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On offensively blossoming Brendan Smith

Brendan Smith's offensive production has taken off lately, and he spoke with DetroitRedWings.com's Bill Roose and the Detroit News's Ted Kulfan about his blossoming offensive game:

“You always want to continue to get better, because if you’re not getting better than you’re just trying to find a way to get yourself out of the league,” he said. “I think everybody’s getting better, the league’s getting better, but myself, I think I’ve gotten better. I think I’ve been playing kind of the same style for a little bit, for a while here, and I think just playing more games, more repetitions, understanding your competition, all that stuff, has helped my game for sure.”

While it’s hard to overlook his offensive output lately, Wings coach Jeff Blashill has been impressed with Smith’s continued commitment to his primary responsibility.

“When he manages his game well, takes what is given and doesn’t force plays, and he doesn’t force even gaps he’s a really, really good player and that’s what he’s done lately,” Blashil said. “I think the defensive play comes mainly from his decision making throughout games. I think it’s been good overall.”

Besides the points, which include two goals, in the past eight games, Smith has amassed 13 shots on goal, leveled 14 hits, and blocked seven shots. He had 21 shots in the previous 23 games this season.

Roose continues, and Smith told Kulfan that he's been given a defined role from coach Blashill:

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Practice articles: Blashill satisfied with new lines’ performances; Devils practice shorthanded

After the Red Wings' Sunday practice in New Jersey, Wings coach Jeff Blashill stated that Kyle Quincey and Drew Miller will probably return sometime on the Wings' West Coast road trip.

For the present moment--as in Monday's game against the Devils--he's going to stick with the same lineup that he employed in the Wings' 4-3 win over Buffalo on Saturday, as he told MLive's Brendan Savage:

"I thought our compete level yesterday was really good," Blashill said. "I thought our puck management was real good. I didn't think we turned many pucks over. I thought we competed a high, high level. So did Buffalo. We tried to adjust the lines and you're always trying to adjust lines and put them in spots to be as successful as possible."

Brad Richards, Riley Sheahan, Henrik Zetterberg and Tomas Tatar scored vs. the Sabres, the latter getting the game-winning goal with 2:50 left in the third period.

The line of Richards, Sheahan and rookie Dylan Larkin produced the first two goals. Richards scored after taking a pass from Sheahan during a 2-on-1 in the first period and Sheahan tipped in a shot by Brendan Smith in the second to give the Red Wings a 2-0 lead.

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Red Wings and Devils practice Tweets: no lineup changes, starter to be announced on Monday

The Red Wings and New Jersey Devils both practiced on Sunday, and the Bergen Record's Tom Gulitti covered New Jersey's practice:

Looks like a day off for Cory Schneider. Keith Kinkaid only goalie on the ice for Devils' practice. Also no Mike Cammalleri.

...

I don't see goalie coach Chris Terreri out there. I wonder if he's strapping on the pads right now.

...

And here comes Terreri in his goalie gear.

...

Devils say Schneider is resting.

Meanwhile, at the Prudential Center, per the Free Press's George Sipple:

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‘Three Things’: Fantasy hockey talk; on Tatar’s slump and World Junior Championship action

Of Red Wings-related note this morning:

1. In the fantasy hockey department, from Sportsnet's Steve Laidlaw:

13. Tomas Tatar briefly made an appearance on the scoresheet for Detroit Thursday, but his assist was eventually transferred to Gustav Nyquist. Both players could have used it as they each had just two points in the past 10 games. Now Tatar is at two in 11, while Nyquist is at three in 11. Tough times.

14. These two have basically become third liners for the Red Wings. Though Detroit does a good job of rolling their top three lines and both of their power-play units, this still isn’t an ideal situation.

15. Dylan Larkin continues to impress. He has certainly slowed down with just seven points in 12 games in December, but I don’t know that the rookie will hit a wall. He can tear a team to shreds with his speed at any moment. It’s that type of game-breaking ability that prevents slumps from going on too long.

2. MLive's Brendan Savage happened to discuss Tatar's slump-breaking goal, as well as Henrik Zetterberg's first goal in 7 games, in his notebook:

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Do You Consider Petr Mrazek As The Wings #1 Goalie?

from Brendan Savage of Mlive,

He's played in seven straight games – starting five while relieving Howard in two others – and the streak could grow if he gets the nod Monday, when the Red Wings visit the New Jersey Devils.

Blashill hasn't ruled out starting Mrazek for the third straight game.

"We look at things day to day so I'll (decide in) Jersey who is going to start there but what Petr did tonight was to make a big save at a big moment to insure the win," said Blashill, a former goalie himself. "That's something he's done throughout his career. That's something I think he's real good at.

"He's played pretty good hockey overall so we'll continue to evaluate."

