The Malik Report
by George Malik on 02/28/11 at 07:58 AM ET
As MLive’s Ansar Khan noted on Sunday morning, Red Wings GM Ken Holland feels no particular pressure to make a move at the trade deadline as the Wings and Chris Osgood are getting healthy, so before we talk about tonight’s game against the Los Angeles Kings (10:30 PM EST, FSD/FS West/WXYT/NHL Network [sorry, Center Ice and GameCenter Online subscribers who don’t have the NHL Network, the game will be blacked out!]), let’s get one thing straight—Holland doesn’t plan on making a move, at least at the NHL level (he could bolster the Griffins’ roster), and he confirmed as much to the Detroit News’s Ted Kulfan...
“I don’t see us doing anything,” general manager Ken Holland said.
The one position Holland has been monitoring is goaltending because of Chris Osgood’s sports hernia surgery. With only the inexperienced Joey MacDonald behind Jimmy Howard, Holland has been concerned about Osgood getting healthy in time for the playoffs. But Osgood has been on the ice practicing for the last week. He expects to accelerate his workouts this week, and is aiming to be in the lineup when the Wings return home to play Los Angeles March 9.
“He said he’s coming along well,” Holland said.
With Osgood getting healthy, and an inability to add salary without taking some salary off, Holland is content to head into the playoffs with his present roster.
“We like our team,” Holland said. “We’re getting players back (from injuries). We’re hoping our best hockey is ahead of us.”
As well as the Free Press’s Helene St. James:
“I’ve talked to a few managers, but nothing really is going on,” Holland said. “We made a conscious decision last summer to go to the cap to put ourselves in the situation we’re in, where we’ve had more depth over 82 games, versus keeping cap space and using it at the deadline. We’ve had significant injuries and continued to stay afloat thanks to the depth we’ve had. We don’t have any cap room. If we move somebody in, somebody has to move out. We can’t be in the market for a ($3-million), ($4-million), $5-million player. We’re looking to see if there’s an upgrade for the back half of the roster. But if we do nothing, I’m comfortable.”
The Wings want to lower their goals-against average of 2.86 and improve on their 81.9% penalty kill—but both of those areas suffered while Pavel Datsyuk, Brad Stuart and Danny Cleary were out most of January and Stuart half of February, too. The Wings haven’t made a move at the deadline two years running. The salary cap ended the days of free spending and has led to a tight league. Before Sunday’s games, seven points separated the third-place Sharks (78) from the eighth-place Flames (71) in the West—and the Predators and Blackhawks had 70 points and the Ducks 69.
As he headed out from practice, [Red Wings coach Mike] Babcock noted that “all our pro scouts are here and a lot of our amateur people are here. I don’t know if that’s for a nice meal, or what that is.”
Babcock’s other observation holds the answer: There hasn’t been much chatter between himself and Holland the past few days.
“We’ve always talked lots in the past,” Babcock said. “This year, we haven’t hardly talked about it at all. I assume that means we’re not doing anything. I think we’ve got a good team—we’ve got to play like a good team. The team that competes the hardest and has the most will, gets good specialty teams and good goaltending, is going to win. We think we’re there.”
There’s no doubt in my mind that Holland has kicked every tire and inquired as to the asking price for every available player as that’s simply what he’s supposed to do and is his job description as a GM—to engage in due diligence whenever there is an opportunity to improve his team—but the Bogosians of the world don’t make sense to add unless Holland’s willing to mess with the team’s future, and he’s very, very hesitant to do so.
St. James says that the Wings did in fact practice on Sunday, and as Johan Franzen’s home to witness the birth of his first child, she reports that the Wings will promote Valtteri Filppula to the Zetterberg-Bertuzzi line and insert Justin Abdelkader as the Mike Modano-Tomas Holmstrom line’s winger.
I’m assuming that Brian Rafalski will be ready to go, and as such, the Wings will swap out Jakub Kindl and go back to their usual defensive pairings—Lidstrom-Stuart, Ericsson-Rafalski and Kronwall-Salei.
