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Afternoon news: On the ‘Bye Week,’ Jimmy Howard and Brendan Smith

Of Red Wings-related note this afternoon:

1. The Red Wings head into both an unknown in approaching the trade deadline as an organization, and as a team and coaching staff, the 5-day break from practices and games present unique challenges to the players and coach, as the Detroit News's Ted Kulfan noted:

As much as the time off is nice, it’s easy for teams to lose their edge, and it’s not easy to recapture that physical and mental state needed to play sharp hockey.

“You come off the break, and other teams are still in training, and it’s hard to get back in it,” forward Tomas Tatar said. “Everybody has to stay ready during the break and focus and do something extra, something to keep your pace and that’s what we have to do.”

What makes coming off the bye for the Red Wings even a bit more challenging is the fact they will be traveling to the West Coast, and battle with the time change on top of everything else.

“It’s going to be a tough stretch for us,” Tatar said. “But we have to be ready.”

The bye week, coach Jeff Blashill said, will give him and his staff time to see how they can take advantage of it for players. But how to overcome that first game struggle that most teams have had?

“We’ll try to research it a little bit,” Blashill said. “I haven’t really thought about it until now. I don’t think there’s s magic plan. We’ll have to figure out the right approach with the right type of practice. What will our pregame skate be? You can’t make up for five days with a pregame skate and one practice, so we have to be careful there. We’ll have to have a lot of energy in Vancouver. We’ll have to make sure we’re ready to win a hockey game.”

Kulfan continues...

2. The Free Press's Helene St. James noted that Jimmy Howard isn't responding to treatment on his wonky right knee, and that's a concern as Jared Coreau heads to Grand Rapids for a conditioning stint:

Coach Jeff Blashill said after Tuesday's 3-1 loss to the New York Islanders that Howard “hasn't made as much progress as we wanted him to. He still can't do certain things in the butterfly position. It is a tough injury for a goalie.”

Howard initially was hurt in a collision Dec. 20 at Tampa Bay. He went to Grand Rapids for conditioning Feb. 4 but left during the third period of his second game, Feb. 8, after tweaking his right knee.

When Howard will be able to practice -- much less play -- is unclear. Given how he struggled in his first game with the Griffins, it seems likely that he’ll go through Grand Rapids again when he's ready for game action.

Of all the injuries the Wings have had this season (they are at 230-plus man-games lost), Howard's hit the hardest. He was playing the best hockey of his career when he was injured, with a .934 save percentage and 1.96 goals-against average in 17 games. It’s hard to think that the Wings wouldn’t be in a better position than eight points out of a wild-card spot had he been available.

St. James also continues, and Michigan Hockey's Stefan Kubus took note of Blashill's explanation of Howard's injury:

“Jimmy, right now, will go on break,” Blashill said. “He hasn’t made as much progress as we’ve wanted him to. He still can’t do certain things in the butterfly position. It’s a tough injury for a goalie. It’s obviously the same injury – to a large degree, a similar injury that kept Carey Price out most of last year, and Jimmy has been trying to get back, but we’re gonna have to take it day-by-day.”

3. I'm not sure if the Fourth Period tells us anything new here...

The Detroit Red Wings are generating plenty of interest in defenseman Brendan Smith, who is in the final year of his contract.

Smith, along with forwards Thomas Vanek, Steve Ott, Tomas Jurco and Tomas Tatar, are among the players the Red Wings have held trade talks about, most of whom could be dealt by next Wednesday's trade deadline.

Several teams are in need of a defenseman and have called Red Wings GM Ken Holland about Smith's availability.

During Tuesday night's "Insider Trading" segment on TSN, TSN Hockey Insider Bob McKenzie reported the Red Wings are going to speak with Smith's agent this week about the possibility of a contract extension, which could result in a deal or a trade.

With the expansion draft being a factor for many teams, the Red Wings could discuss a new contract with Smith and look to sign him in the off-season and still trade him by the deadline.

