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The overnight report: Red Wings-Rangers set-up—it’s all on the line

The Detroit Red Wings face the New Yrok Rangers Saturday with the playoffs on the line (12:30 PM EDT start on FSD/MSG/97.1 FM), and while the Red Wings can still make the playoffs if they lose Saturday's game, it behooves Detroit to win to get in.

The Wings are coming off a 5-2 loss to the Boston Bruins on Thursday, and will be starting Jimmy Howard;

The Rangers, who are coming off a 4-1 loss to the New York Islanders on Thursday, are starting Antti Raanta, and sitting Mats Zuccarello, Marcus Kruger, Dan Girardi and Ryan McDonagh, but the Rangers are doing so hoping for a healthy lineup in their first-round match-up with either the Penguins or Panthers, as Newsday's Steve Zipay noted:

It’s down to the wire. By Saturday night, after the Rangers’ regular-season finale and the Islanders’ game against the Sabres, the Blueshirts finally may learn their first-round playoff opponent — either the Pittsburgh Penguins or the Florida Panthers. The Islanders will play the other team.

The Rangers have 99 points, tying them with the Islanders, who have a game in hand. The Rangers play Saturday afternoon at Madison Square Garden against the Detroit Red Wings, who remain in a scramble with the Flyers and Bruins for the final two postseason berths in the Eastern Conference.


A regulation loss would inch the Blueshirts closer to a wild-card spot and a matchup with the Atlantic Division champion Panthers, because all the Islanders would need is a point Saturday or against the Flyers on Sunday to finish third.

The Rangers’ coaching staff already has done some preliminary scouting of the Penguins and Panthers.

“We’ve started preparing for both options,” Vigneault said. “Not in depth. I’m hoping by [Saturday], we might have a decent chance of knowing. If we don’t, and it goes to Sunday, the coaches Saturday night and Sunday will be preparing for both teams. When the players get here on Monday [for practice], whoever the opponent is, the guys will be ready.”

Vigneault continued while speaking with NYRangers.com's Jim Cerny...

When they face off with the Detroit Red Wings Saturday afternoon at Madison Square Garden in their regular season finale, the Rangers will be missing four players from their usual lineup. Forwards Mats Zuccarello and Viktor Stalberg both are suffering from lower body injuries and will join injured defensemen Ryan McDonagh and Dan Girardi in not playing Saturday.

"Viktor could not play tomorrow for sure, but I don't think it's anything serious," explained head coach Alain Vigneault following a brief practice at the MSG Training Center on Friday afternoon. "Mats would be less than 50-50 if we were to push it. They both should be fine (for the playoffs)."

It will be the first game Zuccarello misses this season. He is the team's leading scorer with a career-high 61 points, and is second on the club with 25 goals. Yesterday Zuccarello was named the winner of the club's 2016 Steven McDonald Extra Effort Award as voted by the fans.

Stalberg appeared in 75 games this season for the Rangers, scoring nine goals and totaling 20 points. He missed only two games because of injury this season--back in late October--and was a healthy scratch four other times. Stalberg has not missed a game since December 22, and has become one of the team's most consistent performers, settling in to a fourth-line role alongside Tanner Glass and Dominic Moore.

Rookie Oscar Lindberg draws back into the lineup to play for only the second time in the past 12 games on Saturday. He has 12 goals and 26 points in 67 games played this season.

The Rangers will also need to recall a forward from the Hartford Wolf Pack on an emergency basis for Saturday's game. Vigneault said that 24 year-old Marek Hrivik likely would be the player called up by the Blueshirts. Down in Hartford Hrivik is second on the team with a career-best 40 points in 66 games played. He also appeared in four games earlier this season with the Rangers, the first four of his NHL career, and picked up one assist.


Vigneault also stated that Antti Raanta will start in goal for the Rangers on Saturday. Raanta, who played a spotless third period in Thursday's 4-1 loss to the Islanders, is 10-6-2 with a 2.26 GAA and .918 save percentage this season in 24 appearances.

And according to the New York Daily News's Justin Tasch, McDonagh's absence provides the Rangers with an extended look at prospect Brady Skjei:

Dan Girardi should be ready to return for the Rangers when the NHL playoffs start next week, but captain Ryan McDonagh's status remains uncertain, making every shift Brady Skjei plays that much more important.

