The Malik Report
The Red Wings hope to open their road-heavy post-Christmas schedule on a positive note as they battle the Nashville Predators this evening (8 PM EST on FSD Plus/FS Tennessee/97.1 FM).
The Wings probably won't hold a morning skate as they traveled to Nashville this morning:
The 17-10-and-7 Detroit Red Wings begin a particularly brutal part of their 2014-15 schedule Saturday against the 17-11-and-6 Nashville Predators this evening (8 PM EST on FSD Plus/FS Tennessee/97.1 FM), kicking off a stretch of 3 games in 4 nights, 5 games in 8 nights and a total of 6 games played over the course of 10 nights, with exactly one of those games to be played at Joe Louis Arena.
Long story short, the post-Christmas schedule is most nasty early on, with the Wings playing in Nashville, Minnesota and Winnipeg over the course of 4 nights. The Wings are 1-2-and-2 over their past 5 games, the Predators have won 2 straight.
Neither team practiced on Wednesday, Thursday or Friday, and the Wings will be flying to Nashvile on Saturday morning, so the Wings probably won't hold a morning skate.
As such, we'll be working backward to find the pulses of the respective teams.
Our friends in Nashville most recently defeated the Montreal Canadiens 5-1 on Monday, and it's also quite possible that Mike Fisher (lower-body injury) will return to the Preds' lineup for tomorrow's game.
NashvillePredators.com's Brooks Bratten provides a recap of Monday's game...
Starting tomorrow, the Red Wings play a stretch of 5 games in 8 nights, and they begin a stretch in which they'll play 9 of 10 games away from Joe Louis Arena.
1. That's a gnarly schedule, but the Wings were able to squeeze in some family time over the past three days, and the coach and players told MLive's Ansar Khan that their time spent with family is invaluably important:
"Lots of holidays we don't get to spend together. Christmas is the one where you always have time off and it's extremely important to us," Blashill said. "We'll go to church Christmas Eve and we'll spend the night as a family. We'll go check out Christmas lights. We'll do lots of things. It's such a special time for me personally. It makes me think of family."
As the father of two young boys, goaltender Jimmy Howard can't imagine being away from home on this day, like several NBA teams are.
"It's way better than opening up presents, that's for sure," Howard said. "Seeing their expressions and how excited James gets going from present to present it is truly a joy. And I think Henry just enjoys making a mess, ripping open the presents. It's going be a lot of fun and seeing the different reactions that they have. I can't believe this is James' fourth Christmas already and Henry's second, so it should be fun."
2. As you probably know by now, 6 Red Wings prospects will be taking part in the World Junior Championships starting tomorrow, and Joe Hicketts spoke with the Toronto Star's Kevin McGran about the immense pressure the Canadians face to repeat as champions this year:
I know that for some of you, Christmas is heavenly, for some of you, Christmas is dealing with the hell of familial and gifting obligations, and I know that for some of you, this is just another day on the calendar, but wherever you fall on the Christmas-Hanukkah-Kwanzaa-Festivus spectrum, you have a safe, happy day, and that you do your best to refrain from killing, maiming or otherwise harming your relatives
To me, secular Christmas is a day to spend with the people you love and a day to be grateful for the traditions you've made together.
This is my favorite scene from A Christmas Story not because it plays up a stereotype, but because it illustrates that one person's Christmas disaster can become a fond memory of "Chinese turkey."
Merry Christmas. Be safe, try to stay sane and roll with the punches.
Of disparate Red Wings-related note this evening:
1. The Free Press's Helene St. James shares Red Wings Christmas traditions and favorite Christmas gifts:
The holiday brought forth reminiscences, from favorite childhood gifts to cherished memories.
“When I was a kid, we always used to go to my grandparents’ house,” Luke Glendening said. “We’d have some adult dress up as Santa. They tricked us for a long time. I wanted to believe. I still want to believe in Santa.”
Like many of the Europeans on the team, Tomas Jurco celebrated Christmas Eve this year with his girlfriend and buddies from back home. Last week he took advantage of a visit from his parents and sister to celebrate with them.
“We enjoyed a nice Christmas tree and had dinner,” he said. That included such traditional Slovakian fare as kapustnica (sauerkraut soup), potato salad and fish.
2. The World Junior Championships begin on Thursday, and six Red Wings prospects will take part in the tournament--Joe Hicketts for Canada, Vili Saarijarvi for Finland, Axel Holmstrom and Christoffer Ehn for Sweden, Evgeny Svechnikov for Russia and Joren Van Pottelberghe for Switzerland.
