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Kulfan: Red Wings hope to gain ground in Atlantic Division as road trips loom

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.”

Continued

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‘Three Things’: A happy holidays video, a power ranking and pond hockey news

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:

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Prospect news: Joe Hicketts named Team Canada’s alternate captain

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."

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Ken Holland Talks Prospects

"I'm told he's having a good season this year," Holland said. "Great hockey sense, good hands. He would be what I call a greasy player, goes to the hard areas. We like him a lot. They have to continue to improve in those areas they need to improve on. Again, a little bit quicker."

That's Ken Holland on prospect Axel Holmstrom, one of the six Detroit prospects playing in the World Junior Championship.

More on the prospects from Ansar Khan of Mlive.

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Jimmy Devellano talks about Larkin, Blashill and ‘winning culture’ on The Fan 590

This is a pre-Christmas goodie. Sportsnet The Fan 590's Roger Lajoie spoke with Red Wings assistant VP Jimmy Devellano on Wednesday evening, discussing:

  • The Red Wings' playoff streak as the establishment of a big scouting and Red player development machine;
  • Mike Babcock's tenure with the Wings, work with the Maple Leafs, and the performance thus far of a certain Jeff Blashill in Detroit (Devellano has season tickets to Maple Leaf games, so he doesn't speak as a stranger);
  • Devellano does suggest that the Red Wings are in the fourth year of a "rebuild on the fly," calling, "Our best hockey player," Dylan Larkin, an exception to the Red Wings' rule of player development through seasoning in Grand Rapids;
  • Devellano suggests that the Red Wings' "winning culture" comes from a combination of what he learned working with Bill Torrey and Al Arbour with the Islanders' championship teams in the 80's, continuity of management in his, Bryan Murray and Ken Holland's statuses as the team's only general managers, and the establishment of player culture by players like Steve Yzerman, Nicklas Lidstrom, Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg;
  • And finally, he discusses the bequeathment of his 7 Stanley Cup rings and 8 other championship rings to the Hockey Hall of Fame.

Good stuff:

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Custance: Wings to feel a cap squeeze soon

This qualifies as "Food For Thought," and probably debate. ESPN's Craig Custance penned a a list of "trade outlooks" for each and every one of the NHL's 14 Eastern Conference teams today, and his Insider-only entry includes this take on the Wings' cap issues:

Detroit Red Wings

Cap space: $3,720,378

2016 first-round picks: 1

Should their first-rounder be in play? No. GM Ken Holland has a strong pipeline of young players flowing to Detroit and there’s no reason to slow that down by moving a pick.

Plan of action: The Red Wings are an interesting team because their available cap space today is a little misleading. Kyle Quincey is going to be coming off long-term injured reserve soon and that will eat up a lot of their salary cap space. It’s a convoluted system with no short explanation, but because Detroit began the season with Pavel Datsyuk’s big contract on long-term injured reserve, the Red Wings will find themselves at a cap disadvantage when everyone is healthy. They may be able to delay it depending on the health of Drew Miller or Teemu Pulkkinen, but when everyone is healthy, salary will have to go.

The ideal solution in Detroit would be to find a taker for Jakub Kindl, but he still has one year left on a deal that pays him $2.4 million per season. A more realistic option would likely be another defenseman since the Red Wings have built up depth there.

Once they get their cap situation cleared up, Detroit may want to find ways to add more pop up front, with an offense that is in the bottom half with 2.58 goals per game.

Custance continues, and he discussed the Western Conference's 16 teams' trade outlooks as well...

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Evening news: On the Christmas break and re-casting holiday movies with Wings ‘characters’

Of Red Wings-related note this evening:

1. The Detroit News's Ted Kulfan spoke with the Red Wings' players and coach about the NHL's 3-day Christmas break...

“There has to be some time where you say family is more important than dollars or anything else,” coach Jeff Blashill said. “I hope we never get to a day where we don’t have a break like this, never get to the day where we’re playing on Christmas, it would be awful.”

Under the terms of the collective bargaining agreement, teams are unable to hold practices and obviously there are no games. So players travel back home, or bring family members here for several days of being together and unwinding. Considering what other leagues do, NHL players are deeply appreciative.

“It’s nice to unwind for sure,” defenseman Brendan Smith said. “It’s good for everybody. The biggest thing is you can actually see family. They’re just not coming in for the game and you kind of see them after the game for a little bit. You can actually talk to your family and see what is going on with them. It’s kind of a cool experience and I’m going to enjoy it for sure.”

Kulfan continues, while the Windsor Star's Bob Duff takes a similar tack, duly noting that the Wings used to play on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day:

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Red Wings send Ouellet back to Grand Rapids

From the Red Wings:

Ericsson must be getting better...

OUELLET RETURNED TO GRAND RAPIDS
… Blueliner Has Logged 25 Career Games with Red Wings Since 2013 …

DETROIT – The Detroit Red Wings today assigned defenseman Xavier Ouellet to the American Hockey League’s Grand Rapids Griffins.

Ouellet, 22, has played in 25 career regular-season games with the Red Wings from 2013-15, notching three points (2-1-3), two penalty minutes and a plus-four rating. He also made his NHL postseason debut during Detroit’s 2014 first-round series against the Boston Bruins, skating in one game. Ouellet has appeared in all 25 of Grand Rapids’ games this season and ranks second among the team’s blueliners with 12 points (2-10-12), while owning the third-best plus-minus rating on the team at plus-nine and leading all Griffins with 67 shots on goal. A third-year pro, Ouellet has made 147 appearances for the Griffins since 2013-14, picking up 45 points (7-38-45), a plus-12 rating and 54 penalty minutes and represented the team at the 2015 AHL All-Star Classic.

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Ken Holland discusses the Wings at Christmas on WDFN

WDFN's Art Renger spoke with Red Wings GM Ken Holland this morning, speaking with Holland about the state of the team, the Wings' road-heavy schedule, Dylan Larkin's surprising development and more over the course of an 18-minute interview:

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It’s Break Time For The Detroit Red Wings

from Brendan Savage of Mlive,

The Detroit Red Wings are entering their annual three-day Christmas break on a down note after losing at home Tuesday to the New Jersey Devils.

But that doesn't diminish what they've done in the last five weeks.

The Red Wings earned a point in 15 of their last 17 games dating back to Nov. 16 to putting themselves in the thick of the Atlantic Division race when the NHL schedule resumes Saturday.

Despite losing 4-3 Tuesday night, when they spotted New Jersey the game's first three goals, the Red Wings remained two points behind Atlantic Division leader Montreal. They trail second-place Boston and Florida by one point.

Skeptics will argue the Red Wings let valuable points slip away by blowing third-period leads in the last month but captain Henrik Zetterberg said that theory can work both ways.

"We probably stole a few, too, during that stretch," Zetterberg said. "The thing we know is if we keep playing like we did tonight we will get points and we will be fine."

continued

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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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