While Girardi will remain out for Saturday's regular-season finale against Detroit at the Garden, Alain Vigneault said after Friday's practice that Girardi is "doing better" and probably will suit up for Game 1 against either Florida or Pittsburgh. The coach stuck to the script when it came to McDonagh, who injured his right hand blocking a shot on Monday. "Upper body, day-to-day," Vigneault said.

Skjei, a fellow left-handed defenseman, likely will play in the playoffs if McDonagh misses any time beyond Saturday. The rookie was called up for Tuesday's win against Tampa Bay and will play his third straight game on Saturday, his longest stretch in the NHL this season.

The 22-year-old had some noteworthy positives in Thursday's loss to the Islanders, breaking up a two-on-one and displaying poise with the puck as he skated out of the defensive zone and through the neutral zone to create a rush opportunity for J.T. Miller.

Henrik Lundqvist sees a bit of McDonagh in the way Skjei plays.

"He kind of reminds me of Mac a little bit just because he's such a great skater," said Lundqvist, who will rest Saturday in favor of Antti Raanta. "He moves the puck well."

The Rangers also recalled a forward from the AHL's Hartford Wolfpack...

And the Bergen Record's Andrew Gross discussed the Rangers' personnel machinations...

Oscar Lindberg goes back in the lineup after being a healthy scratch in 11 of the last 12 games, and logging just 6:03 in Tuesday’s 3-2 win over the Lightning in the lone game he did play. Plus the Rangers have recalled forward Marek Hrivik from Hartford (AHL) on an emergency basis to fill the 12th forward spot. Hrivik has one assist in four career NHL games, all for the Rangers this season.

So rookies Brady Skjei and Dylan McIlrath will remain in on defense along with veterans Marc Staal, Dan Boyle, Kevin Klein and Keith Yandle.

Here’s Vigneault on Skjei’s play in his two games since being recalled: “I think every time he’s on the ice he grows as a player, gets more experience, both defensively and offensively. I think we can all see the skill set the skating ability, beating the first forechecker. Like any other young player coming into league, you’ve got to know when to go, when to give, when it’s a better time to stay back and make the right reads. He made a great play on two on one rush on the opposition. He’s going to play again tomorrow. We’ve liked what we’ve seen.”

Vigneault said, at this time, he believes Girardi, Zuccarello and Stalberg will all be ready for Game 1 of the first round. However, there is no update on McDonagh other than he remains day to day. It’s very likely if McDonagh returns, it won’t be until a few games into the first round.

As for facing the Penguins or the Panthers, Vigneault said the coaching staff, now that the list of potential opponents has been winnowed to two, has started the pre-scouting process.

“We’ve started preparing for both options,” Vigneault said. “Not in depth. I’m hoping by tomorrow we might have a decent chance of knowing. If we don’t and it goes to Sunday, the coaches Saturday night and Sunday will be preparing for both teams when the guys get here on Monday whoever the opponent is the guys will be ready.”

Even the Rangers' beat writers couldn't get a good handle on what Saturday's lineup would look like:

With Zuccarello and Stalberg missing from practice, there were no line rushes to note.

And the New York Post's Brett Cyrgalis noted that the Rangers are not lacking motivation:

After the Islanders swept the four-game season series against the Blueshirts with Thursday’s 4-1 victory, the Brooklynites over their final two games control how the first-round matchups will play out. In order for the Rangers to leapfrog back into third place — and into a series with the red-hot Penguins — they would need to beat the Red Wings, and the Islanders would need to get two points or fewer against the Sabres and Flyers on Saturday and Sunday at Barclays Center.

“We’re aware of every possibility, but they’re both really good teams,” center Derick Brassard said of the Penguins and Panthers. “You can’t control who you’re going to play. We’re going to try to win the game, and whatever the Islanders are going to do in the next two games is going to decide what happens.”

The Rangers' website posted clips of Derick Brassard, Brady Skjei, Henrik Lundqvist and coach Alain Vigneault's off-day remarks. Vigneault speaks for 9 minutes!

Here are the highlights of the Rangers-Islanders game if you're interested in them:

NHL.com's Mike G. Morreale posted a balanced game preview...

