The Malik Report
by George Malik on 01/30/12 at 09:51 PM ET
Updated with some trade talk at 7:14 PM: The Detroit Red Wings didn’t arrive in Calgary until about 5:30 EST, but somewhere between ye olde catch-up post and my doctor handing me a prescription for Amoxicillin, the Wings’ press corps caught up to the team at Metro Airport, and the Wings talked about the fact that they’d like to stop signing Tenacious D’s “The Road” when talking about how “[expletive]ing tough” it is to win away from Joe Louis Arena given that the Wings will tangle with Calgary (Tuesday), Vancouver (Thursday), Edmonton (Saturday) and Phoenix (next Tuesday) before heading home for six straight games and 18 of their last 28…
But coach Mike Babcock dropped something of a bombshell, too, by telling the Flint Journal’s Brendan Savage that he might “rest” Jimmy Howard given that #35 had a busy weekend:
“That’s real good question,” Babcock said when asked if Howard would play. “I don’t have the answer for you or I’d tell you.”
And Howard’s preference?
“Whatever Babs says I’ll go with,” Howard said.
The good news is that Nicklas Lidstrom is feeling much better after taking off last Wednesday’s shellacking in Montreal…
As for Lidstrom, he was feeling better after missing last Wednesday’s 7-2 loss in Montreal with the flu. He started sick feeling during the morning skate in Montreal and then watched on television as the Red Wings absorbed one of the worst defeats of the season in the final game before the five-day All-Star break.
“I don’t know if I could have done anything,” said a laughing Lidstrom, who spent the break by heading south for some warmth and sunshine over the weekend. “I got off the ice before the skate was over that morning. It got worse and worse that day. It took me a few days to get over it. I guess the break came (with) pretty good timing. It was strange. I stayed at the hotel. I stayed in bed and watched the first period. It was strange watching on TV rather than being there, that’s for sure.”
Otherwise, the Wings talked about the absolute necessity of getting their road game in order with the Blues only 2 points behind the Wings in the Central Division standings, and the Hawks and Predators only three points behind. It’s back to work in more ways than one, as the Detroit News’s Ted Kulfan noted...
The vacations to warmer climates, a few days away from hockey — that’s all over. The Red Wings boarded their plane and set off for Calgary, where they begin a four-game trip Tuesday.
Thoughts of the ugly 7-2 loss Wednesday in Montreal were pretty much gone. Still, it will prove motivation for the week ahead, and the need to play better (13-14-0 on the road) away from Joe Louis Arena.
“Overall our whole team has to be a better hockey club on the road, we can’t hide from that,” coach Mike Babcock said. “We have to be better in our commitment to defensive details, starting on time, and be physical in the offensive zone. You want to get going, get energy, and winning is contagious.”
Lidstrom told the Macomb Daily’s Chuck Pleiness that he’d have preferred to not be stuck in the middle of a 5-game road trip coming out of the All-Star Break, but the schedule is what it is, and as such…
“It would have been nice to open up at home, but we’ve got another week-long trip here so we might as well do it right away,” Nicklas Lidstrom said. “It’s going to be a pretty hectic schedule here for awhile so it’ll be good to get going tomorrow. We know we have to have a better road record so we’ve got to start playing better,” Lidstrom added. “Starting off on the road might be good.”
On the road this season the Wings are one-game under .500, 13-14-0.
The Wings’ play-every-other-day schedule won’t cease until after Valentine’s Day, so between January 7th and February 14th, a slate of 35 days on which NHL games are scheduled, the Wings will end up playing 19 times. For the present moment, however, the Wings are only worried about righting their ship away from home…
“We’ve got a few chances here,” Henrik Zetterberg said. “We’ll have a good start tomorrow, and hopefully, we’ll win a few more games and figure it out. I think we’re giving the other teams too many easy chances to score,” Zetterberg continued. “Normally, we play solid enough defense. When we don’t do that, it’s tough to win games.”
At home they will carry a franchise-record 17-game winning streak when they host the Edmonton Oilers a week from Wednesday.
“We’ve got to get back to playing like we do at home,” Jimmy Howard said. “It’s as simple as that, paying attention to detail on the road. To be able to have success on the road you’ve got to play a full 60 minutes.”
And they continued that tack while speaking to DetroitRedWings.com’s Bill Roose:
“Obviously we’ve had at least two or three road games that have been very uncharacteristic of us. Obviously, Montreal was terrible,” forward Danny Cleary said. “You know our record speaks for itself on the road; we haven’t been good enough. We’re one-game under and for us to stay at the top we definitely have to get a better road record and here’s a good chance – four games – against four teams that are battling too, so it will be good for us, but we certainly have to get going on the road.”
