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The Wings This Week

from Ansar Khan of Mlive,

Here are five things to watch this week:

Mantha's much-anticipated debut

What do the Red Wings have in Anthony Mantha? He was their mostly highly regarded prospect in years after tearing up the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, boasting a combination of size (6-5, 205) and pure scoring ability, the kind of player that usually doesn't fall to where Detroit drafts.

But his star dimmed considerably after a tough first pro season in Grand Rapids in 2014-15. It didn't help that he missed two months with a broken leg suffered in the prospects tournament.

He has steadily improved since then and on Monday earned a promotion. He'll make his long-awaited NHL debut Tuesday in Philadelphia. It's a pressure-packed game, but the Red Wings could use some size up front and need all the help they can get offensively. The Red Wings should maximize Mantha's abilities by playing him with skilled linemates.

Streak of futility in Philly

The City of Philadelphia has been an absolute nightmare for the Red Wings since their most recent victory there – in the 1997 Stanley Cup finals. Since then, the Red Wings have lost 10 consecutive games in Philly, getting outscored 44-17.

No better time than Tuesday to snap that streak (7:30, Fox Sports Detroit). The Red Wings are three points ahead of the Flyers in the race for the last wild card spot in the Eastern Conference, but Philadelphia has two games in hand.

read on

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Krupa: Mantha ever-improving

With the preponderance of Anthony Mantha articles today, there's no need to pile on for the sake of piling on, but the Detroit News's Gregg Krupa earns a topic of his own for a superb profile of an improving player, told by Grand Rapids Griffins coach Todd Nelson and Mr. Mantha himself:

“I’ve liked his season,” Nelson said. “I think early on we were working on consistency with him moving his feet throughout the game, skating well, hard on the forecheck, using his speed to drive wide on defenders.

“We wanted to see that, and we’d seen it in spurts in a game. We wanted to see it for a full game and we wanted to see it in games in succession. And I think he’s improved quite a bit.

“Now, we’re starting to see him pressure guys on the back-check, strip pucks and go the other way,” said Nelson, who coached 51 games for the Oilers last season before the Red Wings hired him to coach their AHL affiliate.

“I think he’s stronger down low in the corners than he was at the start of the year, where he’s hanging on to it and forcing teams to take the puck off him. And he’s doing a better job of protecting it.

“Before, he was a bit loose with the puck and exposed it, and the play would die with him. But now, he’s keeping plays alive. I like where he’s at right now.”

Krupa continues...

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The overnight report: Red Wings-Flyers set-up, take 2: big talk before the big game

The Red Wings face the Philadelphia Flyers this evening (7:30 PM on FSD in Michigan, CSN Philly or CSN Philly on NBCSN everywhere else/97.1 FM), and they'll do so with Anthony Mantha in tow as the teams battle for an incredibly important two points in a rink that the Wings haven't won in since 1997 (seriously).

The 34-24-and-11 Red Wings sit 3 points ahead of the 32-23-and-12 Flyers, but the Wings' 79-to-76-point lead and 2 more Regulation-or-Overtime-Win tiebreakers are deceptive because Philadelphia's played 67 games to Detroit's 69.

That's going to change in a hurry as the Flyers play 10 back-to-back games compared to Detroit's 6, but the Toronto Sun's Kevin McGran notes that the Flyers are on fire of late...

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Giroux vs. Datsyuk

The Philadelphia Inquirer's Mike Sielski spoke with Flyers captain Claude Giroux about the Flyers' attempt to unseat the Red Wings from their playoff spot--and in doing so, to knock off his idol, Pavel Datsyuk:

There is perhaps no player more respected around the NHL than Datsyuk - 37 years old now, a two-time Stanley Cup champion, a four-time winner of the Lady Byng Trophy as the league's most gentlemanly player, a three-time winner of the Selke Award as its best defensive forward, so gifted that he has averaged close to a point a game over his 14 seasons. He and the Red Wings come to Philadelphia for a rather important game on Tuesday night, leading the Flyers by three points for the Eastern Conference's final playoff berth, carrying with them a 24-year streak of reaching the postseason.

"We're the team trying to make that streak end," Giroux said after the Flyers practiced Monday, and he cut his comment with just the slightest dash of envy. The Flyers missed the postseason in two of the previous three seasons and were expected to miss it again this season, and Giroux would like to be for them what Datsyuk has been for the Red Wings: a franchise mainstay at the center of a long period of consistent excellence, a player whose value cannot be measured merely by his offensive production, a locker room's beating heart. Giroux has been here eight years already. He signed an eight-year contract extension in 2013. He has that chance.

"Anybody who spends his whole career in one place, it's something to be proud of, especially when it's in Philly," Giroux said. "I really feel at home here and obviously would love to play the rest of my career here."

Sielski's story is about Giroux, but it's nice to read Giroux discuss his attempts to master the Datsyukian deke, or to emulate Datsyuk's "compete level":

"It was just so hard to do," Giroux said. "It took me a while to get it. The things he does out there are pretty amazing. He plays the right way. When the third period comes, it looks like he finds another level, and he controls the game as only one player. It's fun to watch."

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Playoffs On The Line

from Ansar Khan of Mlive,

The Detroit Red Wings are in desperation mode, as they were in each of the past three seasons, when their playoff fate wasn't determined until the final week of the season.

This time it feels different. It is more worrisome. The playoff streak –at 24 seasons – appears in greater jeopardy than ever before.

That's because of this team's season-long struggle to score. Their offensive ability inspires no confidence.

