but ultimately, we either didn’t offer enough or they didn’t like what we were offering. There weren’t a lot of trades.”
“I thought we did a real good thing, trading a first-round pick and got (Kyle) Quincey,” said Wings coach Mike Bacock, who Detroit acquired last week. “We really felt we needed depth at that position. We acquired the depth we needed. You can always hope for a whole bunch of players,” Babcock added. “The price of the other pieces was what we weren’t willing to pay or people weren’t willing to trade them to us.”
“To think that Mike Commodore can play 20 games in the NHL, this year he’s played 17, and then go into the Stanley Cup playoffs, is pretty hard,” Holland said.
“Smith was on the all-rookie team last year in the AHL, he’s got 10 goals, tremendous college career,” Holland said. “We’re very high on Smith, he’s young but when the playoffs start, we expect to have Jonathan Ericsson healthy, we think our seventh and eighth defensemen are going to be Jakub Kindl and Brendan Smith, also got two vets down there in Doug Janik and Garnet Exelby. When you start getting into your 10th and 11th and 12th defensemen, we’re as deep as anybody. Part of the puzzle of going for a long playoff run is health.”
As of the time I’m writing this, the trade deadline is long past and it’s the middle of the night, and I worked my ass off placing all the comments made by Holland, Babcock and anybody and everybody else in the wide world about the Wings’ moves or the lack thereof in one place, and as I don’t want to repeat seven hours’ of work or articles, I’ll direct you to said trade post and only offer a few repeats in the form of multimedia via the Wings’ website. Here are their interviews with Holland…
And here’s 97.1 the Ticket’s Mike Valenti and Terry Foster’s conversation with Holland, all eleven minutes of it:
Aside from noting that the Detroit News’s Gregg Krupa provided the commensurate amount of both self-salivation and Barry Melrose gushing about the Predators, I’ll allow the Detroit News’s Bob Wojnowski to offer a little “spirit of the thing”...
[T]this was the rare year they had room under the salary cap and motivation to deal. They certainly possess ample evidence of the need for depth, having been worn down, injured and ousted by the Sharks in the past two postseasons.
Again, if Datsyuk were out for an extended period, or Lidstrom was hurt badly, the Red Wings would’ve traded everything — including a Little Caesars franchise or two — to land an impact player. And if any of their top three or four players gets seriously hurt now, they’d be in trouble, just like any team. But Holland and coach Mike Babcock weren’t operating out of fear. This is their team, and except for defensive lapses lately, it’s a skilled group that could win it all, as is. Now it has no other option, as is.
“You’re always looking to see what’s out there,” Babcock said. “It’s like going shopping. You want to buy lots, but when the coat you want is $3,000, I’m too tight for that. So I keep wearing what I got.”
The Red Wings don’t mind wearing what they’ve had for a long time. Although they didn’t enjoy hearing “No” so many times from other teams, they still like their chances because they still love their skill. Is lack of size an issue? It can be during long playoff grinds, and heft is what the Red Wings sought. That’s why they picked up Quincey, and why there was a tinge of disappointment in Holland’s voice.
“Would we have liked to do something? Yes,” he said. “But there wasn’t a fit. Ultimately, we didn’t have the assets, or some of the players weren’t the type we were looking for.”
Their first-round pick already was gone. All their other picks will be late in rounds, making them less attractive. So now they’ll give youngster Brendan Smith a shot on defense, dealing veteran Mike Commodore to make room.
“Some teams are bigger than us, but they don’t have our skill,” Holland said. “I don’t know if there was a move that would’ve made us bigger. We’re sitting at second in the West, so we might as well continue to be who we are and see where it leads us.”
Or, as Niklas Kronwall put it while speaking to Wojnowski about the team’s 0-and-3 stretch of late…
“There’s really no excuse for having any breakdowns, it’s unacceptable,” defenseman Niklas Kronwall said of the recent rough stretch. “We just have to play with a lot more energy. We feel confident in what we have, and everything’s gonna come from within here.”
and the Free Press’s Helene St. James will
via a little reiteration and some very astute observations:
Wings coach Mike Babcock offered a savvy analogy for what went happened around the league: “It’s like going shopping. You want to buy lots, but when the coat you want is 3,000 bucks, I’m too tight for that. That’s just the way I am. Pretty tight. So, I’ll keep wearing what I got. You can always hope for a whole bunch more, but the price for other pieces wasn’t what we were willing to pay, or teams weren’t willing to trade them to us. That’s just the way life is.”
Were they close to a deal? “Not very close at all,” Holland said. “Talked to a lot of teams. We made some offers. There were three or four players we would have liked to have, but either we didn’t offer enough, or they didn’t like what we were offering.”
The Wings didn’t want to move any regulars. Prospects Smith and forward Gustav Nyquist were off limits. It came down to offering draft picks, and because the Wings finish so high every season, they pick low—meaning that if most teams offer a third-rounder for someone, the Wings would need to use their second-round pick to compete. Ultimately, they decided to stick with the players who had won a league-high 41 games—in the West’s toughest division.