The big save Blashill refered to came with 1:24 left after Tomas Tatar scored to give the Red Wings a 4-3 lead. Mrazek stoned Zach Bogosian on a breakaway to preserve the lead and get 2016 started on a winning note.

"He saved us tonight," said captain Henrik Zetterberg, who gave Detroit a 3-2 lead at 2:27 of the third to end a six-game goal drought. "In the third period, there were some key moments and he had some big saves and not a lot of rebounds coming off him, either.

"That makes it easier for us to play defense."

Mrazek's numbers are superior to Howard's in virtually every area.

more

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Prospect news: Walleye lose to Fort Wayne; Pope scores, Perry stops 37

Of prospect-related note:

In the ECHL, the Toledo Walleye dropped a 2-1 decision to their archrival Fort Wayne Komets despite a 27-save performance from Jeff Lerg, who was returned to the team from Grand Rapids. The Walleye's website posted a recap:

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Red Wings-Sabres wrap-up: you’ve got to survive before you can thrive, and the Wings survived

The Red Wings flew to New Jersey for Monday's game between the Wings and Devils--the final in a stretch of 6 games played over the course of 10 nights--having finally won a damn game.

Detroit snapped its 3-game losing streak and have hopefully ended a stretch in which the Wings had earned an ugly 3-5-and-3 record via a slightly sloppy but still useful 4-3 victory over the Buffalo Sabres.

Detroit definitely has more than a few issues to iron out, from the recurrence of being out-shot on a regular basis (35-23 on Saturday), surrendering multi-goal leads and playing with utterly inept special teams (the PP isn't great and the PK's dreadful), but you can't repair everything at once. As long as the Wings are "in the process" of ironing out their issues, they can use this win as a blueprint for what they're going to have to do as their 6-game road trip continues--survive and attempt to thrive by any means necessary.

For our friends from Buffalo, Saturday's game was a "should've," as the Buffalo News's John Vogl noted:

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Red Wings-Sabres quick take: good enough for now

Both the Red Wings and Sabres entered today's matinee game amidst 3-game losing streaks, and Buffalo was going to ensure that the Wings received literal and figurative rough rides regardless of the result of today's game.

Battling a plucky and physical team, the Red Wings blew a 2-0 lead and a 3-2 lead, but Detroit emerged on the right side of the scoresheet for once, winning 4-3 thanks to superb efforts by all 4 re-adjusted lines, 2 assists from Mike Green, whose assist on the Tatar gamer assuaged for a penalty that led to the 3-3 goal, and a wonderful 32-save performance by Petr Mrazek, who shined despite a heavy workload.

Just as importantly, Riley Sheahan, Tomas Tatar and Gustav Nyquist (who had 7 shots) all registered points and all played resurgent, strong hockey, giving the Wings the secondary scoring that they needed to overcome Detroit's own defensive gaffes (and Jonathan Ericsson was absolutely dreadful on Saturday).

All in all, the Wings still played a less-than-dominant game against a team that appears to have Detroit's number, but the Wings prevailed because they stuck with "the process" and were just a little better at executing than the Sabres were. For today, anyway, that's good enough.

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Wings at the WJC: HIcketts, Canada lose to Saarijarvi’s Finns; Sweden, Russia advance to semifinals

At the World Junior Championships:

The biggest quarterfinal shocker comes in the "home team's" win: Vili Saarijarvi's Finns defeated Canada 6-5 in a very sloppy, penalty-filled game for the Canadians. Hicketts took the delay-of-game penalty which led to Finland's 6-5 goal, and Saarijarvi didn't register a point for Finland.

Still...

Elsewhere, Axel Holmstrom had 2 assists as Holmstrom, Christoffer Ehn and Sweden defeated Slovakia 6-0, advancing to play Finland in the semifinals on Monday;

And Evgeny Svechnikov had 2 shots and finished at -1 in Russia's 4-3 win over Denmark. Russia will play the winner of today's USA-Czech game USA on Monday.

Update:

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Hicketts endures the joy that is a random doping test

According to the Canadian Press, Wings prospect and Team Canada defenseman Joe Hicketts had to endure one of the indignities of international hockey on Tuesday:

Rarely has Joe Hicketts been under this kind of pressure.

The Canadian defenceman was randomly selected for a doping test by the International Ice Hockey Federation on Tuesday following Canada’s 3-2 shootout win over Switzerland in the preliminary round of the world junior hockey championship.

Unfortunately for Hicketts, it took him over an hour to get the job done.

"I got tested in Victoria in the Western League two years ago and I was able to go right away and I kind of thought I’d be able to do the same thing the other day," said Hicketts on Friday. "You have to pee I think about 100 millilitres and I was short about 10. Four litres of water and about an hour later and I was finally finished."

Continued with a background of the IIHF's anti-doping programs...

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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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