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‘Two Things,’ Griffins version: a Game-Day Preview and a Griffins-Sharks series primer

Of Grand Rapids Griffins-related note ahead of tonight's Game 3 between Grand Rapids and the San Jose Barracuda (7 PM EDT at Van Andel Arena; on ESPN 96.1 FM and the AHL Live):

1. The Grand Rapids Griffins posted a Game-Day Preview video in which Bob Kaser sets up tonight's game:

2. NHL.com's Patrick Williams wrote an article which contains "series primers" for the AHL's Western and Eastern Conference Finals:

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A fluffy little story about a cat at the Joe

This is quite the unique story from WDET's Sandra Svoboda:

A stray kitten scored a new home after Joe Louis Arena workers caught it on the ice. ”Josie” is likely the last visitor to play in the Detroit stadium.

She’s going to live with a Red Wings team staff member.

WDET’s Sandra Svoboda talked with Art Regner, editorial assistant for DetroitRedWings.com about the cat. Click on the audio link above to hear their whole conversation.

Click away...

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St. James’ mailbag feature: on DeKeyser, goal-scoring and Frk

The Free Press's Helene St. James posted a mailbag feature today, and here are some of her answers to reader questions:

Regarding Danny DeKeyser, and Jonathan Ericsson's trade value...

HSJ: DeKeyser was solid for USA at the World Championship, surrounded by a more talented defense corps than he is in Detroit. DeKeyser is two seasons removed from a career year in 2014-15, when he put up 31 points in 80 games and was a plus-11. He was among the many Wings who underperformed this past season, with a paltry 12 points, and a minus-22 in 82 games. In fairness to DeKeyser, the decline of Niklas Kronwall has forced DeKeyser into a top-pairing role when he really should be slotted as a no. 3. If the Wings can turn some of their plethora of wingers into an upgrade on defense, I think DeKeyser will thrive as a second-pairing guy. He’s only 27, just coming into his prime. As for Jonathan Ericsson, I don’t see a trade there, and I’d expose him in the expansion draft to protect Nick Jensen.

Determining which player will lead the Red Wings in goals during the 2017-18 season:

HSJ: Tomas Tatar surged from nine goals at season’s midpoint in January to lead the Wings with 25 goals. I doubt he’ll repeat as off-season shoulder surgery leaves him iffy for the start of next season – and then that’s a tough injury for a goal scorer to bounce back from right away even when he does start playing. I’ll go with Anthony Mantha. The message seems to be sinking in with him that he has to exert himself every game to stand out in the NHL. If Mantha plays to his size, skates and goes to the net (especially on power plays), he should light it up.

St. James continues, discussing Martin Frk's chances of making the team...

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Red Wings sign Czech defenseman Libor Sulak to entry-level deal

Updated 5x at 2:22 PM: From the Red Wings:

According to Elite Prospects, Sulak is a 6'2," 190-pound defenseman who played for Orli Znojmo this past season, posting 10 goals, 18 assists and 28 points in 54 games played. He's 23 years old, and is supposed to play for the Lahti Pelicans in 2017-18.

More from the Wings:

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Red Wings name Delaware North Sportservice as food/beverage/retail partner for Little Caesars Arena

The Red Wings have chosen their foodservice provider for Little Caesars Arena, and it's a company owned by Boston Bruins owner Jeremy Jacobs. Delaware North Sportservice is an established foodservice company that handles the food and beverage needs of many sports facilities around the country:

Here's the press release:

Olympia Entertainment Puts Emphasis on Unique Fan Experience, Naming Delaware North Sportservice as food, beverage and retail partner for Detroit’s Little Caesars Arena
Industry leader will deliver innovative fare and traditional favorites within the state-of-the-art entertainment district

BUFFALO, N.Y. and DETROIT (May 24, 2017) – Delaware North Sportservice – a division of global hospitality and foodservice provider Delaware North – has been awarded the contract to serve as the food, beverage and retail partner at Little Caesars Arena. The soon-to-be-opened arena in downtown Detroit will be the home of the National Hockey League’s Detroit Red Wings and National Basketball Association’s Detroit Pistons and is the centerpiece of The District Detroit entertainment district currently under development.

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Saving the Spitfires

The Windsor Spitfires are hosting the Memorial Cup this week at the WFCU Centre, and Sportsnet's Gare Joyce shares the story of Spitfires owners Bob Boughner and Warren Rychel taking over and ultimately "saving" the Spitfires:

The Memorial Cup opened in Windsor on Friday night but it would surely have landed somewhere else were it not for Rychel and Boughner’s decision to find a way to stay in the game. It might be a bit much to say that they saved junior hockey in Windsor. Major-junior hockey’s grip on most of its long-standing markets is pretty stubborn and when it takes root, it’s like a weed. That said, the Spitfires would have been worth more elsewhere than they were in Windsor circa 2004, and the city was in the process of losing bigger stuff than that, what with the auto plants being shuttered. Still, Rychel and Boughner didn’t think about another place. It had to be here. And it had to be now.

Joyce continues...