“We like our team,” Holland said. “We’ve played at a high level. I’m not going to move a bunch of future pieces for one shot at a run. There either is a fit, or there isn’t a fit. There wasn’t a fit. Are we a big team? No. I can’t do that in one day. In order to get bigger, we’ve got to reduce the skill level, and I think that’s something that’s got to happen over time. You can’t sit at the deadline and in one day think you’re going to change your team from a skilled team and add size. We’re second in the West with what we are. We may as well continue to be who we are and see where it leads us.”
The Wings addressed what they saw as their biggest weakness by adding Quincey, which leaves, barring injuries, Smith and Jakub Kindl as the reserve defensemen in the playoffs. Up front, Cory Emmerton has shown nice growth since the season began. Jan Mursak will be the 13th guy once everyone is healthy. There’s also good stock in the minors: Nyquist is a very skilled, smart player who needs seasoning. Chris Conner is small, but hardnosed and gritty. Fabian Brunnstrom has size and skill, although he hasn’t shown himself as motivated as the team had hoped when he was signed last fall.
The last time the Wings added a defenseman this time of year, it was Brad Stuart—and three months later, they added the 2008 Stanley Cup. The belief inside the organization is that this team is, as it stands, capable of claiming another Cup. They have won far more than they have lost, and they rank in the top five in the league offensively and defensively.
“Overall, I think we should feel pretty good about the group we have,” Stuart said. “Sometimes you make a move and you don’t know how it’s going to affect your chemistry and all that. We have good chemistry in there, we’ve got good leaders. I think we’re ready to go for a run.”
So, after all of that, what do I think? I’m certainly not going to deny that I’m disappointed, first and foremost. I really would have liked to see the Wings make a move to add some size up front—I’ve been hoping that the Wings would at least add a Taylor Pyatt-sized big body to allow the Wings to better match up against the Ryane Clowes of the world since last May, and I still believe that the Wings are gonna have their hands full going up against the bigger Canucks, Sharks, Blackhawks, Predators, Blues…
Well, you name the potential first-round opponent, and they’ve got big fourth-line wingers who smash and crash and bang the way the Wings have Jan Mursak doing because they don’t have anyone bigger or stronger to compliment Justin Abdelkader, Drew Miller or Darren Helm’s presences. The Wings might have a “heavy” in waiting in Joakim Andersson, should the need arise, but any other potential pain-and-suffering replacements up front, like Tomas Tatar, Gustav Nyquist, Conner and Brunnstrom are more skill than size and grit.
That being said, with Joey MacDonald having proven himself at least ready to step in if Howard needs help, with Jonathan Ericsson’s injury illustrating how desperately we Wings fans didn’t realize the Wings needed them to go out and add Kyle Quincey and probably replace Commodore as a #6/7 guy who simply wasn’t going to play much with a player who wants to earn a spot on next year’s team in Brendan Smith and a player whose Red Wings career is all but over if he doesn’t out-skate Smith in Jakub Kindl, and given the honest truth that there was no way in hell that the Blue Jackets, who still insist that the Wings are their #1 rival, would send Pahlsson to Detroit for a pair of 4th-rounders, and that the price Nashville paid for Gaustad in a 1st and 4th rounder would have been a bit higher for Detroit…
And given the fact that, as Holland told Pleiness, this isn’t just about Ken Holland making moves by his lonesome, but instead, a team effort in which Jim Nill, Ryan Martin, the team’s pro scouts (including intangibles like Kris Draper, Kirk Maltby and Chris Chelios) and the coaching staff are all involved in the front office’s attempts to work the phones and talk to player agents, GM’s and other team officials trying to find the right “price” and “fit,” and given that Holland was hearing, “No, no, no” from both the people on the other end of the line of his phone conversations, and hearing, “No, no, no” when Nill, Martin and the rest of the people in Detroit’s “war room” when he attempted to make moves?
That tells me that the team’s management did its damnedest to reinforce the roster while balancing its desire to give the team the best possible opportunity to win this spring without sacrificing parts that will undermine Detroit’s belief that it can rebuild on the fly and continue to contend for nothing less than Stanley Cups for years to come. They did their due diligence. They kicked every tire, they turned over every rock, they did all they could to beg, borrow, plead and steal their way into adding warm bodies who could help the team here and now.
Their conclusions? Bring up Brendan Smith and see what he’s got, even if it’s only to finally figure out what the hell they’ve got in Jakub Kindl. Let Mike Commodore play somewhere else given that, according to both Commodore himself and Holland, there was no future for #22 in Detroit, and while they’re doing that, at least ensure that the Wings have seven chances to pick players at the draft.
And then wait and hope that Datsyuk will be back in a week and that the team’s current players can get the job done.
