The Malik Report
Metro Detroit’s best-kept hockey secret, the Plymouth Whalers, battle the ‘Yankees of Junior Hockey’
Yahoo Sports' Neate Sager reports that Plymouth Whalers coach Mike Velucci played the underdog card in a big way ahead of Plymouth's OHL Western Conference Final match-up against the London Knights, but in doing so, Velucci did speak the truth regarding the fact that the Whalers are the best Detroit-area hockey team that you've probably rarely heard of:
"It's fun to play against [London]," Vellucci added. "They're the Yankees. They get 9,100 people. [London coach] Dale [Hunter] has coached in the NHL before [with the Washington Capitals]. They get more national TV, more media. It's great to be the spotlight. We're kind of always here in Plymouth off the radar. We have our one reporter who asks questions. For our kids it's cool to be in that atmosphere and be in that position."
It is easy to deduce from that Vellucci and the Whalers are leaning on the us-against-the-world motif, although one never claims to know where a group finds its motivation in the dressing room. Plymouth is a model franchise which has never missed the playoffs while producing a steady stream of pros. Getting the public's attention while playing in suburban Detroit in a market crowded by teams in all four major professional leagues and two huge NCAA brands in the Michigan Wolverines and the Michigan State Spartans is not easy.
Continued, and between the fact that the Whalers are nothing less than a hockey machine and the fact that very few people know that Ann Arbor's U.S. National Team Development Program squad produces oodles of high draft picks and NCAA athletes (including a certain Red Wings goalie who just signed a $32.8 million contract extension)...Sometimes we forget that Metro Detroit swims in elite hockey programs at every level of competition.
Updated 2x at 5:30 AM with Hockeysverige.se's Uffe Bodin's conversation with Hakan Andersson about Calle Jarnkrok, Adam Almqvist and other top prospects:
The Detroit Red Wings flew out to Calgary after a brief practice and the announcement of Jimmy Howard's contract extension on Tuesday, and tonight they'll tangle with a team they simply must defeat in the Calgary Flames (9:30 PM EDT, FSD Plus/TSN/97.1 FM).
I'm sure the Wings did some scoreboard-watching on Tuesday evening, and while the 20-15-and-7 Wings remain in 8th place in the Western Conference with 47 points and 18 Regulation-or-Overtime Wins, the St. Louis Blues pushed themselves to the 50-point mark via a 2-1 shootout win over Vancouver (St. Louis now has 24 wins and 20 ROWs), the Minnesota Wild hit 51 points via a 5-3 win over Edmonton (Minnesota has 24 wins and 20 ROWs), and both the San Jose Sharks and Los Angeles Kings earned points in San Jose's 3-2 shootout win (San Jose now has 53 points, 23 wins and 16 ROWs; LA has 53 points, 24 wins and 22 ROWs).
Via Paul and the Dallas Stars: The NBC Sports Network knows that the Wings' last game of the season, against the Dallas Stars on Saturday, April 27th, may determine the teams' respective playoff fates, so they've picked it up and changed the start time from 8 PM EDT to 7 PM EDT (7 to 6 PM CDT, or local time):
MEDIA ADVISORY: TIME CHANGE FOR APRIL 27 GAME VS. DETROIT RED WINGS
Game Selected to be Televised Nationally on NBC Sports Network, Will Now Start at 6:00 p.m. CT
The National Hockey League announced today that the start time for the April 27 contest between the Dallas Stars and Detroit Red Wings at American Airlines Center has been moved to 6:00 p.m. CT and will now be televised nationally on NBC Sports Network. The game, originally scheduled to commence at 7:00 p.m. CT, is the final contest of the regular season for both clubs.
Heading into tonight's NHL action, the Dallas Stars sit two points behind Detroit for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference.
There's no news as to whether NBCSN is pre-empting the local broadcasts, so I don't know whether FSD or FS Dallas will still be broadcasting the game.
As MLive's Ansar Khan noted this morning, the Red Wings had to return top prospect Calle Jarnkrok to Sweden so that he may prepare to participate in the World Championships, with Jarnkrok's AHL tenure limited to 9 games and 3 assists' worth of production before he was required to fly back to Gavle a full two weeks before the Worlds begin (the Swedish Ice Hockey Federation's very twitchy about icing the best product they can offer during the second year of their co-hosting of the Worlds with Helsinki, Finland, with the medal rounds taking place in Stockholm this time)...