Season series: The Detroit Red Wings won 3-2 against the New York Rangers when Darren Helm scored with 1:57 left in overtime at Joe Louis Arena on March 12. Brad Richards tied the game for the Red Wings with 31.8 seconds left in regulation. The Rangers won 1-0 on Feb. 21 when Kevin Klein scored 1:59 into overtime at Madison Square Garden. Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist made 21 saves.

Red Wings team scope: If the Red Wings win in regulation or overtime, they clinch a 25th straight berth in the Stanley Cup Playoffs and third place in the Atlantic Division, and will play the Tampa Bay Lightning in the Eastern Conference First Round. Forward Justin Abdelkader sustained a lower-body injury in the third period of a 5-2 loss at the Boston Bruins on Thursday and is questionable. Center Joakim Andersson was recalled from Grand Rapids of the American Hockey League as insurance. Andersson, 27, has one goal and three points in 28 games with the Red Wings this season. Detroit conducted an optional skate at Prudential Center in Newark on Friday. Forwards Dylan Larkin, Anthony Mantha, Andreas Athanasious, Tomas Jurco, and Teemu Pulkkinen, defensemen Danny Dekeyser, Alexey Marchenko and Brendan Smith and goaltenders Jimmy Howard and Petr Mrazek participated. Howard, who has won four of his past six games, will start, according to the Detroit Free Press. "We put ourselves in a position by winning a game [against the Philadelphia Flyers on Wednesday] to control our own destiny," coach Jeff Blashill said. "So let's go win a hockey game on Saturday."

Rangers team scope: The Rangers will be without forwards Mats Zuccarello and Viktor Stalberg, who each sustained a lower-body injury, as well as defensemen Dan Girardi and Ryan McDonagh, who each sustained an upper-body injury. McDonagh and Girardi did not play in a 4-1 loss against the New York Islanders on Thursday. Zuccarello, Stalberg and Girardi should be fine for the start of the playoffs, coach Alain Vigneault said after practice Friday. The Islanders, who clinched a playoff berth, are in third place in the Metropolitan Division, tied with the Rangers in points. The Islanders have two games remaining and the Rangers one, with the Rangers holding the non-shootout wins tiebreaker. The third-place finisher will play the Pittsburgh Penguins in the Eastern Conference First Round. The team that drops into the first wild card from the Eastern Conference will play the Florida Panthers in the first round. Goaltender Antti Raanta will start. He has won each of his past three starts with a 1.67 goals-against average and .941 save percentage. Raanta relieved Lundqvist in the third period against the Islanders and stopped all six shots he faced. "I just thought at that time, 3-0, I thought it might spark our team a little bit," Vigneault said. "I talked briefly with [Lundqvist] a little bit between the second and third. It probably wasn't worth risking it at that point and that's why I made the change." Forward Oscar Lindberg will return to the lineup, and the Rangers likely will recall a player from Hartford of the American Hockey League.

And the AP's preview added the usual amount of stats and context to the mix:

[The Red Wings] have to win that game in an arena they haven't left with a victory in over six years. Since a 3-1 win at the Garden on Dec. 6, 2009, Detroit has dropped five in a row there, including a 1-0 overtime loss Feb. 21 that marked New York's third shutout in that span. The Rangers have outscored the Red Wings 11-4 on the home streak.

Henrik Zetterberg has been limited to a goal while playing four of those games and Pavel Datsyuk has skated in three of them and gone without a point.

Henrik Lundqvist was in net for all three shutouts and has won his last five home starts against Detroit with a 0.78 goals-against average, but he was yanked Thursday after giving up three goals in two periods of a crucial division matchup.

The Rangers (45-27-9) relinquished their hold on third in the Metro and fell into a tie with the Islanders after the 4-1 loss to their crosstown rivals. Both clubs have 99 points, but the Isles have two games remaining.

"It's been like that every year, the last couple (of games) sorts out the seeding and who you're going to play," Marc Staal told the club's official website. "We wanted to win this game, we wanted it bad.

"... But we haven't lost any confidence in this room."

No matter where they finish, the Rangers will open the playoffs on the road. However, third place sends them to Pittsburgh - which has won eight in a row and 14 of 15 - while the first wild card pits them against Atlantic champion Florida. New York lost three of four to the Penguins this season but won two of three against the Panthers.