It’s not the preferred outcome, but I’m not going to be the Chief and suggest that on Monday, Ken Holland‘s inaction is the reason the Wings are doomed. I respect the Chief and he’s entitled to his opinion, but I’m allowed to disagree, and I do disagree with him.
I’m not happy, but I’m not unhappy, either. I didn’t expect that the Wings were going to be able to actually get anything done up front once they’d added Quincey, and I thought that the Wings were going to try, but between what Ken Holland and Mike Babcock were telling the press, what my gut said and what a little birdie told me over the weekend, I knew that nothing was going to happen barring some radical departure from what the evidence was telling me.
I’m a Wings fan, first and foremost—if I wasn’t, there’s no way in hell that I’d put in 12-to-16-hour days whenever I’m healthy enough to do so to try and do my own “damnedest” to cover this team—but as I do this for a living, I knew that I wasn’t going to work the inevitable 5-7 hours after the deadline to cover the Wings’ lack of activity, nor write this entry this morning, if I was heartbroken and distraught because, in Mike Babcock’s words, “That’s life,” and I would like to think that it’s my job to help you and me deal with what happens to our favorite team together.
All the signs suggested that nothing would happen, and nothing did. I believe that the Red Wings did their absolute best to better themselves, and yes, it sucks that they didn’t, but I still believe that, should health hold out, the Wings do have a lineup that can make a serious dent into playing hockey in May and June. It’s not the ideal lineup, and it’s got some holes, but if it came to adding Gaustad versus adding Quincey?
I’d go with the Wings’ point of view and add Quincey instead of Gaustad, because going forward, regardless of what Nicklas Lidstrom and Brad Stuart decide to do, and regardless of who the Wings try to add this summer, with Jakub Kindl bombing and Brian Lashoff a few years out, the Wings were gonna need to add another Bob Rouse-style defenseman sooner than later, and those are the hardest defensemen to find.
Otherwise, I’m gonna hope and pray and buy hockey cards after every Wings loss to appease the hockey gods like the rest of you, and I’m gonna refrain from pulling the Red Wings magnet off of the back of my Pacifica (which has been a surprisingly reliable, faithful and effective companion).
And I’m gonna wait for July, because every indication since last July has suggested that the Red Wings will add a top-six forward and/or a top-four defenseman in the summer of 2012. I can only hope that they’re coming to a town that’s held a recent parade.
Part II: Onto tonight’s Red Wings-Blue Jackets match-up: This is where I’m going to admittedly “cheat” a little bit so that I’m asleep by the time the sun rises. The Blue Jackets’ newspaper coverage, the Columbus Dispatch, is one of those rare newspapers that still refuses to update its website’s content in terms of in-print articles until their papers hit newsstands at 5 or 6 AM, and there have been times that I’ve had to stay up until 7 or 8 AM to get the final quips and quotes from the Dispatch’s writers regarding the previous night’s game.
The Wings flew Red Bird II to Columbus on Monday night, and if you want to toss in a “comparable” in terms of trade deadline outlooks, if the Red Wings’ deadline outlook is merely partly cloudy, the Blue Jackets…
Are somewhere between the Toxic Avenger and a nuclear explosion. The last-place team in the Western Conference and the NHL’s worst team traded the aforementioned Samuel Pahlsson to Vancouver, they let Grant Clitsome be claimed off waivers by the Winnipeg Jets today, after previously having sent Antoine Vermette to Phoenix and Jeff Carter to Los Angeles in exchange for Jack Johnson.
Then Blue Jackets GM Scott Howson—who might be out of Columbus himself by the time Ohio hosts the NHL’s All-Star Game next year—dropped a bunker-buster on a disjointed and probably uncomfortable-to-play-in locker room by telling the entire world that captain Rick Nash approached the team and asked for a trade, but that the team was unable to deal him by the deadline. These comments come via ColumbusBlueJackets.com’s Rob Mixer (the previous sentence’s hyperlink sends you to Mixer’s article):
“He approached us and asked us to consider trading him,” Howson said. “We agreed to accommodate his request as long as we could get a deal that would provide us with cornerstone pieces that would help us compete for a Stanley Cup championship in the coming year. It did not happen by 3 o’clock today. This is too important to our franchise and our fans to do a deal that was not in our best interest. We pursued a number of options, but none provided the value back that we could justify trading a player of Rick’s caliber. As we’ve said before, we will continue to keep all of our options open to improving our hockey club in the coming months. We’re excited about what lies ahead.”
Craig Patrick, the club’s senior advisor to hockey operations, has 23 years of experience as a coach and general manager in the NHL. He has led several re-shaping efforts in both New York and Pittsburgh, and said that building teams is based on acquiring quality assets. They would not fluctuate on their asking price and that was consistent from the start.
“With this being my 24th trade deadline, I think I was the voice of reason,” Patrick said. “We were pretty certain we were going to get what we wanted, or else we weren’t going to trade him. And we stuck to that through the whole thing.”