4. And CBS Detroit's Will Burtchfield worries about the news from McKenzie that the Wings may try to extend Smith (and Vanek) before considering trading him (them):

That’s likely not what Wings fans want to hear, but it’s pretty indicative of the organization’s long-term vision. Detroit doesn’t appear interested in a full-scale rebuild, one that requires selling off key veterans and starting from scratch, and would likely prefer to hold onto those players who can help the team remain competitive moving forward.

Whether or not Smith falls into that category is a different question. The 28-year-old has two goals and five points in 33 games this year and hasn’t reached the 20-point mark in any of his three full seasons. But he’s a strong skater who can push the puck up ice, which is a valuable skill set in today’s NHL.

If the Red Wings can sell that aspect of Smith’s game to teams interested in his services, they may be able to reel in a nice return.

For what it’s worth, the Coyotes received a third-round pick and a conditional fifth-round pick from the Flames on Tuesday in exchange for defenseman Michael Stone. Stone, 26, has better offensive statistics than Smith, but lesser possession numbers. He, too, is set to become a free agent this summer.

But the Red Wings are unlikely to be interested in future assets if they intend to be competitive next season. Whether or not they trade Smith, then, could be dependent on receiving an NHL-ready player in return — something that buyers (i.e., contending teams) aren’t typically inclined to facilitate.

5. And on Twitter:

Update: Frans Nielsen and Gustav Nyquist spoke with ESPN's beat writers regarding the quality of ice in the NHL:

Frans Nielsen, C, Detroit Red Wings: "I think it's always going to be a little up and down, especially with those rinks that have so much going on, like basketball the one night, hockey the other -- it's going to be tough to maintain the ice so [that] it's perfect. But I think you see [at] some of the newer rinks, the ice is really good. [At a] brand-new rink in Detroit next year, I'm sure it's going to be perfect there too. It's understandable [at] the older ones, the pipes get old and all that kind of stuff, but if you look at, like, MSG, it's pretty much every day something's going on, right? I'm sure [at the] Staples Center, it's the same thing too. It's tough to make it perfect, but I think overall they're doing a really good job at it."

Gustav Nyquist, RW, Detroit Red Wings: "It's so depending on if there's been some sort of activity the day before, or something like that, that it changes. Carolina, we couldn't even play this year. We had to reschedule the game because the ice was so bad. [The worst ice is] always somewhere warm."

Update #2: The Detroit News's Gregg Krupa penned an article about Coreau and Howard:

“Jimmy, right now, will go on break, and he hasn’t made as much progress as we wanted him to,” Blashill said Tuesday. “He still can’t do certain things in the butterfly position. It’s a tough injury for a goalie. It’s obviously the same injury, or to a large degree a similar injury, to what kept Carey Price out most of last year,” he said of the Canadiens’ netminder.

Like many things for the Wings this season, goaltending did not work out as planned.

Investing nearly $10 million in the position, about 14 percent of the salary cap, they hoped the goalies would help remedy the defensive weaknesses of the lineup and the propensity of the team to spend lots of time in its own zone.

But Petr Mrazek struggled early on and only recently has performed close to the top level he displayed in the middle of last season. And while Howard was brilliant, playing as well as he has in his Red Wings’ career, he got hurt in a crease crash involving the rookie defenseman Nick Jensen.

In 17 games, Howard compiled a 1.96 GAA and a .934 save percentage. He credited his improvement over some inconsistency last season with some positioning tactics, under goaltending coach Jeff Salajko

“Jimmy’s trying to get back, we’re going to have to take it day-by-day,” Blashill said.

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Comments

PierreC's avatar

there is a suggestion for the boys….

don’t take a timeout ! No Florida, stay on the ice AND PRACTICE !

then you won’t miss a beat !

Posted by PierreC from Montreal, Canada on 02/22/17 at 02:35 PM ET

Avatar

Why not trade Smith and a good prospect for a better prospect? I’m not wedded to either Smiths.

Does Boston need a Dman? Smith and Smith for Charles McAvoy? Givani might just fit their system.

maybe Mikhail Sergachev can be pulled from Montreal. They might need some backup at the #6-7 Dmen. Givani would also fit their mold.