This week is filled with possible pitfalls for the Wings who are headed to Calgary, Vancouver, Edmonton and Phoenix. The Oilers seem to be the team in this group that has the longest odds to make the playoffs this spring, but even Edmonton can throw a monkey wrench into the Wings’ plans. Meanwhile, the other three teams are battling for berths, or as is the case with the Canucks, vying for the Presidents’ Trophy. The trip can also be quite fruitful for the Wings should that wrangle 6-8 points out of these next four games.
“You want to get going and you want to get some energy,” coach Mike Babcock said. “Winning is contagious, as you’ve seen we had a pretty good run going in and then dropped the ball our last game. One good thing about losing before you go it (to the break) is that you have plenty of time to think about it.”
“We have to be a far better hockey club on the road and we just can’t hide from that,” Babcock said. “We just have to be better in our commitment to the defensive details of the game and starting on time and playing with more physicality in the offensive zone. We have four games in eight days. Calgary has beaten us twice already this year and it’s an opportunity for us to go in and play better. To me that’s the focus.”
Still, while the media continues to ask why the big difference between their success at home – which includes a 17-game winning streak – and the drawbacks on the road, the contrasts also has the players searching for answers.
“It seems that we definitely play with a lot more urgency at home, we play more disciplined, we play faster, we just play a lot better at home,” Cleary said. “We’re a team that is capable of doing it on the road, we keep talking about it, we have an experienced team, we’ve got good matchups, so that’s not an issue. We’ve got a good goalie. We have to be committed to winning on the road and sometimes it’s a lot harder than at home.”
“It’ll be good to get started again,” defenseman Niklas Kronwall said. “Everyone should be refreshed and ready to go.”
The Wings also reiterated their points to the Windsor Star’s Bob Duff...
They may own the best overall record in the National Hockey League, but no one would mistake the Detroit Red Wings for road warriors. As they return from the all-star break and embark on a four-game road trip with a tilt Tuesday at Calgary against the Flames, the Wings understand that their first priority is to right a 13-14-0 record away from Joe Louis Arena.
“We’ve got to be a better hockey club on the road,” Wings coach Mike Babcock said. “We can’t hide from that. We’ve got to get better in our commitment to the defensive details of the game, starting on time, playing with more physicality in the offensive zone, these are all priorities for us in this last little stretch.”
Detroit centre Henrik Zetterberg is of the opinion that the Wings are playing too softly without the puck when away from home ice. “I think we’re giving the other teams too many easy chances to score,” Zetterberg said. “Normally, we play solid enough defence. When we don’t do that, it’s tough to win games.”
Both Zetterberg and team captain Nicklas Lidstrom feel the best way to solve the problem is to tackle it head on, and what better way to do that with yet another road swing? Detroit has played 19 of its last 29 games away from home, but after this four-game swing, will close with 18 of 28 at the JLA.
“We’ve got another week long trip here so we might as well do it right away,” Lidstrom said. “We know we have to have a better road record so we’ve got to start playing better. Starting off on the road might be good.”
Zetterberg echoed those sentiments. “We’ve got a few chances here (to win on the road),” he said. “We’ll have a good start tomorrow, and hopefully, we’ll win a few more games and figure it out.”
Who offered some off-the-cuff comments from the players via his Twitter account:
Was #redwings Datsyuk excited to be 1st pick at #NHL ASG: “No. I wanted car (for being picked last).”
#redwings Howard fav. part of #NHL ASG: “The hardest shot, so I can see just how crazy I am. Why do I even stand in front of those guys?”
What did #redwings Lidstrom do during #NHL AS break: “Headed south.” Windsor? “A little bit further south than that.”
I’m guessing Cleveland
I’m still pretty hacky-sniffly, so I’ll try to post some power rankings and other goodies later tonight, but for the moment I’m going to bid you adieu and curl up for a bit. Sniffles happen, and the goal is to not miss any more time.
Update #1: Nevermind…Here’s a great quote about the Wings’ road record from Babcock’s perspective, via the Macomb Daily’s Pleiness...
“Every time you play a game it’s important,” Wings coach Mike Babcock said. “Last year, we didn’t come out of the All-Star break flying, so it’s important to get off to a good start. The standings are very, very tight and the thing you always want to do as a team is you want to put as much heat on the general manager to help you out as you can. The better team you have, the more likely it is that he’s going to help you out.”
And here’s a bit about the All-Star Game’s participants…
Howard didn’t hear from any of his current teammates for his “lack of effort” in the fastest skater competition on Saturday, but he did hear from former teammate Kris Draper.
“He called and gave me a little pep talk,” Howard smiled. “He noticed I gave up a little bit. I almost went down on that first turn and I said, ‘Forget about this.’ I didn’t want to be the guy to take out those tires.”
Babcock didn’t watch much of action over the weekend but was impressed by one thing.
“I watched Jimmy’s interview and was very impressed,” Babcock said. “My son kept yelling at me to come in and watch a little bit. I saw Pav had it on a string a few times, but I didn’t really watch it that much. It was obviously great for Pavel to be selected where he was. It tells you how good he is. Jimmy has come of age and is a real good goaltender. I was very impressed in the way he expressed himself as a man and how he thanked them for the foundation they built for him.”