At the root of the discussions was one thing: acquiring significant pieces in return that would become the foundation for the franchise not just now, but years into the future. The reshaping of the hockey club is an ongoing effort, and one that is only getting started.
“We had significant discussions today but it didn’t happen,” Howson said. “We think we have a lot to offer here in Columbus. The first thing we have to do is have a winning culture to attract free agents. The price was high (for Nash) and I don’t apologize for that. It had to be high.”
Here was Howson’s rationale for going public, per the Columbus Dispatch’s Shawn Mitchell:
Howson declined to address why Nash requested a trade.
“You’ll have to talk to him,” Howson said.
Nash’s agent, Joe Resnick, did not return messages this afternoon. Nash declined to speak with reporters today. He is expected to be made available after practice on Tuesday.
Howson said the team’s relationship with Nash remains cordial despite a situation that has become very messy and will likely get messier in the coming weeks and months. He said he spoke to Nash after the 3 p.m. deadline today.
“I explained our position,” Howson said. “You all know him. He’s a great person. He understands. The price was high and I don’t apologize for that. It had to be high.”
Nash has so far refused to discuss a potential trade, dismissing mentions of him leaving the Blue Jackets as “rumors” and “speculation.” Howson said revealing that Nash had asked the team to consider trading him was in the best interest of the Blue Jackets.
“I just think it was the right thing to do, the truthful thing to do,” Howson said. “We wanted to make sure that everybody understood where everybody was on this issue because it’s a very important issue for our franchise. I think things will continue to be amicable between Rick and the organization.”
“We’re going to do what’s best for our team. I have no questions about Rick’s character, the quality of person he is and the commitment he’ll give us over the next six weeks.”
The Blue Jackets haven’t actually played that badly in February. They’ve gone 5-6-and-1, which is downright solid by Columbus standards, and while they’re coming into tonight’s game mired in a 2-game losing streak, with their most recent loss coming in the form of a 4-2 decision to Pittsburgh on Sunday, but Nash opened the scoring with a shorthanded goal, and the Blue Jackets told the AP that they were not dissatisfied with their game:
Vinny Prospal also scored for the Blue Jackets but Columbus crumbled in the third period. Curtis Sanford stopped 36 shots but let three slip past him during a 10-minute stretch in the third period.
“I thought we played a pretty good game,” Sanford said.
Just not good enough to stop a team that’s starting to round into playoff form. Malkin took firm control of the scoring race on Saturday when he torched Tampa Bay’s Dwayne Roloson for his ninth career hat trick, the second tally coming on a ridiculous end-to-end rush in which he weaved his way through four Lightning players then tucked the puck past Roloson and let the goalie know about it. The All-Star forward moved his point total to 78 on the season Sunday, though his fourth goal in two days wasn’t nearly as pretty, but just as effective. His power play goal from the doorstep with 47 seconds left in the second period tied the game at 1 and gave Pittsburgh some momentum heading into the third.
The Penguins dominated from there, even with two goals getting waved off. Chris Kunitz appeared to put the Penguins up 2-1 early in the third period but the referees ruled Kunitz kicked the puck into the net. No biggie. Dupuis left no doubt just over a minute later, circling behind the net then beating Sanford from a tough angle from about 20 feet, thanks in part to a screen by Jordan Staal.
The Penguins appeared to make it 3-1 four seconds into a power play a couple minutes later but referees again waved it off after Kunitz briefly tangled with Sanford before Letang’s slapshot from the point hit the back of the net.
The Blue Jackets also spoke to the Columbus Dispatch’s Aaron Portzline about their performances on Sunday night…
Nash and Vinny Prospal scored for the Blue Jackets yesterday, and Sanford — playing in his first game since Feb. 9 because of a back injury — stopped 36 of 40 shots.
The final score was deceiving. It would have been 6-2 if not for a couple of dicey calls by NHL officials that waived off Penguins goals in the third period. It could have been 10-2 if not for Sanford, who was particularly sharp early.
“You can see why they’re one of the best teams in the league,” Sanford said. “They’re always on the attack, always pressuring you when you have the puck and always pushing it up the ice when they have it. Both times they had goals taken away, they responded pretty quickly. That’s how it goes when you’re playing well and you have confidence. You keep going because you’re sure something good is going to happen.”
On the other end of the ice, the Blue Jackets generated very little pressure on Pittsburgh goaltender Brad Thiessen, who made 22 saves in his NHL debut.
And it sounds like Sanford may very well start tonight based on Blue Jackets coach Todd Richards’ comments to the Dispatch’s Shawn Mitchell…
Sanford made his first start since Feb. 9 because of troublesome back problems. There was no questioning his readiness after a seven-game layoff. The Penguins, coming off an 8-1 thrashing of the Tampa Bay Lightning on Saturday, fired 15 shots at Sanford in the first period. He stopped them all, then saved 10 of 11 in the second.