Posted by howeandhowe from Seattle on 02/22/17 at 03:50 PM ET

Avatar

Why not trade Smith and a good prospect for a better prospect? I’m not wedded to either Smiths.

Does Boston need a Dman? Smith and Smith for Charles McAvoy? Givani might just fit their system.

maybe Mikhail Sergachev can be pulled from Montreal. They might need some backup at the #6-7 Dmen. Givani would also fit their mold.

I think you gotta be nuts to think about trading Givani. The kids in the top 100 in scoring in the OHL while playing on an awful team and tripling everyone else in pims. He has the ability to get to the dirty areas the wings have issues scoring.

 

Posted by axismaskpainting on 02/22/17 at 05:03 PM ET

Hootinani's avatar

I think you gotta be nuts to think about trading Givani. The kids in the top 100 in scoring in the OHL while playing on an awful team and tripling everyone else in pims. He has the ability to get to the dirty areas the wings have issues scoring.

Posted by axismaskpainting on 02/22/17 at 04:03 PM ET

Hopefully he develops, but he looked lost this past summer at the prospect tourney.  Admittedly he played well this year, but its hard to tell how far up that success will translate.

 

Posted by Hootinani on 02/22/17 at 05:25 PM ET

TreKronor's avatar

he looked lost this past summer at the prospect tourney.

I wasn’t there, but from everything I read I got the impression that after a day or two he really settled in and was impressive. 

The only reason I’d trade him is in a package to get a premier Dman.  Surprise surprise, premier Dmen don’t really come around in a trade all that often, and they are going to takemore than our roster can offer.

Posted by TreKronor on 02/22/17 at 06:26 PM ET

WingDingy's avatar

As much as the time off is nice, it’s easy for teams to lose their edge

. Not if you don’t have one to lose.

Posted by WingDingy on 02/22/17 at 06:43 PM ET

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its hard to tell how far up that success will translate.
Posted by Hootinani from the parade following Babs out of town on 02/22/17 at 04:25 PM ET

Axis, this^^^^^^^^.

Posted by howeandhowe from Seattle on 02/22/17 at 07:38 PM ET

Avatar

Hopefully he develops, but he looked lost this past summer at the prospect tourney.  

Posted by Hootinani from the parade following Babs out of town on 02/22/17 at 04:25 PM ET


Don’t know if you were at the prospect tourney….but I was there and thought Smith acquitted himself very well. I think it took a day or two for him to get used to that level of play, but once he did he was impressive. He’s the kind of player that you often notice because he plays with energy and won’t back off from the physical play. He had a few hits in the tourney and you could see the Red Wings brass in the balcony were loving it. He has mentioned Wayne Simmonds as the player he tries to pattern himself after…and even if he ends up being a “poor man’s Wayne Simmonds” he could still be the type of player that the Wings need going forward . And the kid’s only, what, 18 or 19 years old?

Posted by Steve in SE MI on 02/22/17 at 08:16 PM ET

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Posted by Steve in SE MI on 02/22/17 at 07:16 PM ET

This is exactly why his trade value is higher. Right now the wing’s have little Bert to fill that role who is ahead of Smith in development. Smith still has a lot of unknowns. There is not denying that. The Wing’s need another D prospect who can turn into a #1-2 not another 3rd line forward, at best (poor man’s Simmonds).

G. Smith could significantly raise B Smith’s value plucking a prospect with high D potential while giving the team traded to a needed solid bottom 4 (5) defensemen. When considering the two teams I chose as suitors G.Smith is exactly the type of player they like and would be of even more value to them. If B.smith is only worth a 3rd round pick as predicted then wouldn’t a late 2nd plus a 3rd equate to a 1st round pick?

The wing’s have to give to get otherwise the team is sitting around with a bunch of late round picks developing slowly (and likely only into bottom line players) stunting the team’s rebuild.

Posted by howeandhowe from Seattle on 02/23/17 at 01:55 PM ET

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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.