The Malik Report
Updated at 3:06 AM: The Red Wings' "Rivalry Night" game against the Pittsburgh Penguins this evening (8 PM EST on NBCSN/TVA Sports/Sporstnet 1/97.1 FM; this is one of only 3 NHL games on Wednesday, so it will be widely-watched) is one of those games that you can both call a "trap game" and an "insufficient data" game (especially from my perspective).
The Wings have skated on both Monday and Tuesday, and we already know that the team's lines will remain as they were during Saturday's win over Phoenix, and that Petr Mrazek will start for a Red Wings team that is very wary of the Penguins' offensive pop.
We also know that the Pittsburgh Penguins are coming off a 5-0 loss to Vancouver this past weekend, that the Penguins have won 2 of 3 and 4 of their past 7 games, and that the Penguins waived Marc Arcobello because pain-in-the-Wings-asses Blake Comeau is probably returning to the lineup...But the Penguins held an optional skate involving Sidney Crosby, Christian Ehrhof and Comeau on Monday, and then they went bowling (for charity). And took Tuesday off.
Two games down + 1 to go, starting at 10:30 PM EST = no point in waiting for a prospect news and/or Grand Rapids Griffins' weekly release post.
Later tonight, the Mitchell Wheaton-less Kelowna Rockets will play the Seattle Thunderbirds [edit: Kelowna lost 2-1, and Wheaton's still out with an "upper-body injury" /end edit] but prior to that game starting:
In the SHL, Mattias Backman took 2 shots and a penalty and played 19:48 in Linkopings HC's 4-3 loss to Lulea, and Backman has been really good since returning to the 5th-place (i.e. playoff-bound) team he chose to play for after finding himself unable to crack the Griffins' lineup:
He's posted 3 goals, 9 assists and 12 points in 15 games played, and those are the kinds of numbers that mean Wings fans shouldn't shrug their shoulders and assume that Backman's "gone" like Adam Almquist, who both has a year left on his deal with Severstal Cherepovets and is out for the year with a blown knee ligament preceded by mediocre play--instead, if Backman's willing to be patient, it looks like Alexey Marchenko and/or Xavier Ouellet will graduate to the Wings on a full-time basis next season, and there will be room for Backman, Nick Jensen
(if he clears waivers [edit: The Hockey Writers' Brendan Peleshok and The Production Line confirmed that Jensen is in fact waiver-exempt next season /end edit]) and Ryan Sproul to lead the Griffins' defense.
The rule is that one is not supposed to be "the story," but I've got to admit that there are some familial health issues (i.e. not mine) that are distracting and/or draining energy, so this stuff is late, and I'm sorry.
The Red Wings flew to Pittsburgh after a brief practice on Tuesday, and while "no changes" and "Mrazek starts" were the "big news stories," the Wings did address the fact that tomorrow night's game (8 EST PM start on NBCSN) marks quite the test against a plucky Penguins team, as they told the Macomb Daily's Chuck Pleiness...
The Pittsburgh Penguins didn't practice ahead of tomorrow night's "Rivalry Night" game against the Red Wings (8 PM EST on NBCSN), and the Wings engaged in a "no changes" skate before hauling tail to catch a 2:40 PM flight to Pennsylvania.
As such, the post-practice Tweets and practice reports slowly trickled in, with the Red Wings issuing the first player-and-coach remarks...
"It's exciting hockey, it's fun to win, so it's a good little stretch for us right now. We have to just continue playing our game." - Miller
"Howie will be ready to go for Saturday. I thought he was excellent at practice here today, that's a positive sign." - Coach Babcock
Per Mike Babock; Petr Mrazek will start in goal tomorrow in Pittsburgh, Jimmy Howard will dress as the back up. #RedWings
Ken Kal noting the following...
Updated 2x at 1:19 PM: With the pre-practice stuff out of the way (again, the Penguins didn't practice today), the Red Wings didn't emulate the Penguins' "off day" decision and hit the ice at Joe Louis Arena around 12 PM, as noted by the Wings...
And MLive's Ansar Khan:
Same lines at practice:
Cleary rotating in
Defense pairs the same:
Kindl rotating in
In the statistical department, from DetroitRedWings.com's Bill Roose...
The Red Wings play in a "Rivalry Night" game against the PIttsburgh Penguins tomorrow night (8 PM EST on NBCSN), but we're not going to find anything out about a Penguins team that hasn't played since a 5-0 drubbing in Vancouver this past Saturday.