“That’s the way he has been for most of his starts,” interim coach Todd Richards said. “He has given us a chance. It was a 1-1 game going into the third. Some of the saves in the first, to keep it scoreless, allowed us to get in the game, allowed us to get our legs.”
The Blue Jackets took a 1-0 lead on a short-handed goal by Rick Nash at 9:49 of the second.
“A lot of that was Curtis’ doing,” Richards said.
Sanford (10-14-4) made 36 saves. He has a 2.57 goals-against average and .914 save percentage, more than respectable considering the defensive deficiencies in front of him.”
And the Columbus Blue Jackets’ website’s “Weekly Report” offers the follwoing notes of note:
BLUE JACKETS AT A GLANCE: Record: 18-37-7, 43 pts. (11-17-3, 25 pts. at home, 7-20-4, 18 pts. on the road)… Standings: 5th/Central Division… 15th/Western Conference… Leading Scorers: RW Rick Nash (21-22-43, 62 GP)… LW Vinny Prospal (11-28-39, 62 GP)… Goaltenders: Curtis Sanford (10-14-4, 2.57 GAA, .914 SV%, 1 SO in 30 GP)… Steve Mason (8-22-3, 3.49 GAA, .886 SV%, 0 SO in 34 GP).
OPPONENTS AT A GLANCE: DETROIT RED WINGS – Head Coach: Mike Babcock… Record: 41-19-3, 85 pts… Standings: 1st/Central Division… 2nd/Western Conference… Wings have gone 0-2-1 since a six-game winning streak… Leading Scorer: C Pavel Datsyuk (16-43-59, 59 GP)… Leading Goaltender: Jimmy Howard (32-13-2, 2.09 GAA, .923 SV%, 5 SO in 47 GP)… All-Time Series: Jackets are 18-37-11 including 11-15-7 at home… Columbus has gone 10-15-4 vs. the Wings over the past four-plus seasons compared to 8-22-6 from 2000-07… Jackets went 2-3-1 in 2010-11… This Season: Fourth of six meetings… Red Wings won 5-2 at Joe Louis Arena on Oct. 21 and 3-2 SO at home on Jan. 21, while the Jackets won 4-1 at home on Oct. 25… Next game is Mar. 26 at Detroit.
OhioHEALTH INJURY REPORT: D Radek Martinek (post-concussion symptoms, Oct. 22 at Detroit) will miss the rest of the 2011-12 season… D Marc Methot (broken jaw, Feb. 9 vs. Dallas) is out indefinitely… LW Kristian Huselius (lower body, Dec. 6 at Montreal) is week-to-week… LW Jared Boll (foot, Feb. 9 vs. Dallas) is week-to-week.
TEAM NOTES: The Blue Jackets have gone 5-5-1 in their last 11 games… The Blue Jackets have converted 12-of-45 on the power play (26.7 pct.) in their last 11 games, scoring at least one goal in eight of those games… Columbus had earned points in three-straight road games prior to a 4-2 loss at Pittsburgh on Feb. 26.
NASH HAS GOALS IN THREE OF LAST FOUR, INCLUDING FIRST SHORTHANDED TALLY SINCE 2009: LW Rick Nash scored a shorthanded goal this past Sunday at Pittsburgh. It was his first shorthanded goal since scoring shorthanded goals in back-to-back games Oct. 17-20, 2009, a span of 205 games. He has goals in three of the last four games after being held to one goal the previous 10 games. He also has points in eight of the last 11 games (4-6-10), while collecting 8-8-16 the last 23 games and 17-14-31 the last 44 games. He leads the team in shots with 236, ranking third in the NHL.
PLAYER NOTES: LW Vinny Prospal snapped a seven-game goalless skid with his 11th of the season Sunday at Pittsburgh. He has points in seven of the last 12 games, recording 2-7-9 during that stretch after being held pointless the previous nine games. He leads the club in assists, ranks second in points and is third (tied) in goals… D Nikita Nikitin picked up an assist Sunday at Pittsburgh, his 18th of the season. He has set career highs in goals (2), assists, points (20) and games played (41-tied), bettering his marks of 1-8-9 set in 41 games last season. He has points in six of the last eight games, with 1-5-6 during that stretch after being held to 0-1-1 the previous seven games… RW Cam Atkinson recorded an assist Sunday at Pittsburgh. It was the first assist of his career, coming in his seventh career NHL game… D Jack Johnson made his Blue Jackets debut Sunday against the Penguins and had three blocked shots in 22:33 of ice time.
NHL.com’s Eric Goodman provides our fulcrum between the Blue Jackets’ and Red Wings’ perspectives via his game preview…
Season series: The Red Wings hold the 2-1-0 advantage over the Blue Jackets as the teams face off for the fourth of six regular-season meetings. Columbus did take the one home game played against Detroit this season.