As for the Wings’ opponent tonight, the Los Angeles Kings sit in fifth place in the Western Conference with 74 points, eight points behind the Wings’ 82.
They’re both coming off a 4-3 victory over the Colorado Avalanche on Saturday and have won three straight games—and have gone 8-1-and-3 in February and 11-1-and-3 since January 22nd—so the Wings are tangling with one of the hottest teams in the Western Conference tonight.
The Kings’ stats in general of late have been pretty darn impressive, as the Kings’
# The Kings are now 11-1-3 in their last 15 games
# The Kings have won four straight games at home
# The Kings are now 19-0-0 when leading after two periods and 16-8-4 in one-goal games
# The Kings have 39 points at home (19-9-1), tying a club record for most points after 29 home games (1974-75 club was 16-6-7, 2005-06 club was 19-9-1)
As did LAKingsInsider.com’s Rich Hammond:
– The Kings beat the Colorado Avalanche 4-3 on Saturday afternoon at Staples Center, for their fourth consecutive win over the Avalanche.
– The Kings outshot the Avalanche 42-17 and recorded a season high in shots on goal. The previous high had been 36 shots on goal.
– The Kings improved to 19-9-1 at home, 27-8-1 when scoring first, 16-3-1 when leading after the first period, 19-0-0 when leading after the second period and 16-8-4 in one-goal games. The Kings are 30-6-1 this season when scoring at least three goals and 20-2-0 when scoring at least four goals.
– Jonathan Quick stopped 14 of 17 shots for the win. Quick has a 9-1-1 record in his last 11 starts.
We should assume that we’ll see a Quick-vs-Jimmy Howard match-up in the nets tonight…
And while Hammond reports that the Kings were burned by the waiver wire when Marco Sturm was claimed by the Washington Capitals, Kings GM Dean Lombardi suggested to FS West, as noted by the Los Angeles Times’ Helene Elliott, that he’s looking to add a player or two before the deadline:
Lombardi has considered Edmonton’s Ales Hemsky and Florida’s David Booth and is said to be actively pursuing prize Dallas center Brad Richards, who is idled by a concussion. The Kings’ lineup Monday against Detroit could be significantly different than it was Saturday — or Lombardi could again pull off the midlevel deals he seems to favor. He might do nothing at all.
Lombardi said Saturday in an interview on Fox Sports West that there aren’t a lot of “pure sellers,” and that to trade top prospect Brayden Schenn he would have to get an offer that’s “really something significant … and quite frankly, I don’t think he’s going anywhere.”
According to [Kings coach Terry] Murray, it’s fine if nothing changes.
“I like our team. I like the way it is right now,” he said. “We’ve got a great chemistry, and that’s so important, to have that chemistry. You can put a lot of different people into the dressing room and if it doesn’t work, boy, you’re very frustrated as an organization. … We’ve got a good group of guys that play hard for each other.”
NHL.com’s Matthew Mankiewich sets up the Wings’ first game of four played over the course of six nights this week as follows:
Season series—It’s the third meeting of four, the first two played in December when the Kings were starting to heat up again and could create a couple of bumps in the road for the Wings, the first game starting a three-game losing streak for Detroit and the second one sparking three losses out of four.
Big story—No question this game is bigger for the Kings than the Wings. Detroit is comfortably in control of the Central Division and about as safely in the second seed in the West as anybody can be these days, four points ahead of Pacific-leading San Jose. The Kings have that third spot in sight, four points behind the Sharks and four points ahead of ninth-place Chicago, a reward for going 11-1-3 in their last 15 games. In other words, it’s business as usual in the Western Conference.
Who’s hot—Out of the 19 goals the Kings have scored in their last seven games, seven have come from defensemen, most notably [Drew] Doughty, whose goal on Saturday was his sixth in 11 games. Kopitar has goals in three straight games and now has 20 or more in each of his first five NHL seasons. Hudler has 10 points in his last eight games, as does Kopitar.