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NHL.com’s Rosen on the ‘rebuild on the fly’

NHL.com's Dan Rosen answered mailbag questions this morning, and Rosen suggested that the Red Wings' "rebuild on the fly" shouldn't include a total tear-down of the Big Red Machine:

What's the first offseason move for a team like the Detroit Red Wings, who are just entering a rebuild? This includes anything at the draft. -- @J_ferns97

Let's talk realistically here. The Red Wings are not far off from being a playoff team, which is what they want to be at this point. They are not entering a rebuild like Buffalo, Toronto or the Arizona Coyotes. Detroit is entering a new arena next season and needs to put a team on the ice that will keep people in the seats. So there's no big rebuild in Hockeytown.

The Red Wings also have a number of quality players in place, but Detroit absolutely has to get better on defense, and I do think a change among the forwards could be in the offing if only to shake things up. The goaltending situation needs to be ironed out too. Jimmy Howard is the better of the two goalies, in my opinion. He should go into next season as the unquestioned No. 1, but he also might be exposed in the expansion draft if the Red Wings choose to protect Petr Mrazek, who at 25 is eight years younger than Howard. It makes sense to protect the cheaper, younger goalie.

To be a playoff team, the first thing they need to do is get a quality top-four defenseman. Again, I don't think they're going to go into full rebuild mode, so I do expect general manager Ken Holland to be on the lookout to make this team better, not shred it.

Rosen continues, and I think he's right--at least in terms of what's going to happen with the team.

Whether this team needs to fully rebuild is a question up for debate, but the Red Wings' front office isn't going to proceed with a full tear-down-and-rebuild situation. Holland stated as much during his end-of-season remarks.

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The Protect Or Expose Game For The Detroit Red Wings

from Brendan Savage of Mlive,

Jimmy Howard

Contract status: Signed through 2018-19

Salary cap hit: $5.29 million

Why protect him: This is another tough one. Howard had a superior year compared to Petr Mrazek last season, he also sparkled in the World Championship and he's only got two years left on his contract while Mrazek will likely get a hefty raise before 2018-19. Howard could also bring something in return at the trade deadline given he'll have one season left on his deal. Part of me says protect the two-time All-Star and expose Mrazek.

Why expose him: Howard has battled injuries for the last several seasons and is eight years older than Mrazek. Dumping that $5 million could be helpful when free agency rolls around if the Golden Knights take him and it might help Mrazek to enter training camp knowing there's no threat of Howard (again) replacing him as the No. 1 goalie.

Verdict: Expose him

Petr Mrazek

Contract status: Signed through 2017-18

Salary cap hit: $4 million

Why protect him: Mrazek is eight years younger than Jimmy Howard and has enormous potential. But potential only goes so far. He has to start delivering. Mrazek was perhaps the NHL's best goalie for the first six weeks of 2016 but has struggled since and was outplayed last season by Howard. As an impending restricted free agent in 2018, he's still under team control and Vegas would be awfully tempted to take him if available.

Why expose him: Is Mrazek really a better alternative than Howard? He sure didn't play like it last season and also didn't win any friends in the dressing room when he refused to stay on the ice during the morning skate before a December road game that he wasn't starting, something that is standard procedure. His disappearing act didn't sit well with some teammates. Mrazek is going to demand a raise when his current contact runs out and that might make Howard's $5-million cap hit a bit more appealing if Mrazek doesn't start consistently playing like a top NHL netminder.

Verdict: Protect him

the rest of the team...

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Grand Rapids Griffins’ Ben Street ‘takes the pulse’ of the AHL’s Western Conference Final

The Grand Rapids Griffins posted a video in which forward Ben Street takes the pulse of Grand Rapids' Western Conference Final series against the San Jose Barracuda. The teams are tied 1-1 after 2 games, and Games 3 (Wednesday), 4 (Friday) and 5 (Saturday) take place at Van Andel Arena:

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St. James: Holland, Wings preparing for the draft at organizational meetings

The Red Wings are holding their pre-draft/free agency organizational meetings this week (next week, the Draft Combine takes place in Toronto), so Wings GM Ken Holland spoke with the Free Press's Helene St. James regarding the team's outlook as it prepares to select 9th overall--and make a total of 11 picks--at next month's draft in Chicago:

“Everybody knows in our sport, it starts at the draft table,” Holland told the Free Press. “In order to be successful, you need to have a good draft. We need to wake up in a few years and some of these picks are important players for us.”

Discussions include the possibility of maneuvering to move up in the draft; the Wings twice have gone in the other direction in recent years, moving back in 2013 to gain an extra second-round pick, and again last year to unload the contract of Pavel Datsyuk, and gain a second-round pick. The 2013 bonus selection has turned into a terrific story, as forward Tyler Bertuzzi is leading the Grand Rapids Griffins in scoring two games into the third round of the Calder Cup playoffs. The 2016 bonus pick, defenseman Filip Hronek, turned pro this spring after producing 61 points in 59 games for the OHL Saginaw Spirit. He had two points in 10 regular-season games for the Griffins, and has appeared in two playoff games.

“We’re open to anything, to moving up, to moving back,” Holland said. “But it’s got to make sense. The more picks you have, the more opportunity. We are going through lists, we have lots of picks this year, and we think there are lots of good players in this year’s draft.”

St. James continues, and we will talk about the draft shortly; I'm spending three of the next four days in Grand Rapids to cover the Griffins, and my player grades are half-finished (if you're still interested in 'em).

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About The Malik Report

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.


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