“We play Monday so we’re going to have a team dinner at a good restaurant on Sunday and watch the game together,” Cleary said.
Although Cleary couldn’t remember who had the New England Patriots in the team pool, he knew exactly who had the New York Giants.
“I know Pavel has the Giants,” Cleary said. “Everything he touches this year, unbelievable this guy. I tell you, nothing makes him happier than winning football pools. He’s in the mix.”
Babcock didn’t announce his pick yet.
“I like both teams,” Babcock said. “I like the quarterbacks. I think it’s going to be a great set-up. I was fortunate last week to pick both winners, so I’m excited about that. I think the National Hockey League has learned a lot from football in terms of access and selling their game. One thing about football, it’s a great game for fans. You’ve only got to go to a few home games. There’s lots of time to bet in between games and get fired up from the next one. It’s a great game that way.”
Howard has some conflicted loyalties for the big game.
“I don’t know, (wife) Rachel’s side of the family is all Pats,” Howard said. “My side of the family is all Giants. It’s an even split so we’ll see. I grew up a Buffalo Bills fan. I think I’m going to go with the Pats, same division and everything. Stick with the AFC.”
On the trade front, yes, ESPN’s Pierre LeBrun mentioned the Travis Moen rumor…
Speaking of grit, Habs winger Travis Moen is garnering some interest around the league. He’s an unrestricted free agent on July 1 and would be a decent rental pickup for a contender looking for a bit more of a physical presence on their third line. Vancouver and Detroit are among several teams that have an eye on him, although one NHL source told ESPN.com that Montreal GM Pierre Gauthier is telling teams he’s not ready to sell yet. The Canadiens play eight of their next 12 games at home and the word is Gauthier wants to see if his team can make a run before pulling the plug.
As did TSN’s Darren Dreger...
…Vancouver could use some added toughness…someone like Travis Moen…
I’ve heard some rumblings, like the Canucks, Detroit will, or has shown some interest in Moen.
I’m sure [Canadiens GM Pierre] Gauthier is willing to move his expiring contracts – namely Hal Gill, Chris Campoli, Travis Moen and Andei Kostitsyn.
Vancouver, as mentioned earlier is hoping to add some grit up front which is why Moen seems to be a reasonable fit.
With no shortage of cap space and a good shot to win the Stanley Cup, Detroit should be an active participant in the trade market as the Feb. 27 deadline approaches.
So, what kind of player could the Red Wings use? Coach Mike Babcock has a few suggestions for GM Ken Holland.
“To me, if we could get another heavy winger, or heavy forward, or D — those would all be good things to help you,” Babcock said, as reported by the Detroit News. “I put together a wish list every year, this time of year, and then management does what they can do.”
One name that’s been linked to the Red Wings is Montreal winger Travis Moen. The 29-year-old pending UFA who won a Cup with the 2007 Ducks is presumably the type of player Babcock wants.
And here’s another thing to consider about Moen – he’s one of the key forwards on the Canadiens’ league-best penalty kill, one of the few areas where the Wings have struggled.
TSN’s Scott Cullen offers the following assessment of the Wings’ trade assets and possible game plan:
DETROIT RED WINGS
UFA in 2012: Jiri Hudler, Todd Bertuzzi, Tomas Holmstrom, Nicklas Lidstrom, Brad Stuart, Mike Commodore, Ty Conklin.
RFA in 2012: Darren Helm, Justin Abdelkader.
Brendan Smith, D, Grand Rapids (AHL)
Tomas Tatar, LW, Grand Rapids (AHL)
Gustav Nyquist, LW, Grand Rapids (AHL)
Teemu Pulkkinen, RW, Jokerit (SML)
Tomas Jurco, RW, Saint John (QMJHL)
Others of Interest: Valtteri Filppula, Patrick Eaves, Drew Miller, Jan Mursak, Cory Emmerton.
No-Trade Clauses: Pavel Datsyuk, Todd Bertuzzi (modified), Tomas Holmstrom, Nicklas Lidstrom, Jonathan Ericsson (modified).
The Plan: As always, the Wings are contenders, so they should be looking to add some pieces before the deadline and can accomodate high-end skill or upgrades in the bottom half of the lineup.
The Wings also have a talented group of prospects on the way up, so they don’t need to overpay in their attempts to land a top-nine forward or a depth defenceman, but given the age of Detroit’s core players, there also should be some urgency to make a strong push for the Cup this season.
Ugh, the age issue. The Wings don’t think it’s as big a deal as anyone else does. Whether the team makes big moves this summer will depend on Nicklas Lidstrom and Brad Stuart’s futures, not the fact that Pavel Datsyuk will be 34 this summer.
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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.