Injury report—Wings defenseman Brian Rafalski sat out the Buffalo game with back spasms, but is expected back for Monday’s game. Chris Osgood’s impending return from sports hernia surgery is one reason the Wings are unlikely to make major moves at the deadline, in addition to Jimmy Howard’s improved play in February and only $600,000 in cap space. Forward Patrick Eaves suffered a groin injury last Tuesday and is expected back in early March. Kings forward Scott Parse remains out long-term due to hip surgery.
Stat pack—Kings forward Ryan Smyth recorded his 400th career assist Saturday night. The win gave the Kings 39 points at home after 29 dates (19-9-1) which ties a team record set in 1974-75 (16-6-7) and matched in 2005-06 (19-9-1). The 42 shots on the Avalanche tie a season high. Mike Modano returned to the lineup against Buffalo after missing 41 games with a slashed wrist. The most he’d ever missed before this season was 30 in 1997-98 with the Stars. Howard’s two recent losses at home ended a four-game personal winning streak, three of them on the road.
“I feel like I’m in training camp all over again,” he said. “But in six or seven games I should be fine.”
And, as Kulfan notes, the Wings’ biggest “story” of late involves Jiri Hudler’s belated renaissance while playing alongside Pavel Datsyuk:
Hudler has 10 points (two goals, eight assists) in the last eight games. The streak has coincided with coach Mike Babcock putting Hudler on a line with Datsyuk and Danny Cleary .
“We kind of know what to expect from each other,” Hudler said.
The first half of the season was miserable for Hudler, who had a difficult time readjusting to the NHL after playing in the Russian Kontinental League. Partly, too, Hudler didn’t have any puck luck.
“For whatever reason, for 25 or 30 games, I was confident but it just wasn’t there,” Hudler said. “Right now, I feel more comfortable, for sure.”
That’s one way to put it.
MLive’s Ansar Khan spoke to Hudler’s biggest critic about #26’s turnaround:
“He’s at the net and he’s done a lot of real good things,” coach Mike Babcock said. “The other thing he’s got going for him is he wants to continue to play there. And when you want to continue to play there, if you play well you get to do that. Hudler has a mind that can think like Datsyuk and make plays, and they’re a real good line for us right now.”
“The key is Pav is playing great,” Hudler said. “You just try to hang onto puck, spend as much time as we could in offensive zone. You got to go to tough areas. It’s fun. Hockey hurts sometimes, but it’s a good hurt.”
Cleary likes what he’s seeing from his friend…
“We all knew what he can do, it just took time for it to come out,” Cleary said. “It’s longer than he expected, longer than we expected, but it happened. Here we are at Game (62) and he’s playing exactly the way we want him to play. Making plays, hanging onto the puck, contributing offensively, good defensively. It says a lot about the team and management for staying the course with him. We’re going to need him. He’s playing as good right now as I’ve seen him play.”
And Khan spoke to Babcock and Mike Modano about the Wings’ proficiency on the road of late, too. Babcock states something very, very obvious regarding the Wings’ road trip:
“We’ve been good on the road, we’ve been no good at home lately,” Babcock said. “We’re playing hungry teams just like ourselves, battling for playoff spots. No different for us. We got to win or we’re not going to be in it.”
“We seem to crank it up when we’re on the road,” Red Wings center Mike Modano said. “We do a lot of good things with and without the puck, play real strong team game, patient, not really forcing too many things into bad areas.”
Per the NHL’s media website, Brian Pochmara and Chris Rooney will referee tonight’s game, with Brad Lazarowich and Vaughan Rody working the lines.
Also of Red Wings-related note:
• As noted on the main page, Brad Stuart made a few interesting comments to Yahoo Sports’ Nicholas J. Cotsonika about the day he joined the Red Wings’ organization:
The clock was ticking, and Brad Stuart was lounging in the Los Angeles Kings’ TV area before practice – or at least he was trying to lounge, trying to relax. It was Trade Deadline Day 2008. Stuart’s wife was seven months pregnant, his contract was expiring at the end of the season, negotiations on an extension hadn’t been going well and he was worried he might be moved.
