The Malik Report
by George Malik on 04/18/11 at 11:58 PM ET
Update at 10:03 PM: Babcock refused to say whether Franzen would play in an interview with Fox Sports Detroit’s John Keating.
Update at 10:32 PM: per Mike Serven:
Franzen is in
Update at 10:32 PM: Per DetroitRedWings.com’s Bill Roose:
Just received word from the PA announcer that Johan Franzen is starting tonight for the @DetroitRedWings.
Update 10:33 PM: Franzen is in and starting per the roster sheet.
So I need to write a little update letting you know whether Johan Franzen, the Wings’ resident “game-time decision” prior to the Detroit Red Wings’ game against the Phoenix Coyotes tonight (10:30 PM EDT, FSD/FSAZ/Versus/CBC/WXYT), and as I’m ironically watching the Red Wings’ pre-playoff Wingspan episode on Fox Sports Detroit airing a feature story on octopus-throwing…
Quite frankly, here’s the bottom line. It takes about a minute for KK to update its HTML and publish an entry, so my request is that you come back here and take a peek to see whether Franzen’s going sometime around 10:30 so that it can be an immediate update, thus making life a little easier for you to find out as soon as the news hits Twitter. In the interim, I’ll offer up a few pre-game reading stories that didn’t make the game-day update as this blogger chose to take a pre-game nap…Which is good given that thanks to the game’s late start, I’m going to be up until about…seven AM EDT…compiling the recap and notebook.
First and foremost, it should come as no surprise that both the Coyotes and Red Wings spoke to DetroitRedWings.com’s Bill Roose about establishing a physical presence on the ice tonight:
“It’s one of those areas of the game that can sway the momentum – being physical – and we’re a team that gets in there hard to forecheck and we’re told to eliminate bodies,” Jovanovski said. “It’s going to be part of the game that could determine some sort of outcome.”
“I think they’ll be energized tonight; they’re coming back here to their building,” [Justin] Abdelkader said. “We just have to prepare ourselves because we know it’s going to be a physical battle. They’re probably going to be just as physical as they were before, or even more.”
Abdelkader says he’s ready, however, for just about everything as he’s something of a playoff veteran…
“I would say I’m acclimated to it, for sure. I think you always have to keep your head up, but know that it might be a little more physical. At the same time you always have to keep your head up out there, because you never know who might be coming up and making hits. Just know your surroundings and know where people are at. I enjoy it. I’ve always enjoyed the physical part of the game, so it’s always been fun for me.”
The Coyotes obviously believe that tonight’s game is a must-win, and that their start in front of their home crowd will get them on the scoreboard and back in business as they hope to climb out of a 2-0 hole, and Eric Belanger, who helped engineer the Los Angeles Kings’ rally from a 2-0 deficit against Detroit in the 2001 playoffs (another bad memory for me as, while I’m being too blunt, I’ll admit that at the time I had major throat surgery to remove my uvula, tonsils, trim my soft palate and open up my throat [a UPPP, don’t look it up, it’s nasty], so I remember watching the Wings collapse while being in incredible pain), believes that the Coyotes have every opportunity to turn the tables on the Wings as he was part of the last team to rally from a 2-0 hole:
“There have been a lot of guys who have gone through adversity in the playoffs,” Belanger said. “You can’t get too down on yourself and you can’t feel too good about yourself if you’re up 2-0 or 3-1 in a series. The best example is last year when in was in Washington and we were up 3-1 against Montreal and we lost in seven. So it’s never over until it’s over, and we still have confidence in our abilities and try to take this game tonight.”
Also of note:
Monday’s Game 3 will be career playoff game No. 167 for forward Tomas Holmstrom, tying him for fifth in the Red Wings’ recordbook with Darren McCarty. … Nicklas Lidstrom’s next power-play goal will tie him for fifth in NHL history for most career playoff PPGs with hall of famer Mario Lemieux at 29. … Heading onto Game 3, the Red Wings have the league’s best power-play in these playoffs with a 37.5 % efficiency, scoring three times on eight opportunities.
• Most of tonight’s notebooks for both the Wings’ and Coyotes’ writers will appear during the game because their papers publish from 2-5 AM EDT, with updated recaps to follow (thus the all-night fun for me), and Abdelkader’s maturity into a playoff veteran and more well-rounded forward who just happens to be substituting for Henrik Zettterberg as the team’s second-line center earned him feature story status in an article by the Detroit News’s Ted Kulfan:
“Confidence is so huge in this game,” said Abdelkader, who got an increased opportunity in the second half-season because of numerous injuries. “When you get confidence, it goes a long way, and just getting comfortable in what I can do out there.”
[Wings coach Mike] Babcock believes most young players who come from the minors have a period in which their development stalls while they get used to the NHL. That seemed to be the case with Abdelkader, 24. But once he got past that, Babcock saw the type of player Abdelkader can become.
“Like Helmer (Darren Helm), they’re competitive people and they’ll be longtime pros because they’re competitive and work so hard on it,” Babcock said. “They want to be the best on the team.”
Right now, Abdelkader’s quite happy playing a larger role on the team while centering Todd Bertuzzi and Danny Cleary….
“They’re heavy and spend a lot of time in the offensive zone,” Babcock said. “They give us a good line who can play against anyone.”
Abdelkader agrees his linemates complement [him], but the physical nature stands out.
“We have a lot of size and we can wear on the other team’s defense,” he said. “Being physical is a key for us. Hopefully we can create some chances and hang onto pucks.”
And Abdelkader continued that line of thinking while speaking to MLive’s Ansar Khan:
“I think we’ve all grown a little more comfortable with each other, kind of know where each other’s going to be on the ice and how each other plays,” Abdelkader said. “I think we all, being big bodies, can be suited well as a line for the playoffs. With (Henrik Zetterberg) coming back, hopefully soon, things can always change, but (for now) just do my job, have fun with it and take it game by game.”
As it turns out, Babcock actually does ask friends and family who they felt played the best during the course of a night’s game to get a little more feedback, and he says that Abdelkader, who started the season rotating in and out of the press box as a healthy scratch, kept coming on in those conversations:
“I ask people all the time after the night’s over, ‘Who did you like better than I liked?’ And Abby’s name just kept coming up,” Babcock said Monday, before Game 3 of the Western Conference quarterfinals against Phoenix. “I had some guys from different organizations tell me that, and everyone told me how great he was in the minors (with the Grand Rapids Griffins).”
“When you first come to the NHL … it’s kind of like when you change the channel on the TV it pauses for a second,” Babcock said. “That’s how most guys’ games are. They just don’t see it quick enough, so they look slower than they are. It took him a while to get though that. It’s like (center Darren Helm), they’re going to be long-time pros because they’re so competitive and work so hard at it and want to be the best player on the team. They want to out-will you. Abby’s 225-230 pounds, a big, heavy butt, makes it hard to play against.”
Todd Bertuzzi likes what he’s seeing from his center…
“He’s been given some bigger responsibilities. He’s done well with it,” Bertuzzi said. “He’s very aggressive on the forecheck, helps myself and Dan out. With that kind of play it opens up a little more room offensively for us. He’s starting to figure out what he needs to be (done) to be successful. It takes a little bit of time to find that.”
And with Mike Modano likely to retire, it certainly looks like Abdeklader and Darren Helm will be given opportunities to play more offensively inclined roles next season. As such, Abdelkader’s quite happily enjoying the sponge’s role while playing with Bertuzzi and Cleary:
“(You learn) just how well they play not only in the offensive zone, but defensively they’re really good,” he said. “They’re always taking the puck to the net, not keeping it on the outside. Just little things like that you can learn from.”
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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.