Big Story: The Blue Jackets did not trade coveted superstar forward Rick Nash by Monday’s official 3 pm ET deadline. This means that the high-impact right wing will complete his ninth season with Columbus. Although Nash has struggled to match his offensive output from previous seasons, he still leads all Jackets players with 43 points (21g, 22a) this season. Nash has also played well against Detroit throughout his career with 43 points (23g, 20a) in 52 games.
Blue Jackets [team scope]: Last-place Columbus has been relegated to playing the role of spoiler and, with three games left against the Central Division-leading Red Wings, it can still make an impact down the stretch. The Jackets will try to end a two-game losing streak Tuesday after being outscored by a total of 9-2 in their most recent losses to Pittsburgh and Colorado last week.
Yeah, we’re gonna bold that. Tonight’s game matters because the Wings have 3 left against Columbus, and you know and I know that they want to screw Detroit over as thoroughly as they possibly can, even if it’s only as a tema that “spoils” Detroit’s chances of having home-ice advantage throughout the playoffs.
Who’s Hot: For Columbus, Nash has four points (3g, 1a) over his last three games played. … Filppula has 2 goals and 2 assists over his last four games for the Wings.
Injury Report: The Jackets will be without forwards Jared Boll (foot) and Kristian Huselius (groin). Defensemen Marc Methot and Radek Martinek are gone for the season. … For the Wings, forward Pavel Datsyuk is recovering from knee surgery, while forward Patrick Eaves remains out indefinitely with a concussion.
Stat Pack: It might not be so bad if Detroit falls behind early to Columbus on Tuesday as the Wings have won 50 percent of their games when trailing after one period, while the Jackets have just a .444 winning percentage when scoring the first goal of the game.
And the Associated Press‘s preview adds a slightly different spin…
the Blue Jackets will face a Red Wings team that’s 0-2-1 since winning six straight, its longest skid since a season-high six consecutive defeats Oct. 22-Nov. 3. Detroit has also dropped three straight on the road and is 15-16-1 there this season - compared with a 26-3-2 record at home.
After winning an NHL-record 23 consecutive home games, the Red Wings dropped its second in a row there Saturday, 4-3 to Colorado. After giving up the game’s first three goals, they attempted to rally in the third period but couldn’t get the equalizer following Valtteri Filppula’s score with 5:07 remaining. Jiri Hudler had the other two goals and an assist, and Henrik Zetterberg assisted on all three goals. However, they couldn’t help the Red Wings earn at least one valuable point.
St. Louis took advantage to tie Detroit atop the Central with a 3-1 win in Calgary on Monday, but the Blues are idle until Wednesday.
“It’s unacceptable to play like that, to be as poor as we were,” coach Mike Babcock said. “We had a rally in the third period, but for two games - and probably for three - we haven’t had much energy.”
The Red Wings will try to find that energy in their fourth consecutive game without leading scorer Pavel Datsyuk, who is expected to miss at least another week while recovering from knee surgery. They’ll also won’t have defenseman Jonathan Ericsson for a month after he broke his wrist during Saturday’s loss.
Datsyuk had one goal in three games against Columbus this season, while Filppula has a team-best five points and 11 in his last nine matchups (five goals, six assists). Filppula will try to add to that total, and Jimmy Howard might get the chance to continue his success against the Blue Jackets. The All-Star netminder is 9-1-1 with a 1.68 goals-against average lifetime against Columbus and has won both matchups this season. Howard’s nine wins are tied for his most against any opponent in his career.
In an entry of many bolded words, we will start the Wings’ section of the game preview with this: the Wings need to stop playing the Avs because the Avs keep hurting the Wings. Detroit lost Jonathan Ericsson to a broken wrist on Saturday, and as we learned on Monday afternoon (clicky for the Monday practice post), the Wings also lost Kyle Quincey for tonight’s game (thank goodness there are only two games this week!) as he played through a groin injury sustained during the course of the game, and Nicklas Lidstrom at least made the trip to Columbus despite the fact that he’s nursing a sore ankle thanks to a fluke play, as noted by the Detroit News’s Ted Kulfan:
“The puck kind of skipped and it hit me right in the ankle,” said Lidstrom, who had X-rays after the game and again Monday that revealed no breaks. “It got real sore after the game. It was very swollen (Sunday). It got better but not good enough to skate.”
Quincey, who may have tweaked his groin during the first period of the same game, didn’t practice Monday.
“We just decided to play it safe,” Quincey said. “It’s very frustrating. I want to get back in the swing of things.”
With Jonathan Ericsson (wrist) out, the Red Wings defense is a bit shorthanded. Jakub Kindl will replace Ericsson (wrist) and Smith takes over for Quincey. If Lidstrom is unable to play, coach Mike Babcock said the Red Wings would promote Doug Janik from Grand Rapids.
Also of note from Kulfan from Monday:
Forward Johan Franzen practiced on the third line Monday, but it’s unknown if he’ll stay there for tonight’s game.
… Internet rumors had Brad Stuart being traded to the Rangers, which were false.