“It was literally, like, two minutes to 12 (p.m. PT), and I was thinking, ‘OK, maybe I’m not going to go anywhere,’ ” Stuart said. “And then you see (a team official) come down and give you the nod to come with him. At that point, a lot of things go through your mind. ‘Where am I going? What’s going to happen with the family?’ “
The defenseman was traded to Detroit for two draft picks. In the end, everything would work out well. He would win the Stanley Cup that season with the Red Wings. He would sign a four-year, $15 million deal with them. But at that moment – with that nod two minutes to the deadline – he knew none of that.
“Those are the kind of things the fans don’t see,” Stuart said. “It makes it real tough. One day you’re there, and the next day you’re not.”
And he also spoke to the Buffalo News’s John Vogl about that day back in 2008:
An important step in deadline deals is to clearly explain the newcomer’s role. It helps him become acclimated quickly and allows him to contribute. That’s how it was for defenseman Brad Stuart, who was acquired by Detroit in 2008 and helped the Red Wings win the Cup.
“It helped I was coming to a great team, that was a big part of it,” Stuart said this weekend. “Another part of it was I knew coming in what they wanted from me. I sat down with coach right away, and he laid out what he wanted and what he thought my role would be, and it kind of went from there. It was pretty easy when you know exactly what is expected of you.”
• Dominik Hasek and Spartak Moscow were swept 4-0 in the first round of the KHL playoffs by the league’s resident powerhouse, Gazprom-backed SKA St. Petersburg, and Hasek, who gave up 15 goals over the course of 4 games, told KHL.ru’s Alexei Shevchenko that he’s unsure as to whether he’s going to continue playing, but after consulting with Mrs. Hasek, he’ll make a decision later this spring. If Hasek does return, he’ll remain in the KHL—though I’d imagine that he might want to play with a stronger team than Spartak—and he says that he has no desire to coach when he does retire.
I can’t say that I’m surprised by the result. SKA’s stacked with players like Maxim Afinogenov, Maxim Sushinsky, Danny Markov, Denis Grebeshkov, Mattias Weinhandl, Petr Cajanek, Evgeni Artyukhin, Petr Prucha and Alexei Yashin, all NHL alums (with the exception of Sushinsky), so even with Hasek in the nets, we’re talking about David vs. Goliath here. In the real world, the team with an NHL payroll and NHL talent always wins over the team that’s “mid-market” at best.
• Back over on this side of the Atlantic, Logan Pyett had a hat trick and Jordan Pearce stopped 30 of 32 shots as the Grand Rapids Griffins dropped the Hamilton Bulldogs by a 5-2 tally.
The Griffins’ website, the Grand Rapids Press—which notes that Pyett is the first Griffins defenseman ever to score a hat trick, and that Ilari Filppula and Jamie Tardif had 3 assists—Bulldogs’ website and the Hamilton Spectator’s Garry McKay provide recaps;
• In the ECHL, the undermanned Toledo Walleye lost a 5-4 decision to Kalamazoo, with Thomas McCollum giving up 1 goal on 15 shots against in relief of starting goaltender Joe Palmer. Willie Coetzee didn’t register a point, and Sebastien Piche missed the game as his grandmother’s very ill. The Walleye’s website and Toledo Blade’s Mark Monroe provide recaps;
• If you’re interested, “The South End’s” Mariam Dahoui notes that Wayne State University women’s hockey coach Jim Fetter crossed paths with Mike Babcock during his days at the University of Lethbridge;
• Zimbio.com posted a 39-image (!) gallery of Jimmy Howard helping kids stop shots at the Degree for Men Top Protection Shootout last week at Clark Park Recreation Center in Detroit. I might suggest that a few pictures offer some eye candy for the ladies;
• And the Red Wings’ Facebook page is offering an autographed…um, contest drop box thingy to fans.
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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.