The Malik Report
The Detroit Red Wings received a welcome break from hockey after their 3-2 shootout win over the Columbus Blue Jackets, but on Monday, the Wings get back to work wrapping up their 11-games-in-19-nights stretch with a home game against St. Louis on Monday (7:30 PM EST/FSD Plus/WXYT) and a road game against the Canadiens on Wednesday.
The Canadiens, who sit in 11th place in the Eastern Conference, open practice/skills competition on Sunday, but any of their nagging injury concerns aren’t pressing as the Candiens won’t play until they host the Wings, having defeated Toronto 3-1 on Saturday night.
Very, very belatedly: good news on two fronts regarding Red Wings center Henrik Zetterberg’s accidental hit on Columbus Blue Jackets defenseman Nikita Nikitin. The hit was very similar to the ones that broke the ankles of former Wing Jason Williams and current Wings forward Jan Mursak, but the Columbus Dispatch’s Aaron Portzline reports that Nikitin will be okay...
GM Scott Howson told The Dispatch today that Nikitin will not play in the final two games before the NHL’s All-Star Game break, and will be evaluated again after the break. But it does not appear to be a significant injury.
This is very good news for the Blue Jackets and Nikitin, obviously, and more than a little surprising. Nikitin slammed feet-first into the end boards after toppling backward at high speed just above the goal line. All of his weight was absorbed by his left leg, his left ankle crumpling badly before a thunderous boom.
And more importantly for Red Wings fans, Paul asked TSN’s Darren Dreger whether Zetterberg would receive a call from Brendan Shanahan, and Paul received a no on that front, with the 5-minute major and game misconduct having been assessed to Zetterberg serving as more than enough punishment under the NHL’s policy of more heavily policing hits near the end boards. MLive’s Ansar Khan confirms..
Updated w/ Nikitin’s knee sprain at 10:46 AM: The Red Wings are making it hard for fans who might suggest that winning by any means necessary cuts the mustard during this 11-games-in-19-nights stretch to keep their promises. The Red Wings’ particularly ugly 3-2 shootout victory over the Columbus Blue Jackets on Saturday allowed the Wings to extend their home-ice winning streak to 16 games, and the victory means that at least until Sunday afternoon, the Wings are the top team in the Central Division, Western Conference and the NHL standings, respectively, and if the Wings manage to take out the Blues on Monday, they’ll finally gain some separation from at least one of their closest pursuers…
But it’s hard to believe that the Wings can keep on keepin’ on against the Blues, never mind their All-Star break-interrupted road trip to Montreal, Calgary, Vancouver, Edmonton and Phoenix if they keep going to the overtime and shootout wells like they have of late. Of the Wings’ 8 January wins, six have come via play extending past regulation time, and the Wings have had to go to a skills competition to beat their last three opponents.
No amount of roses or makeup would make the Detroit Red Wings’ 3-2 shootout victory over the Columbus Blue Jackets any more or less a pig of a win, but we knew this one was going to be ugly going in. The Wings had lead to shake out of their legs after their road trip, they had little motivation and were playing a team that very literally has nothing less to lose—and is playing trap hockey to a tee under former Wild coach Mike Richards.
What was surprising, however, is how badly the Wings would drag their butts, and how hard the Blue Jackets pushed them—and again, while a win is a win at this time of year, there is some concern given the number of shootouts the Wings have been involved in of late (3) given that regulation or OT wins is the first tiebreaker among tied standings.
Updated 3x at 11:37 PM: I would imagine that the league will look at this, but Red Wings forward Henrik Zetterberg did not mean to hurt Nikita Nikitin, and he got 5 and a game for this push:
Here’s hoping that Brendan Shanahan takes the lack of intent to injure into the equation.
Update: From Fox Sports Detroit’s Dana Wakiji:
#RedWings Z: I had my hand on his back.I don’t think I pushed him hard. It looks really bad so I can’t blame the referee 4 giving me 5 mins.
#RedWings Z: Shanny and the league is going to review this and see what they feel. The rule is the rule, I made contact and he went down.
#RedWings Z: Hopefully he’s OK, I didn’t mean to hurt him and we’ll have to wait and see. I will see if he’s still around and see how he is.
#RedWings Babcock: Trying 2 protect the D-men. I talked 2 Denny LaRue,Denny,is that the way you’re calling it? and he said that’s the way.
#CBJ Richards: It looks like Z puts his hand on his back just as he’s getting close, so it will b something that the Lg will have to look at
Update #2 at 11:18 PM: Here are some more quotes from MLive’s Ansar Khan:
So Red Wings VP Jimmy Devellano did his best to spill the beans without spilling them regarding the NHL’s desire to hold a Red Wings-Maple Leafs Winter Classic at Michigan Stadium, for the express purpose of kick-starting interest in the now half-decade-old event while setting a new hockey attendance record at the 110,000-seat Big House. As the New York Times’ Jeff Z. Klein and Stu Hackel point out, however, while the NHL will attempt to best the Big Chill at the Big House’s 104,173 spectator record, it’s very, very probable that once the Red Wings and Maple Leafs take care of their season ticket-holders’ needs, Michigan Stadium may have an MTS Centre’s worth of tickets left, if that:
The business of breaking those records is where the inclusion of the Leafs comes in. Fans with full or partial season tickets in Detroit and Toronto will get first chance at Winter Classic seats, but several thousand tickets might still be available. With great demand from both sides of the Michigan-Ontarioborder, they should be snapped up in short order.
