The Malik Report
At the start of the year, the Detroit Red Wings were without their star mainstay forward, Pavel Datsyuk, who was out due to offseason ankle surgery.
Datsyuk missed 15 games, and it showed. Without one of their top offensive players, and an insertion of a brand new head coach in Jeff Blashill, the Red Wings looked lost at times. They were having difficulties offensively, and it showed in the standings. In those first 15 games, the Red Wings went just 8-6-1, good for second place in the underwhelming Atlantic Division, but well behind the league's top teams.
But when Datsyuk returned to the lineup, the franchise turned a corner almost instantaneously. Since his return on Nov. 13, the Red Wings have gone 8-2-4, and they are in the midst of a 12-game point streak.
Call it magic, from the Magic Man himself.
The Red Wings will face the New Jersey Devils with Jimmy Howard opposing Corey Schneider in goal this evening (7 PM on FSD/MSG Plus/97.1 FM), and as Paul noted, the Wings held a very, very optional morning skate this morning, so we'll hear from Jeff Blashill early this evening.
On the Devils' front, the Bergen Record's Tom Gulitti penned a blog entry highlighting the Devils' lineup...
Will post more as things develop.
added 12:43pm, via Helene St. James of the Detroit Free Press,
Jimmy Howard is starting in goal, and everyone who played Thursday is available tonight, general manager Ken Holland told the Free Press.
Red Wings prospect Joe Hicketts earned a spot on Team Canada's World Junior Championship team as something of an unheralded try-out last year, but this time around, Hicketts is expected to help lead Canada as they defend their gold medal. The Canadian Press's Stephen Whyno spoke with Hicketts about his different role on the team:
Undersized, undrafted and underrated when he went to Detroit Red Wings camp and Hockey Canada's world junior selection camp, Joe Hicketts came away with an NHL contract, a roster spot and a gold medal.
The defenceman enters his second world junior camp as one of three returning players and a desire to be a difference-maker.
"Last year I kind of came in blind, not having done the summer camp and really not knowing a whole lot about the pace of play with some of the best junior guys in the country," Hicketts said Thursday night after Canada's first practice. "This year I want to take a leadership role, I want to kind of show guys the pace of play and how a team like this has to play together in order to win."
Hicketts said he ran on adrenaline at Red Wings camp and Hockey Canada's camp a year ago, especially after he wasn't considered a top prospect a few months earlier. Now, he's running on memories but hasn't lost the chip on his shoulder.
"Here, it's wanting to recreate what we did last year," Hicketts said. "Every time that you come to one of these things, you want to win gold and you want to make the team, first of all. I think that's important that you continue to have that drive and that buildup towards the tournament."
from Ansar Khan of Mlive,
"Haven't been successful on the scoresheet, but I knew things were coming," Helm said. "Hopefully, this will give me a little bit more confidence and keep things rolling personally and help the team win."
Red Wings coach Jeff Blashill called Helm the best player on the ice, saying he was great from the drop of the puck. He opened the scoring at 11:18 of the second period and had several quality scoring chances.
"He's got such get up and go and he was impactful the whole night," Blashill said. "He's played real well here in the last 8-9 games. He's been real good overall. It's good for him to get rewarded with some goals. It always feels good to score. It looks like he's really coming."
Watch the extended highlights package below of the win over Montreal...
The Detroit Red Wings snapped a 7-game winless streak against the Montreal Canadiens in rousing fashion, rallying from a 2-1 deficit thanks to a pair of 3rd period goals, defeating the Canadiens 3-2. Detroit is now 4 points behind the Canadiens in the Atlantic Division standings, with a game in hand, and Detroit's built a 12-game points streak (8-0-and-4).
Darren Helm scored the game-winning goal, and he and Abdelkader co-led the Wings with 5 shots apiece:
Now 16-8-and-5 Detroit hopes to extend its points streak in tonight's "Star Wars Night" game against the 14-10-and-4 New Jersey Devils (7 PM EST on FSD/MSG Plus/97.1 FM), swooping in on the back half of a back-to-back slate against a Devils team that's without Travis Zajac and Adam Henrique.
In terms of Thursday night's game, the Canadiens sounded more than a little depressed--at least speaking in French--about dropping their 4th game in a row for the first time this season, as noted by La Presse's Richard Labbe (what follows is roughly translated)...
Prospect news: Vahatalo takes a regular role with TPS Turku; Hicketts talked up at Canada’s WJC camp
Of prospect-related note:
In the Finnish Liiga, Julius Vahatalo went 50% on faceoffs in 15:02 of ice time as TPS Turku defeated "Sport" 4-2;
In the SHL, Axel Holmstrom took 2 shots, finished at +1, won 66% of his faceoffs and played 12:10 in Skelleftea AIK's 2-0 win over Linkopings HC;
Christoffer Ehn sat on the bench as the 13th forward in the Frolunda Indians' 5-0 win over Vaxjo;
In the USHL, Chase Pearson didn't play in the Youngstown Phantoms' 5-4 OT loss to Chicago;
Pat Holway took 3 shots in the Dubuque Fighting Saints' 3-2 OT win over the Madison Capitols;
The Detroit Red Wings had a prime opportunity to take a bite out of the Montreal Canadiens on Thursday. The Habs were without Carey Price, mired in a 3-game losing streak and coming to Detroit on the back half of a back-to-back slate, having played the grinding Bruins on Wednesday...
But the Red Wings also possessed a 7-game losing streak against the Canadiens, and as the Wings kicked off a back-to-back slate of their own, tonight's game felt like walking into a trap.
Detroit was far from perfect, blowing a 2-1 lead and going 1-for-6 on the power play, but Detroit played hard when it counted, played fast when it counted, received some spectacular goaltending, some clutch defense when the Canadiens were given breakaway after breakaway in the 2nd period, and Detroit's heart-and-soul players, Darren Helm and Justin Abdelkader, delivered clutch goals en route to a 3-2 win over Montreal.
Detroit has now earned a point in 12 games (8-0-and-4), Detroit is now 4 points behind Montreal with a game in hand, Detroit snapped a 7-game winless streak vs. Montreal, and despite having played very, very thoroughly mediocrely for so much of Thursday night's game, Detroit goes into New Jersey for "Star Wars Night" prepared to play the spoiler.
Of Red Wings-related note this evening:
1. Here's the Red Wings' game-day preview video:
2. Fox 2 also posted a game-day video in which Jeff Blashill discusses the match-up against Montreal:
DetroitRedWings.com's Dana Wakiji spoke with both Tomas Jurco and coach Jeff Blashill regarding Jurco's place on the team, and Blashill issued a particularly intriguing statement regarding his plans for the 22-year-old forward:
"I think patience for everybody involved, patience for us, patience for him, I think him and I talk lots about the mental toughness that is needed to overcome adversity and the adversity of not playing and getting the opportunities he wants," Blashill said. "He was really young when he came to play for me. A lot of his peers had played that year of junior but because of his age he had to leave junior, so we’re very aware of that. We want to have patience with him. We think there’d a lot to his package. With that said he also has to, every time he gets a chance, grab the spot and grab those opportunities and he did that the other right by scoring."
Jurco was rewarded for going to the net, which remains the plan.
"That’s what they want from me, so like I said, that’s what I’m trying to do it a little more than I used to and I’m happy it worked last game," Jurco said.
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.