Even when they win it's a battle. More often than not it's by one goal, requiring comebacks, overtimes and shootouts. They have little margin for error.


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Holland weighs in from the GM’s meetings

Red Wings GM Ken Holland was in Boca Raton, Florida at the GM's meetings, and he spoke with Yahoo Sports' Josh Cooper regarding the All-Star Game, fan vote included...

Along with the coach’s challenge, the All-Star Game was the second major topic discussed on the first day of the GMs' meetings. Overall, no major tweaks were announced.

"I think the feeling was it was probably the best All-Star Game that we've had in maybe 20 years,” said Detroit Red Wings GM Ken Holland. “It was competitive. Players enjoyed the game, they enjoyed the format. The ratings were well above the previous year. So, I think hockey ops will continue to evaluate things, but for the most part, they were very, very positive.”

This year, all-star voting brought some level of controversy with enforcer John Scott making the game through an Internet fan vote. According to Holland, changing the fan vote was not discussed. 

"They put up a thing that it was one of the things they were going to talk about, but we never got there," Holland said.

And Holland addressed the coach's challenge as well, as ESPN's Pierre LeBrun noted:

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Talking about Mantha’s call-up

Updated 3x at 5:09 PM: MLive's Brendan Savage spoke with Red Wings assistant GM Ryan Martin regarding Anthony Mantha's call-up from Grand Rapids:

"I think we'd like to try to add some size to our lineup and I think Anthony also brings the added dimension to produce offensively," said assistant general manager Ryan Martin. "The last month in Grand Rapids, he's been one of our best players, really since probably the middle of February. He's kind of taken another step in his career and he's been very consistent the last, I'd say, 12 to 14 games and it's a recall that's very well deserved and very much earned by him."

Mantha has 21 goals, 24 assists and a plus-18 rating in 56 games for Grand Rapids. He ranks third in all three categories for the Griffins.

Mantha has also been other signs that he's ready to play in the NHL.

"Consistency night to night, confidence with the puck, stronger on the puck, more competitive without the puck," Martin said. "Everything. When it comes to guys making the jump from the American League to the NHL, a lot of times it has to do with consistency and being an every day player and he's really shown improvement in those areas.

"When you go to watch him play a game in Grand Rapids now, the number of high-skill plays he has where he's big and strong and taking to the net are more frequent than they have in the past. And with that the puck is going in the net some more and he's got some added confidence so that's certainly helped him."

Savage and Martin continue, and the Detroit News's Ted Kulfan picks it up from there:

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A post-Leafs win jab and a note about the Flyers

Sportsnet's Damien Cox couldn't resist a little "rubbing in" of the Leafs' 1-0 win over the Red Wings yesterday, but in doing so, he revealed an important fact about the Wings' most dangerous current competitor for a playoff spot:

Got to believe that was huge for Mike Babcock to go back to Detroit with half an NHL roster and come up with a victory Sunday night. He’ll never acknowledge it, but you know he’s heard the whispers, the suggestions that he isn’t quite the coach he’s made out to be, that the Red Wings were just as happy to turn the reins over to Jeff Blashill.

Well, it doesn’t really matter, and while you hear the snide suggestions that given Toronto’s record this season Babcock has been exposed, well that’s just nonsense. If you don’t understand how much the Leafs have been transformed this year, you’re not watching very closely.

His former club, meanwhile, is fighting for its playoff life, a job made tougher with the loss of veteran defenceman Niklas Kronwall on Saturday afternoon. A massive road game in Philadelphia Tuesday night awaits, and a 24-year-old streak of making the playoffs is on the line in the final weeks of the NHL season.

The Flyers, meanwhile, start a patch of seven games in 12 days that will likely decide a season that has gone better than most believed it would.

The Flyers also have something like 5 sets of back-to-back games compared to the Wings' 3 over the final month of the regular season.

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St. James previews the Red Wings-Flyers tilt

The Free Press's Helene St. James reports that the Red Wings took Monday off after playing 3 games in 4 nights, and as such, she sets up tomorrow's crucial game against the Flyers:

The Flyers have banked seven points their last four games, most recently losing to Florida in a shoot-out Saturday. Goaltender Steve Mason (one of the game's biggest at 6-feet-4 and 217 pounds) has been in net for all of those games. Overall, he's 16-15-8 with a 2.60 goals-against average and .915 save percentage, while former Plymouth Whaler Michal Neuvirth is 16-8-4 with a 2.29 GAA and .925 percentage. Claude Giroux leads the Flyers with 57 points in 64 games. The Flyers have two 20-goal scores in Wayne Simmonds (24) and Brayden Schenn (23).

Stacking the teams up against each other, the Wings average 2.48 goals per game to 2.57 by the Flyers. In goals against, the Wings come in at a 2.57 average and the Flyers at 2.58. The Flyers' power play has a 18.9 success percentage, while the Wings are at 17% (they have elite company near the bottom of the NHL standings, though, as the Tampa Bay Lightning's power play also is at 17% and the Florida Panthers are 16.7%. Both of those Atlantic Division rivals sit higher in the standings than Detroit).

After Philadelphia, the Wings are flying back to Detroit for a day at home to break up what otherwise would be a long time gone. Thursday, they play at Columbus -- site of one of the Wings' worst performances of the season just last week -- and then head further south to play at Florida and Tampa Bay.

The Wings play the Flyers again on April 6 at Joe Louis Arena.

St. James continues...

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Red Wings recall Anthony Mantha

From the Red Wings:


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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.


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