The Red Wings held an optional practice at the New Jersey Devils' practice facility in Newark, New Jersey on Friday, and they recalled Joakim Andersson just in case Justin Abdelkader can't play today. The Free Press's Helene St. James took note of the Wings' personnel move...

Good health is crucial to a playoff run, and the Wings have a few people who are "a little banged up," general manager Ken Holland told the Free Press. Justin Abdelkader left Thursday's game at Boston with a lower-body injury, but Holland said he expects Abdelkader to be available for the Rangers game. After playing twice in two days with travel involved, the Wings largely used Friday as a day to rest and recover.

As of Friday afternoon, Holland said no player was ruled out for the Rangers finale. Abdelkader left in the third period Thursday, soon after the Bruins, who won, 5-2, had scored their fifth goal. At that point the game essentially was over, and that was reflected in who played and who didn't.

"Whenever you get a chance to rest some of your people, you take that opportunity," Holland said. That was also why starting goalie Jimmy Howard was replaced in the third period Thursday with Petr Mrazek.

"That's what we did last night with Howard, got him out, so we can freshen up Jimmy for Saturday," Holland said.

Andersson gives the Wings a defensive player to use if needed; if there's an offensive regular who is unable to play, the Wings have Anthony Mantha and Teemu Pulkkinen available. On defense, Brendan Smith is an option.

In terms of comments from players preparing for Saturday's game, Jimmy Howard told the Windsor Star's Bob Duff that he's excited about the opportunity that Saturday's game presents him with:

“I’ve always enjoyed playing those afternoon games, waking up in the morning, going to the rink and just playing,” said Detroit goalie Jimmy Howard, who will get the start Saturday. “It’s fun and we’re playing at Madison Square Garden, big stage so it’s going to be great.

A native New Yorker, Howard was raised by a family that worshipped the Broadway Blueshirts.

“Growing up, my dad was a big Rangers fan and obviously passed that along to me,” Howard said. “As a kid I never got to go to Madison Square Garden until my first start with the Wings against the Rangers so it was very memorable. Every time I play there I just enjoy it and try and take in the whole atmosphere and soak it all up.”

Now, his father’s favourite team stands in the way of the Wings and qualification for the Stanley Cup playoffs for the 25th successive season.

“You looked to the schedule probably two or three weeks ago and figured it might come down to the last game,” said Detroit forward Brad Richards, who played in the Stanley Cup final with the Rangers two springs ago.

The Red Wings' clinching scenarios are a little bit complicated if the Wings lose, but if the Wings win in regulation or OT, they're in.

"We still have a lot to play for,” Richards said.

In 2012-13, the Wings went to Dallas and beat the Stars in the final game of the season to reach the playoffs.

“Just having the confidence of being in the situation before and being successful, even though it was several years ago, you can still draw on how you felt mentally coming into the game,” Howard said.

The Wings want to "get in" on their own, as Danny DeKeyser told DetroitRedWings.com's Bill Roose...

“We don’t want to depend on any other teams to help us to get in,” Wings defenseman Danny DeKeyser said following Friday’s optional skate at the Prudential Center. “We just want to make sure that we win and take care of our own business. We had to go into Dallas the last game of the (2013) season. We put in a good effort and win that game. We plan on doing the same tomorrow.”

Jimmy Howard, who surrendered five goals on 26 shots in the Wings’ 5-2 loss at Boston on Thursday, will get his fifth straight start Saturday.

“At times last night we did a good job, but then when we reached a point where we pulled a little bit tighter it just wasn’t there, wasn’t in the tank,” Howard said. “Hopefully everyone got a great night sleep last night and sleeps well tonight and gets recharged for tomorrow because it’s win and play or lose and hope. We control our own destiny which is great.”

Roose examined some of the Wings' "clinching scenarios" as well:

Here is a look at the four ways the Red Wings can still get into the postseason:

  • If the Wings win in regulation or overtime they clinch regardless.
  • If the Wings win in a shootout they need Boston to lose in regulation or overtime, or for Philadelphia to go 1-0-1 or worse.
  • If the Wings lose in overtime or a shootout they need Boston to get one point or less, or for Philadelphia to go 1-1-0 or worse.
  • If the Wings lose in regulation they need Boston to lose in regulation, or for Philadelphia to go 0-1-1 or worse.