“Somebody sitting by a computer making up stories and playing general manager,” Holland said. “On one hand it’s amusing. But on the other hand, it’s real people and absolutely no truth.”
The Wings will readily admit that they’re excited to see what Brendan Smith can bring to the table, and as he plays alongside Jakub Kindl, it sounds like—as Ken Holland told the press on Monday—that the Wings have decided to give Smith a chance to steal Jakub Kindl’s job, and, as Mike Babcock told MLive’s Ansar Khan, the Wings were going to bring up Smith and play him ahead of Commodore because the coaching staff was that high on conducting an audition for the #6 defenseman’s spot on the 2012-2013 Red Wings roster for the sake of #4 and #2 determining who’s #1:
“He came on the West Coast with us, he was good enough to play on the team at that point,’’ coach Mike Babcock said. “We felt the minutes in the minors were important. We felt he’d be on the team by the end. We think he’s an NHL player. He could’ve probably played all year, probably could’ve played last year. What this gives us is an opportunity to give him some nurturing. Actually, if the truth be told, the coaching staff wanted him, the general manager wanted to make sure he got some seasoning.’‘
Defenseman Niklas Kronwall called the puck-rushing, puck-moving Smith a “big talent.’‘
“He’s great coming out of his own zone,’’ Kronwall said. “He’s got tremendous speed and is good defensively. It worked well the few games we played together. Hopefully we can keep building on that. He’s got a lot of confidence and tremendous upside. He’s good on the power play, he sees the ice well.’‘
Smith, 23, has 10 goals, 22 assists, a plus-7 rating and 74 penalty minutes in 47 games for the Griffins.
“When he was up last time I thought that he skated real well,’’ Detroit captain Nicklas Lidstrom said. “He brought the puck up the ice and it’s just a matter of getting a chance to play more to get used to the tempo of the game up here.”
But regardless of who plays tonight and who doesn’t, the coach told the Free Press’s Helene St. James that they still grasp the task at hand:
“We haven’t won in, it seems like forever,” Babcock said. “We’ve got to get playing with more energy. You can’t outscore your defensive mistakes. That’s the bottom line for us.”
Lidstrom limped into Joe Louis Arena on Monday, the result of being hit by a puck in the second period Saturday night. Lidstrom said “it was very swollen” Sunday, but it had gotten better Monday, although not enough to attempt to skate. Two sets of X-rays—after Saturday’s game and Monday morning—were negative.
“Just have to hope the swelling goes down so I can put my skate on,” he said. “That’s been the problem—putting my skate on and tying my skate.”
Lidstrom has missed one game this season—a 7-2 loss at Montreal on Jan. 25—when he had flu. “It happens,” he said, laughing.
Quincey said his problem partly stemmed from “playing with a broken skate blade on my left skate, so I was almost skating on one leg. That didn’t help the groin. But it was in the first period it happened, and then it just gradually got worse from there. It’s just frustrating.”
While Quincey heals, Kindl stands to rebuild confidence after being pushed aside with last week’s acquisition of Quincey. “It’s my opportunity to step up, and I just have to do a good job out there,” Kindl said. Ditto for Smith. The Wings think highly of their 23-year-old first-round pick from 2007, who played three November games in Detroit.
“He was good enough to play on the team at that point,” Babcock said. “We felt the minutes in the minors were important. We talked about all along he’d be on our team by the end. We think he’s an NHL player. Probably could have played all year. Probably could have played last year. But this gives us an opportunity to give him the nurturing.”
So tonight, we’ll start to find out whether he’s ready.
Part III: Also of Red Wings-related note: This is pretty important, in the charitable category: as noted by the Grand Rapids Press’s Peter J. Wallner, the Grand Rapids Griffins will play in a charity game of “sled” or “sledge” hockey, depending on where you’re from, this evening at the Griffins’ practice facility:
This isn’t about a regular-season game. Instead, this is about a sled hockey game that involves members of the Griffins and the Grand Rapids Sled Wings. The game, played 7 p.m. Tuesday at Griff’s IceHouse at Belknap Park, will feature members of the Griffins mixing with players on the Sled Wings for the seventh annual game.
The Griffins’ Garnet Exelby and the Sled Wings’ Tyler Anderson will serve as captains.
Festivities begin at 6 p.m., when fans can try out a sled on the ice (minimum $1 donation) and get autographs from their favorite Griffins players.
Tickets can be purchased at the door for $5, while children 2 and younger are free. All proceeds from the evening will benefit the Sled Wings program and the Griffins Youth Foundation.
You can read Wallner’s story about Sled Wings player Susie Kluting if you wish.