For the Hicketts family, CJFC Kamloops' Chad Klassen reports that the World Juniors will be a family affair:
From the Minneapolis Star-Tribune's Dave Wright:
Christmas 1965 came with the usual trimmings. The boy scouted the horizon in advance for possibilities. There was the usual thin box from Aunt Marcie – handkerchiefs. There were big boxes (toys, he hoped). There were square boxes that he knew from experience were clothes. Then he spotted something unusual. In the corner of the pile of gifts was an envelope with his name on it.
Since it wasn't stamped or addressed, his mind began to race. What kind of gift could be in an envelope? For some reason, he reached for it as a first choice. His mother stopped him, saying "Save that for later.”
When you tell a kid that at the holidays, you drive the interest level up astronomically. Fearing he might miss out on another gift, the boy reluctantly obeyed. When the feast of gifts was nearly complete, the boy was left with the envelope. Go ahead, said his mother. Now you can open it.
The boy opened it and stared in disbelief.
It was two tickets to see the Red Wings play, of all teams, Montreal at the Olympia the next night. His older brother Johnny was going to take him to see the players he knew so well but had rarely seen. His joy was such that the boy never noticed the location of the seats. The tickets were stamped "Standing Room” – a concept he knew nothing about.
From the Windsor Star's Bob Duff, writing for The Hockey News:
The 2015 world juniors served as a coming-out party for one 18-year-old Red Wings first-round draft pick. Could history repeat itself?
Last year, Dylan Larkin, Detroit’s first selection in 2014 who’s now enjoying a stellar rookie season in the NHL, stole the show for Team USA with his sensational two-way game. This time around, Russian left winger Evgeny Svechnikov, Detroit’s top pick in 2015, hopes to make a name for himself on the world junior stage. Detroit coach Jeff Blashill certainly sees parallels between the two players.
“He seems to have that inner drive it takes for people to be great,” Blashill said of Svechnikov. “That’s something I look for. Talent is one thing, but you have to have character and talent. He seems to have that type of character, that type of drive that’s going to allow him to continue to get better. That’s what Dylan Larkin has. that’s why he’s continued to progress.”
As much as Svechnikov’s 6-foot-2, 205-pound frame grabs your attention, it’s the details in his game that impress the coach most. “He’s real strong on the puck,” Blashill said. “He’s got really good hands, he can make plays in tight with the puck, and his skating will continue to get better because he does have that inner drive.”
Among the Detroit News's Ted Kulfan's notes:
From a hockey perspective, the Red Wings are in fourth in the Eastern Conference with little more than half the schedule remaining. It’s helped the Red Wings (41 points) have made it a habit of earning points — they collected at least one in 13 consecutive games — while the Atlantic Division-leading Canadiens have struggled (1-9 run).
The Canadiens hold the slimmest of leads in the East over the Bruins and Panthers (43-42 points), followed by the Red Wings (41) and then the Senators (40). The defending East champion Lightning has 37 points. And with nine of the next 10 games on the road, the Red Wings understand they’re at a crucial point in the schedule.
“We know the standings,” Red Wings defenseman Brendan Smith said. “We know (the Canadiens) kind of been struggling, but they’re still first in the division. We want to win these games, and maybe that can help us move into that position (leading the division) but we’re not really paying too much attention to what they’re doing. We’re just worrying more or less what we have to do to be first in the division.”
Of Red Wings-related note today:
The Red Wings posted a "Happy Holidays" video that highlights the team's charitable work:
In the land of power rankings, from TSN's Scott Cullen:
From Hockey Canada:
Team Canada has tapped into three returning players from last year’s World Junior Championship-winning team in the selection of its team captains.
Forward Brayden Point (Calgary/Moose Jaw, WHL) was named team captain following Canada’s National Junior Team’s autograph session at the team hotel on Christmas Eve. Point, captain of the Moose Jaw Warriors of the WHL, will be assisted by Lawson Crouse (Mt. Brydges, Ont./Kingston, OHL) and Joe Hicketts (Kamloops, B.C./Victoria, WHL).
"These three players have set a tremendous example for the rest of our team from the start of our camp,” said head coach Dave Lowry. “The leadership, work ethic and attention to detail shown by Brayden, Lawson and Joe are the standard for their teammates."
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.