The Wings haven’t fared well at Madison Square Garden since realignment moved them to the Eastern Conference. Detroit has lost five straight in New York, including the last four since moving from the West.

The Windsor Star's Duff also posted a "History Lesson"...

In their last game of the 1969-70 NHL season – curiously, also the only other NHL campaign prior to this one in which no Canadian teams qualified for the Stanley Cup playoffs – the Wings played their final game of the season on a Sunday afternoon at Madison Square Garden.

They had already clinched a playoff spot and rested several players. The Rangers needed to win in order to make the playoffs and pounded Detroit goalie Roger Crozier with 65 shots in a 9-5 victory.

Saturday afternoon, the roles are reversed. The Rangers are in the playoffs and the Wings need a win to get there. And the Rangers will play without defensemen Ryan McDonagh, the team captain, and Dan Girardi and forwards Mats Zuccarello and Viktor Stalberg, all reported to be nursing injuries. As well, No. 1 goalie Henrik Lundqvist will get the day off and back-up Antti Raanta will start in the New York net.

Now it’s the Wings who need to take care of business.

“We don’t want to depend on any other teams to help us to get in,” Detroit defenseman Danny DeKeyser said. “We just want to make sure that we win and take care of our own business. You mentioned 2013, we had to go into Dallas the last game of the season. We put in a good effort to win that game. We plan on doing the same tomorrow.”

While MLive's Ansar Khan weighed in some stiff criticism for the Wings' 2015-16 struggles:

The game is there for the taking, but the Red Wings can't take anything for granted in a season that's been a struggle for them in all facets of the game at one point or another.

They had difficulty scoring all year, due in large part to a power play that until recently was surprisingly ineffective. Young, skilled players like Gustav Nyquist (17 goals), Tomas Tatar (21 goals) and Riley Sheahan (24 points) regressed, putting more pressure on aging stars Henrik Zetterberg, who had difficulty scoring the second half, and Pavel Datsyuk. They're fortunate rookie Dylan Larkin exceeded expectations by leading them with 23 goals.

Workhorse defenseman Niklas Kronwall had his worst season. The unit as a whole was prone to mistakes and just not reliable. Nobody improved upon the previous season.

They experienced goaltending issues. First, Howard went into a prolonged slump and then Petr Mrazek did likewise.

They squandered too many third-period leads earlier in the season, got off to slow starts too often. When they won, it was a chore more often than not, as they lead the league in one-goal games.

They can put all of that behind them with a win (regulation or OT) on Saturday. It would be the fourth consecutive season they've clinched in the final week and the second time in four seasons it has come down to the last game.

"In 2013, we had to go into Dallas the last game of the season; we put in a good effort and won that game," DeKeyser said. "We plan on doing the same (Saturday)."

The Red Wings are facing essentially a do-or-die situation because they squandered winnable games down the stretch against Columbus, Toronto and Montreal. A late-season slump by the Bruins might have bailed them out. They better take care of business and not rely on more help that's not likely to come.

The Free Press's St. James weighed in from a more optimistic viewpoint...

While Thursday’s result in Boston disappointed because the Wings could have clinched with a victory, it was an usually tough turnaround. But the Wings still control their own destiny after delivering a complete game Wednesday in shutting out Philadelphia.

Detroit has shown over the past few games how much getting into the playoffs means. The Wings have played better defensively. Thursday wasn’t a good night for the power play, but it’s otherwise surged over the past few weeks.

A year ago, the Wings went into the playoffs thinking they had a real shot at advancing into May. They had made moves at the deadline, though by the time the playoffs began, one of those had already become moot because of injury. The Wings took the eventual Stanley Cup runner-up Lightning to seven games, playing the finale without two veteran defensemen and keeping it a 1-0 game until the final minutes.

This year, the Wings looked around at the deadline, but decided they had rather keep the prospects and draft picks being asked for in exchange.

Coach Jeff Blashill told the Wings the night of the deadline they were the group he wanted.

Now they’re a group with a chance to pounce. Pounce on a Rangers team that’s fielding reserves, then pounce on a Lightning team that’s missing two superstars.

Part of what makes the NHL playoffs more fun than the NBA version is anything can happen.

