The Malik Report
The Detroit Red Wings face a familiar opponent tonight in the Buffalo Sabres (7 PM EST start on FSD/MSG B/Bell TV/97.1 FM): the teams have already met three times, with Detroit winning 5-4 in OT on December 1st, the Wings losing 2-1 on December 14th, and Detroit defeating Buffalo 2-1 on January 2nd.
The latest meeting takes place in Buffalo, which the Sabres returned to after splitting their "Parents' Trip," winning in Arizona and losing 2-1 in Colorado on Wednesday. Buffalo has won 4 of their past 6 games, but Wednesday's loss to the Avs was a "heartbreaker," as the Buffalo News's John Vogl noted:
Of prospect-related note:
In the KHL, Alexander Kadeikin didn't play in SKA St. Petersburg's 4-3 shootout loss to Admiral Vladivostok;
In the SHL, Axel Holmstrom had 2 assists and won 46% of his faceoffs in 14:35 played during Skelleftea AIK's 5-2 loss to Linkopings HC. According to Winging It in Motown's Kyle McIlmurray, Holmstrom's 19 points in 31 games lead 20-and-under players in SHL scoring;
Christoffer Ehn didn't get off the bench in the Frolunda Indians' 2-0 win over Brynas;
And in the OHL, Vili Saarijarvi scored a goal in the Flint Firebirds' 5-3 loss to Windsor.
Updated 2x at 4:19 PM: The Red Wings held a quick practice before flying to Buffalo this afternoon, and:
The beat writers informed us that Brad Richards has gone home to Prince Edward Island to attend his grandfather's funeral, and that Richards will miss Friday's game as a result;
The beat writers informed us that Tomas Tatar is getting better as he battles "the flu";
The beat writers informed us that Brendan Smith took a "maintenance day" due to "soreness";
And we learned that Petr Mrazek will play against the Sabres, who are traveling back from Colorado (where they lost 2-1 on Wednesday) this afternoon.
This happened, too:
Updated 3x at 1:42 PM: The Red Wings hit the ice at Joe Louis Arena just before noon on Thursday, preparing for Friday's game against the Buffalo Sabres.
DetroitRedWings.com's Bill Roose dropped some trivia beforehand...
This Saturday, the #RedWings will play their 1,400th regular-season game at Joe Louis Arena. Their record is 800-411-119-69 (W-L-T-OTL).
(The Wings host the Ducks on Saturday)
The Red Wings also issued birthday wishes:
According to MLive's Brendan Savage, the Red Wings have averaged 1.84 goals per game over their last 11 games, last night's 2-1 loss to the St. Louis Blues included, but Wings coach Jeff Blashill told Savage that he believes his team will get through its offensively-challenged stretch:
"Teams that score a lots but maybe aren't defensive enough are struggling," Blashill said. "Again, I think there's guys that have more scoring in them. Sometimes it ebbs and flows a little bit. It's been enough 5-on-5 for two years but I think we're going to score.
"We're going to keep working on it and getting better. There's no use dwelling on it more than that. Let's keep working on it and getting better, whether that's just simple things like making sure we hit the net in practice, whether it's doing drills to help our guys get in position to get shots off through traffic.
"We'll do all those things, we'll keep getting better and I believe we're going to score. I think we got lots of guys who are going to score more as we continue on here."
Savage continues, and the Red Wings had a relatively familiar night yesterday, statistically speaking: Detroit fired 30 shots on Brian Elliott and had another 24 attempts that missed the net or were blocked by Blues players.
To me, the most damning stat involved with the Red Wings' 2-1 loss to the St. Louis Blues is their home record--11-9-and-5.
After going winless in two post-West Coast road trip games at Joe Louis Arena, the Red Wings have played 25 of their 46 games at home, and they've won less than half of those games.
The Wings are a fine 12-6-3 on the road, but at home, Detroit's 11-and-14. That doesn't provide value for fans and it doesn't give the Wings any sort of home-ice advantage. Detroit may play only 16 out of their 36 remaining regular season games at home--including 1 of their final 3 pre-All-Star-break tilts--but the quality of the Wings' play at Joe Louis Arena has to be a genuine concern.
None of that matters in terms of the narratives surrounding Wednesday night's game, however, because things got...rhetorically interesting...after the game.
Our friends from St. Louis felt that they were vindicated after "rallying" to defeat the Wings despite only being able to dress 5 defensemen, as the St. Louis Post-Dispatch's Tom Timmerman noted:
Of prospect-related note:
In the AHL, the Grand Rapids Griffins did two things that the Red Wings could not on Wednesday: they scored the game's first goal, and they rallied from a 2-1 deficit, defeating the Lake Erie Monsters 3-2 in OT on a goal by Ryan Sproul. The Griffins' website posted a recap...
Pierre McGuire made a bit of a boo boo on Wednesday evening:
The Red Wings had to make a statement against another big, nasty Western Conference team--January's theme, it seems--as they battled the St. Louis Blues on Wednesday. Ideally, the Wings hoped they'd jump-start their offense with re-set lines and would manage to overcome Niklas Kronwall's absence by committee; more realistically, the Wings were opening a set of 4 games in 6 nights needing to earn two points by any means necessary.
Detroit didn't lay an egg per se, but the Wings' 2-1 loss was pretty damn close. Absent an ill Tomas Tatar, the Wings' offensive game was just "off," the passes, the shots, the breakouts, all of it was "off" by enough of margin of error that the Wings hamstrung themselves offensively...
And the Blues made the Wings pay on enough attempts that the Wings surrendered a 1-goal deficit and had a 2-goal deficit to climb out of in the final minutes of the 3rd. While Detroit's power play did convert, and Henrik Zetterberg, who had 5 shots, got one past Elliott, but it was too little too late.
Detroit's lost 2 straight at home--and the Wings' home record is now a very ugly 11-9-5, so it's not just goal-scoring that's the issue--but the Wings will continue their 4-games-in-6-nights stretch in Buffalo on Friday.
Of Red Wings-related note this evening:
1. First and foremost, from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch's Tom Timmerman:
2. Red Wings GM Ken Holland spoke with Detroit Sports 105.1 FM's Matt Dery and Drew Sharp on Wednesday afternoon, discussing the state of the Red Wings and also addressing Steven Stamkos trade rumors over the course of a 22-minute interview:
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.