There were hints from the Penguins' optional skate on Tuesday that Blake Comeau (pain the ass that he is) and Christian Ehrhoff might return on Wednesday, but the 2nd-in-the-Metropolitan Division Pens aren't practicing today:
from Dan Rosen of NHL.com,
I was going to ask you about the joy you get out of coaching this group. Is this just a fun group to coach with young guys and veterans that seem to be mixing quite well together?
"Well we've got a good group, a really good group. We've got the big three, the leadership group, in [Pavel] Datsyuk, [Henrik] Zetterberg and [Niklas] Kronwall. Dan Cleary is part of that just with what he does with our young guys, mentoring our young people. We've got a lot of demands on our young people to get better and we are getting better. We think we've created real good depth up front, real good depth on the back end, and real good depth in goal. There is competition for jobs, which leads to accountability and making each other better. That's excellent. All in all I like our group."
It could have gone sideways when Howard went down, but it gave Mrazek a chance and he's produced, so for you now has Howard's injury gone from a concern to a blessing in disguise, similar in a way to last season with all the injuries and discovering the young players?
"Well I'm with you there. I think what happened last year, when we got everybody hurt it was easy for the general manager to understand what we had. It's not thinking about what you have, it's knowing what you have, so when the offseason comes [and] you're making decisions on contracts you know what these guys can do. I think that's happened this year. Xavier Ouellet is in the minors; he thinks he should be on our team. [Teemu] Pulkkinen is in the minors; he thinks he should be on our team. Mrazek is supposed to be our third goalie; he just went 9-1. I like the depth of our group and the push we have."
from Ansar Khan of Mlive,
Pros: He has good offensive ability and moves the puck well. He can quarterback the power play and has a tremendous point shot. He also kills penalties.
Cons: Not particularly strong defensively; second on the team in giveaways. Not a great skater. Not overly physical for a big man.
The bottom line: The Red Wings have liked Franson since he was in Nashville. He would slide right into their top four, and even though their power play is flourishing (first in the NHL), it wouldn't hurt having a right-handed shot.
But they won't overpay for a rental. With several teams looking for defensive help at the deadline and right-handed shooters at a premium, the Leafs should be able to get at least a second-round pick as well as a good prospect or young roster player.
Maybe Toronto, being out of the playoff picture, wouldn't have an issue trading within the Atlantic Division and dealing with an old rival. But would the Maple Leafs want to help a team whose coach (Mike Babcock) they covet, a coach they inquired about last summer and one they undoubtedly will make a pitch for if he's available after the season? The Leafs might feel they have a better shot at landing Babcock if the Red Wings lose in the first round of the playoffs.
The Red Wings' early-morning practice and appearance at a Detroit Economic Club luncheon ended up yielding a surprisingly blunt "State of the Team" from coach Mike Babcock, and while this entry's going to be a little rambly and/or wandering, Babcock's comments are worth the journey.
Babcock had this to say about the Wings' special teams while attending the DEC luncheon, as noted by CBS Detroit's Ashley Dunkak...
Red Wings general manager Ken Holland and head coach Mike Babcock also spoke Monday. The team has won nine of its last 10 games and is tied for second place in the Eastern Conference with 71 points. Special teams has been a strength for the Red Wings this season, with their power play ranking first in the NHL and their penalty kill ranking ninth.
“You’ve got to give a lot of credit to our players, they’ve done a real good job,” Babcock said. “Our coaching staff, we have a brand new coaching staff except for Jimmy Bedard, they’ve done an excellent, excellent job. Tony Granato has come in here and really helped our penalty kill. We got off to a great start … won games off our penalty kill.
“It took us longer on the power play,” Babcock continued. “Jim Hiller came in and really gave us some ideas to improve, and we’ve adjusted what he was using to our group, and our group’s bought in, and we have a dangerous, dangerous, dangerous power play night in and night out. We seem to be on the attack for two straight minutes, which is real positive.”
With the coach receiving quite the comment from Justin Abdelkader...
16-second videos don't usually constitute entries, but in the case of the Grand Rapids Griffins' "Purple Game" against San Antonio on Friday, in which the Griffins will raise funds for the Van Andel Institute's cancer programs and Parkinson's disease research, both through ticket sales and by auctioning off special purple jerseys, you're damn right I'm promoting this:
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.