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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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Toledo Walleye say, ‘Thank You’ to fans

The Toledo Blade's Mark Monroe reports that the Toledo Walleye's players thanked their fans on Monday night, two days after being eliminated from the ECHL playoffs:

The fans came one last time to salute a team that seemed well-equipped to go the distance and hoist the Kelly Cup. Walleye team members and coaches came to say thank you to some of the greatest fans in hockey. All came to share thoughts of what might have been, falling just short of the ultimate goal.

If victorious, it would have been Toledo’s first cup since 1994.

A crowd of about 800 turned out at the Huntington Center on Monday evening to pay tribute to a Toledo team that won a regular-season championship.

The Walleye reached the Western Conference Finals of the Kelly Cup playoffs, but were eliminated by the Colorado Eagles on the road on Saturday.

The coaches, players, and team officials were greeted with cheers from a throng of fans of all ages. Every player filmed a brief tribute segment that was shown on the video board during the “Thank You” event.

“Sorry we couldn’t get it done for you,” rookie Tylor Spink said. “Hopefully next year we can get it done for you.”

This year’s club set 33 team and individual franchise records including most road wins (25) and longest winning streak (nine games). The team also set several Toledo ECHL records including a new mark for most wins (51).

Monroe continues, and, via the Red Wings, the Walleye thanked their fans via a Twitter video as well:

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Wallner: Grand Rapids’ player development rides a fine line come playoff time

The Grand Rapids Press's Peter J. Wallner asked Grand Rapids Griffins coach Todd Nelson whether the Griffins would play a prospect ahead of a veteran during the playoffs, and Wallner received a nuanced answer:

"It's been the philosophy of the organization that everybody has to earn the right to get into the lineup," Griffins coach Todd Nelson said. "If somebody is out-playing someone then they'll play. That's always been the philosophy.

"If he can't beat out someone from the ECHL or AHL contract, how is he going to help the big club? What I'm trying to say is there's no entitlement here."

The Griffins, with a veteran-laden roster that's gone 8-2 in the postseason, host the San Jose Barracuda at 7 p.m. Wednesday in Game 3. The series is tied 1-1.

Wallner asked Axel Holmstrom about the situation as he earned the opportunity to play in playoff games while Martin Frk was sidelined:

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Crain’s Detroit Business’s Shea: Little Caesars Arena construction costs at $863 million

Crain's Detroit Business's Bill Shea reports that the total construction bill for Little Caesars Arena exceeded the original $650 million estimate by quite a bit:

It will cost nearly $863 million to build Little Caesars Arena, which is the latest estimate from the state after $40 million in taxpayer-financed funding was approved Tuesday to cover the Detroit Pistons relocating to the venue.

The revised deal also includes increased public subsidies for the Ilitch family's The District Detroit commercial development around the arena.

The new cost estimate made public Tuesday by the Michigan Strategic Fund, which unanimously approved the changes to the 2013 financing deal for the arena, includes $34.5 million in new bonds (and $4.85 million in closing costs and interest) that will be used to pay for changes to the downtown Detroit venue that will allow the NBA team to play there when the building opens in September at I-75 and Woodward. A deal was worked out in November by the owner of the building's primary tenant, the Detroit Red Wings, to have the Pistons leave the Palace of Auburn Hills for Little Caesars Arena.

The nearly $40 million in Pistons-related arena costs, which had been previously disclosed, is atop $250 million in tax-exempt bonds previously issued by the Detroit Downtown Development Authority — which ultimately owns the arena — to finance some of the construction. The Michigan Strategic Fund issued the original bonds used to finance the DDA bonds under a deal approved in 2012 by the state Legislature.

Shea continues...

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Prospect news: Sambrook’s Otters shell the Sea Dogs at the Memorial Cup

Of prospect-related note:

At the Memorial Cup, Jordan Sambrook had an assist on the Erie Otters' first goal...as Erie scored TWELVE TIMES to defeat the Saint John Sea Dogs 12-5. You can watch highlights from the game here.

Erie will play the Windsor Spitfires on Wednesday, and the team that wins Wednesday's game will advance directly to the Memorial Cup Final.