The Wings should look ahead with optimism. The opportunity is theirs.

We've got one multimedia clip as Khan posted a video of DeKeyser's comments to the media:



Red Wings notebooks and also of Red Wings-related note: Of note from CBS Sports Chris Peters' Rookie Power Rankings:

6. Dylan Larkin, Detroit Red Wings (6): The speedy forward had a whirlwind season during which he spent the year as a top-three scorer on one of the league's most storied franchises and the team he grew up cheering for as a kid. He also made it to the All-Star Game as the Red Wings' representative and won the fastest skater competition in record-breaking fashion. Larkin also had an incredible start to the year, but faltered a bit as the season wore on. The Michigan native put up 33 of his 44 points between October and January. He's scored 11 points in 31 games to close out the season as the Red Wings fight for their playoff lives. He's still a 20-goal scorer as a rookie and the most productive teenager in Detroit since Steve Yzerman's rookie year.

Filed in: | The Malik Report | Permalink


Surfer Ken's avatar

With the line up The Rangers are putting out there, if The Wings don’t win this game they truly do have some serious issues. 

Coaching would be the first area I’d reevaluate if I were Kenny.

Posted by Surfer Ken from San Clemente on 04/08/16 at 11:33 PM ET

calquake's avatar

With the line up The Rangers are putting out there, if The Wings don’t win this game they truly do have some serious issues.

Coaching would be the first area I’d reevaluate if I were Kenny.

Posted by Surfer Ken from San Clemente on 04/08/16 at 11:33 PM ET

If the Wings don’t win, the whole season was a lie.

Posted by calquake from a.k.a. Uniquake, workin' on my manifesto on 04/08/16 at 11:58 PM ET

BIGFOOT88's avatar

No, the whole season was the truth I believe Calq…. but that don’t mean Wings ain’t going to playoffs..

I am not gonna jinx it, but I got a good feeling about the Rangers game. Wink Wink….

Posted by BIGFOOT88 on 04/09/16 at 01:16 AM ET

d ca's avatar

Okay, the NYR have done everything they could do short of officially announcing they are tanking this game.

The NHL without the Canadian market knows it needs the Wings in the playoffs for Ratings…let us see how the refs call this one.

Posted by d ca on 04/09/16 at 03:01 AM ET

Red Winger's avatar

I couldn’t even sleep this morning

Fuching team will be the end of me

Posted by Red Winger from Sault Ste Marie, MI on 04/09/16 at 08:08 AM ET

BIGFOOT88's avatar

CAN NOT BELIEVE they called up Joakim Andersson !!  You’ve got to be kidding me.

The personnel moves the Wings make…. whether it’s the healthy scratches, the TOI issues or the call-ups (or lack there of) are so EXASPERATING !

Andersson is the biggest puss-boy in the organ-I-zation, has no hands and can’t skate…sounds like someone we need - yeah right! what a joke!


Posted by BIGFOOT88 on 04/09/16 at 08:52 AM ET

stonehands-78's avatar

It’s a trap!



Posted by stonehands-78 from the beginning ... a WingsFan, on 04/09/16 at 09:27 AM ET

Figaro's avatar

“We still have a lot to play for,” Richards said.

All hail the esteemed ambassador to the Realm of the Blatantly Obvious! 

Let’s Go Red Wings.

Off to put on the Lucky Jersey.

Posted by Figaro from Los Alamos, NM on 04/09/16 at 09:56 AM ET

Vladimir16's avatar

CAN NOT BELIEVE they called up Joakim Andersson !!  You’ve got to be kidding me.

The personnel moves the Wings make…. whether it’s the healthy scratches, the TOI issues or the call-ups (or lack there of) are so EXASPERATING !


Posted by BIGFOOT88 on 04/09/16 at 08:52 AM ET

I couldn’t agree more.

Posted by Vladimir16 from Grand River Valley on 04/09/16 at 10:39 AM ET

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The Malik Report is a destination for all things Red Wings-related. I offer biased, perhaps unprofessional-at-times and verbose coverage of my favorite team, their prospects and developmental affiliates. I've joined the Kukla's Korner family with five years of blogging under my belt, and I hope you'll find almost everything you need to follow your Red Wings at a place where all opinions are created equal and we're all friends, talking about hockey and the team we love to follow.