• This is pretty important because some of you are very creative: Icethetics.info is posting galleries of potential Winter Classic jerseys for the Wings and Maple Leafs. I absolutely adore Nick Burton’s suggestion that the Wings essentially invert the colors on the Detroit Falcons jersey you’ll be most familiar with as the one they wore during the 1991-1992 season. I’d buy that jersey in a heartbeat;
• This is pretty awkward: the Toronto Sun’s reporting that Todd Bertuzzi’s lawyer, Marc Crawford’s lawyer and the Canucks’ owners have to reveal the details of the, “We promise to stop suing each other” agreement, which included an agreement between the Canucks and Berutzzi’s attorney that they would pay part of whatever Bertuzzi ends up owning Steve Moore when Moore’s civil suit goes to court next fall;
• This isn’t really important, but I know most of you are more into this kind of thing than I am: the Hockey News’s Adam Proteau offered the week’s first slate of power rankings, suggesting the following:
3. Detroit Red Wings [last week] 1 [record] 41-19-3 [last ten] 6-3-1: Wings’ current three-game losing streak was bound to happen, but don’t worry, they’ll be back looking like a juggernaut in no time
• If you’ve got 28 minutes to burn, ESPN’s NHL trade deadline review video includes a rotating slate of experts and Barry Melrose, Craig Custance and Pierre LeBrun suggesting that the Red Wings are at least the 2nd-best team in the West behind Vancouver (thanks to Bugsy for the heads-up);
• The only thing I could figure out about the tones of voice spoken by the two people mentioned in this quip from the Detroit News’s Ted Kulfan is that Stuart, according to Fox 2’s Jennifer Hammond, was deadpanning and downright funny when the issue popped up:
One internet rumor Monday morning had Brad Stuart suddenly being traded to the New York Rangers for draft picks. Out of the blue, just like that. A top-four Wings defenseman who wasn’t being shopped at all by the team. And that’s the thing. There was no basis of truth to it. Families possibly being uprooted, but no basis of truth to the entire matter. Just someone out there on a computer making up trades on a slow news day.
“Somebody sitting by a computer making up stories and playing general manager,” said Wings GM Ken Holland, who added he hasn’t had a conversation with Rangers GM Glen Sather in about three weeks – and it didn’t involve Brad Stuart. In this internet driven world today, Holland understood what happened in this particular instance but wasn’t totally amused by it.
“On one hand it’s amusing,” said Holland, who noted the many lives impacted in a trade. “But on the other hand, it’s real people and absolutely no truth. If you’re Brad and you’re sitting there (watching television), it’s a ludicrous rumor with no truth to it, he does have a family. But these players understand it’s a different world.”
Stuart wasn’t aware of the alleged trade rumor. The Wings were practicing at the time.
“I’m going to check my phone,” said Stuart, who hadn’t seen how many text or phone message he had received. “That’s kind of funny.”
In all honesty, I kind of feel bad for Steve Staios…prior to the Kassian-Hodgson trade going down, there was a report that Staios, who’s playing out the string on Long Island, was headed to a playoff contender…and then he wasn’t.
Part V: Mike Commodore became well-known for his Twitter posts in which he harrassed and needled Red Wings forward Cory Emmerton, and as this trade deadline talk is serious as all hell as far as players, coaches, GM’s and fans like you and me are concerned, MLive’s Ansar Khan thankfully takes us out on a lighter note regarding Emmerton saying farewell to a friend:
As Mike Commodore was scrambling to gather his belongings after being traded to the Tampa Bay Lightning Monday, he had one final message for Cory Emmerton.
“He told me not to cry,’’ Emmerton said.
The veteran Commodore and rookie Emmerton formed an unlikely bond during their five months as teammates.
“It’s not like we hung out every day, but he was awesome,’’ Emmerton said. “He’d take me out to dinner. I don’t think he made me pay for any dinner on the road. He’s a great guy like that. He treated everyone well. It’s sad to see a great guy like that leave.’‘
But, Emmerton also was happy for the man who took many good-natured barbs at him on Twitter.
“It’s good for him. He’s going to a nice place in Tampa,’’ Emmerton said. “Hopefully he’ll get a nice chance to play. He’s such a good guy and a good guy in the locker room. I really enjoyed having him around.’‘
Despair not, per Emmerton himself...
And Emmerton’s new best friend:
@commie22 I’m going to miss ya big guy. Always miss your antics on the plane for the minimal call ups I had
Finally, expect a low-key day here on KK and a lower profile for me. The last 48 hours, really since prior to my pal Steve’s wedding, have been incredibly busy, so today’s a game day, but I’m also going to try to work a little less hard and try to enjoy the two off-days on Wednesday and Thursday.
That being said, I will still try to find tidbits like this one about Lidstrom’s ankle, per the Windsor Star’s “Hockey on the Wire” segment, which I haven’t found anywhere else:
Wings captain Nicklas Lidstrom has a bruised ankle and is questionable for tonight’s game in Columbus (7 p.m., FSN Plus).
“I did X-rays after the game and (Monday) morning again just to make sure there’s no break in there,” Lidstrom said. “I hope the swelling goes down, so I can put my skate on.”
So now you know that the moment we really could exhale was around noon on Monday, when Lidstrom found out for sure that his ankle wasn’t broken.
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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.