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A historical note and the stuff of playoff legend

There's a wee bit of irony in this note from NHL.com's John Kreiser, because what happened during and after this game is the stuff of playoff and hockey (urban) legend:

THIS DATE IN HISTORY: May 22

2009: Detroit Red Wings defenseman Nicklas Lidstrom sets an NHL record by playing in his 228th consecutive Stanley Cup Playoff game, a 4-3 overtime loss to the Chicago Blackhawks in Game 3 of the Western Conference Final at United Center.

Lidstrom's second-period goal starts Detroit's comeback from down three goals. Lidstrom breaks the record set by Larry Robinson from 1973-92. He finishes his NHL career with 263 postseason games played, second all-time to former teammate Chris Chelios (266), and plays on four Stanley Cup-winning teams before retiring in 2012.

Lidstrom didn't play a 229th consecutive playoff game because he was accidentally speared in the groin by Jonathan Toews, and he required surgery to rectify the issue. There are Wings fans who insist that Lidstrom lost a testicle thanks to the spear, and there's no doubt that Lidstrom played through pain in the Stanley Cup Final rematch with Pittsburgh.

The NHL also posted a short video reflecting upon the cheerier part of Lidstrom's 228th consecutive playoff appearance:

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District Detroit posts two pictures of the Wings’ practice rink

Via Michigan Hockey's Michael Caples, the District Detroit posted a picture of construction at the Wings' underground practice arena today...

And the District Detroit posted a second picture on its Instagram account:

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St. James on the Griffins’ offensive contributors

As the Western Conference Final series between the Grand Rapids Griffins and San Jose Barracuda shifts to Western Michigan for Games 3, 4 and 5, the Free Press's Helene St. James examines the offensive contributions made by the Griffins' top youngsters, focusing on Tyler Bertuzzi's play:

The Griffins are 8-2 in the playoffs and 4-0 at home. Several Wings prospects are playing big roles: Forward Tomas Nosek scored his fifth goal of the playoffs during Sunday’s 4-2 loss in Game 2 (the Griffins won 3-1 on Saturday to earn home-ice advantage). Goaltender Jared Coreau ended up stopping 36 of 39 shots faced, 20 of which came in the first period.

Tyler Bertuzzi and Martin Frk each had an assist Sunday – for Bertuzzi, that puts him at 11 points in 10 games this spring. His playoff numbers really are impressive: 31 points in 33 career AHL playoff games; his last year of juniors, he had 17 points in 18 playoff games for Guelph.

Bertuzzi, 22, has produced in all but two games this spring, and he has three multi-point games. He is all but guaranteeing himself a spot on the Red Wings next season, as they could use a smart, grinder-type player like him.

Nosek is another guy making noise, and he showed during a stint with the Wings the last month of the regular season that he will go to the net (and shoot the puck).

St. James continues, and as Nosek is no longer waiver-exempt next season, I'd expect the Wings to give the big Czech a shot at full-time duty before giving the big pest a regular shift.

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On Jonathan Ericsson’s ‘numbers’ from the 16-17 season

Every Monday, the Red Wings are examining a player's 2016-17 season "By the Numbers," and today, DetroitRedWings.com's Dana Wakiji looks at Jonathan Ericsson's significant figures:

51 - Ericsson was limited to 51 games this season due to injury. On Feb. 9 at Washington, fellow Swede Nicklas Backstrom hit Ericsson behind the net at 15:51 of the first period. Backstrom was called for boarding and Ericsson had to undergo surgery for a broken wrist. It was the fewest games Ericsson played since the 2013-14 season when he had three separate injuries (shoulder subluxation, broken ribs, torn finger ligaments) and only played 48 games.

9 - In part because of the injury, Ericsson only had one goal among nine points this past season. Ericsson generally scored in the 10-12 point range per year. The last time he had fewer than 10 points was in 2008-09 when he had one goal and three assists in 19 games.

63 - Despite playing in just 51 games, Ericsson led the team with 63 penalty minutes. Some of that was from his three fighting majors, the most Ericsson has had in a season since the 2010-11 season when he had three fights in 74 games. He fought Tampa Bay's Ondrej Palat in the first game of the season Oct. 13, fought Ottawa's Dion Phaneuf four days later in the home opener and took on Philadelphia's Wayne Simmonds on Nov. 8. Ericsson has 13 regular-season NHL fights in his career.

Wakiji continues...

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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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