The Grand Rapids Griffins will close their regular season with a three games-in-three-nights stretch against Peoria (at home) on Friday and road games in Cleveland and Chicago on Saturday and Sunday, respectively.
Updated 6x at 5:15 PM: The Detroit Red Wings took to the ice for a short practice at Joe Louis Arena prior to packing their gear into bags and heading to Metro Airport to fly out to Calgary, where they'll begin a two-game road trip against the Flames and Canucks on Wednesday (and Saturday, respectively), all before returning home to Detroit to play a slate of
The Macomb Daily's Chuck Pleiness reports that the usual injury list suspects skated...and didn't skate...both prior and during practice:
So it's good news-bad news, as usual:
Pavel Datsyuk's agent, Gary Greenstin, was in Toronto visiting client Mikhail Grabovski. We talked about rumours Datsyuk will play the last year of his contract next season, then go back to Russia. Greenstin said he'd just been in Detroit and talked with Ken Holland. He wouldn't go too deeply into those conservations, but it did sound like they discussed the possibility of an extension. (Datsyuk cannot sign anything until July 5.) He added that if Datsyuk stays, it will be with the Red Wings. "Playing with one team is very important to him."
Continued, of course, at length, and as usual, his thoughts are worth your time...
Updated 10x at 4:09 PM: Almost a week after the news broke, the Detroit Red Wings officially announced that they've signed Jimmy Howard to a 6-year contract extension:
Capgeek's got the contract pegged down as a $31.8 million deal with a $5.3 million-per-season cap hit.
Update: Via RedWingsFeed, the NHL Network announced the deal, too...
The Red Wings will hit the ice for practice at Joe Louis Arena shortly, then pack up their gear and head to Calgary for a must-win-game against the Flames, and after regrouping with an "off day" on Thursday, the team will prepare for a rather vicious 5-games-in-8-nights slate that's highly likely to determine whether the Wings make the playoffs.
This morning, MLive's Ansar Khan penned an "empty-the-notebook" article that is more than worth reading, and it's about the Wings prospect that most excites me in Calle Jarnkrok. Jarnkrok registered 3 assists in 9 games played for the Grand Rapids Griffins before the Wings had to return him to Sweden so that he could play in the World Championships, and all reports and pictures indicated that the super-skinny prospect is still a bit short of 170 pounds (he's a lanky 5'11"), but his skill level is just absolutely top-flight in terms of skating, playmaking, defensive savvy and plain old generating offense while not doing so at the expense of his defensive game.
When Jarnkrok (and Tomas Jurco) visited the Red Wings last Thursday, DetroitRedWings.com's Bill Roose and Khan interviewed Jarnkrok, and here's what he had to say to Khan about the lessons learned during his "grand tour":
I felt guilty writing the Lashoff entry because of what was going on at the time, and I really don't feel like writing this morning...But the world continues to rotate and the hockey world reacted appropriately to what happened in Boston on Monday. All I cay say, the Red Wings and their prospects already said, reminding us all that, in the greater scheme of things, we follow a kid's game played by professional athletes, and in the end, we're all on the same team:
Via RedWingsFeed, the Free Press's Helene St. James reports that the Red Wings have in fact decided to keep Brian Lashoff on the team's roster as they know their four on-paper demotions to Grand Rapids (of Lashoff, Danny DeKeyser, Brendan Smith and Gustav Nyquist) mean that the team cannot recall any demoted players unless there is a "roster emergency" (i..e. the team believes that it cannot dress 12 forwards, 6 defensemen or 2 goalies) from the trade deadline until the Grand Rapids Griffins' playoff run ends.
As such, Wings GM Ken Holland told St. James that the Wings simply can't afford to essentially lose Lashoff for the remainder of the regular season and any potential playoff run:
“It was just a misunderstanding with Mike Babcock,” general manager Ken Holland said Monday. “I agree with him that we’d rather have Lashoff playing in the minors than not playing in Detroit, but the rules don’t allow it. We don’t want to not be able to recall him unless we have three injuries.”
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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.