Emphasis on “several thousand,” and given the fact that there are several million people who’d love to attend, I get the feeling that there will be some serious sour grapes from Wings fans who get shut out from the event to accommodate high, if not unlimited ticket grabs by people from Toronto. The vast majority of non-season ticket-holder Wings fans who want to get into the Winter Classic will probably have to buy tickets on the secondary market unless the NHL steps in (unlikely) and tells the Wings and Leafs to remember that the average fan should have a decent shot of attending the game, too.
Updated 7x very late, at 6:31 PM, with Lebda talk and chatter from Commodore: As the Detroit Red Wings prepare to face off against the Columbus Blue Jackets tonight (7 PM EST, FSD Plus/FS Ohio/WXYT), little news is in fact excellent news. MLive’s Ansar Khan reports via Twitter that the Wings will make only one subtle tweak, inserting a player who Columbus banished to the minors last season—but they won’t see a certain former Wing tonight, either:
Only change for Wings tonight vs. Columbus is Commodore in for Kindl. Howard starting as team looks for 16th win in a row at home.
Former Wings defenseman Brett Lebda, whom Columbus signed to a 1-year deal this week, is not playing tonight.
And before getting to the Macomb Daily’s Chuck Pleiness’s confirmation of the Wings’ roster tweak, it’s worth pausing to note that while Blue Jackets GM Scott Howson posted a blog post detailing his team’s injury situation while trying to explain why he remained patient with a team whose half-dozen injuries plummeted down the standings before he relieved Scott Arniel of his duties, all while alluding to jettisoning players at the trade deadline, while Red Wings GM Ken Holland, Wings assistant GM Jim Nill and the Wings’ pro and amateur scouts are meeting in Las Vegas this weekend to talk about potential draft and trade deadline targets.
Updated 3x with odd news from the KHL at 9:42 AM: Two days after the Red Wings’ 3-2 shootout victory over Phoenix catapulted Detroit to the top of the league and Central Division standings, the Wings are back in fourth place in the Western Conference, second in the Central and yet still in second place in the NHL…Which is a long-winded way of stating that the standings are a frickin’ mess.
The Wings begin the final portion of their pre-All-Star Break grind of 11 games in 19 nights with a 3-in-5 night slate starting with tonight’s game against the Columbus Blue Jackets (7 PM EST, FSD Plus/FS Ohio/WXYT; tonight is also a “Mittens for Detroit” charity night), and the Wings will be far less concerned with extending their home-ice winning streak to 16 games than they will about kick-starting their 3-for-41 power play and simply, as they suggested on Friday, keeping pace with their opponents by doing nothing less than kicking the Blue Jackets while they’re down and out.
Updated 3x with a spiffy graphic of the Joe’s cameras at 4:30 PM: The Detroit Red Wings took a three-hour flight back to Detroit this afternoon, choosing to rest in Phoenix instead of taking an overnight flight home after their 3-2 shootout win over the Phoenix Coyotes for sleep’s sake. The Wings will wrap up their ugly slate of 11 games in 19 days with games against Columbus on Saturday (7 PM EST, FSD+/WXYT), St. Louis on Monday and against Montreal in Montreal on Wednesday, yielding no Friday practice to correct their downright yucky 3-for-41 power play prior to grinding out a 3-games-in-5-days stretch (the Blue Jackets held an optional practice today and then flew to Detroit).
The Wings technically sit atop the NHL standings, but NHL.com’s Jerry Brown noted that the Wings feel no particular glee about sitting a point ahead of the Blues and Blackhawks and five ahead of the Predators in the Central Division, and as the Wings prepare to conclude their pre-All-Star break slough, they told Brown that their 5-game winning streak, which has leaned heavily upon overtime and shootout sessions, is a result of simply winning by any means necessary—especially on the road:
Red Wings-Coyotes wrap-up and overnight report: How I stopped worrying and learned to love the grind
As I count myself among the large group of jittery, picky and sometimes skittish group of people who deem themselves Red Wings fans, I can’t deny that I look at the standings this morning, see the Wings leading the league but owning the Central Division by all of one single point over the Blackhawks and Blues, and having to increasingly rely on overtime or shootouts to capture five of their past six wins thanks in no small part due to their horrific power play, which went 0-for-5 on Thursday (3-for-41 over the past 14 games), all but sentencing Detroit to a somewhat ugly 3-2 shootout victory over Phoenix, and I shake my head.
Too close, I think. Too sloppy. Lacking killer instinct or the ability to score when given golden opportunities to do so.
Then I remember that it’s January, that the Wings just played their 8th of 11 games played over the course of 19 nights, having concluded a 3-games-in-3-cities-in-4-nights stretch while all but playing games of playoff seeding-determining importance in [expletive deleted-ing] January, and I’m starting to believe that the Wings’ five-game winning streak is nothing to sneeze at, nor anything to “suck on.”
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.