Category Archives: Uncategorized

Babcock salutes Super Bowl champ Belichick

DETROIT >> Wings coach Mike Babcock has been a big fan of New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick, whose team won its fourth Super Bowl in 14 years on Sunday.

“He wins,” Babcock said. “He’s a life-long learner. He wins multiple different ways. They change their roster every year. They build their identity based on what their roster is that year. Their offense is always changing. If he has time to plan he has ways to make your offense go away.

“I just think they’re incredible and they’ve been doing it for 14-15 years,” Babcock continued. “We have a whole bunch of teams that come and go. We see it every year. This team’s hot, this team’s going to be good and I still look around and where are they? There’s a couple ways to get good in our league. One is you’ve been bad for 10 straight years, go through a whole bunch of coaches and by that time you’ve drafted well so you can be good. Or you just keep grinding. I like what they do because I think that’s what we do.”

Detroit in ‘good spot’ as trade deadline nears

DETROIT >> With the NHL trade deadline less than a month away, Wings coach Mike Babcock and general manager Ken Holland met with that in mind Monday at Joe Louis Arena.

“We talked about our team, our minor league team, but this isn’t just about the trade deadline,” Babcock said. “Ken and I talk every day I think. There are no surprises, he knows what I want. Now in the end can you do what a guy wants? Is it possible or is the cost too great, short term, long term, all those things.

“In the end Ken has the final decision on all this, just like our roster,” Babcock continued. “That doesn’t mean I have tons to say. During the game I decide who goes on the ice, but he gives a ton of feedback in that area too, but we talk after each game too. That’s how we work together.”

The Wings have 67 points through 50 games and sit a point behind Tampa Bay for first place overall in the Eastern Conference and three points behind Nashville and Anaheim for first overall in the NHL.

“We’re in a good spot today,” Babcock said. “If you remember a few years back, we were in first, on top in the league, and we made a move to trade for Kyle Quincey. Then everybody got hurt. Even when we got them back we never got going again.”

The Wings finished fifth overall in the Western Conference that season and fell in five games to Nashville in the first round of the playoffs.

“Nick Lidstrom broke his leg and he was never Nick Lidstrom again,” Babcock said. “We had a number of injuries, unbelievable. We make the move and the whole team gets hurt. We might have won only five games after that point of the year so when you look at it we’re in a good spot today, but let’s understand it’s today and the league is moving ahead and you have to win games.”

The Wings’ most pressing need is a right-handed-shooting defenseman who can play the point on the power play. Two that could be available are Washington’s Mike Green or Buffalo’s Tyler Meyers, but they’re not going to part with any of their top prospects to obtain them.

“You always have a wish list of what you need to try and improve your team,” Babcock said. “Sometimes it’s reasonable and sometimes it’s not reasonable. That’s the general manager’s job and the pro scouts to sort that out.”

The Wings have not been a major player during recent trade deadlines and Henrik Zetterberg doesn’t see them doing much on or before March 2.

“Everyone knows when the deadline is and there will be some moves, but if you look back in our history, it’s not often that something happens,” Zetterberg said. “Last year we had a lot of injuries and we made a deal to get (David) Legwand. This year we’re healthy so I don’t expect us to do much but if something happens it will happen. It’s part of the sport and you just deal with it.

“I think if you’re one of the top teams and you get a new player, that player will do something good,” Zetterberg continued. “I think that’s the caliber of player you will get. He will be a good player. If that happens, I don’t think it will be uneasy to get him in the mix, but if nothing happens, nothing happens.”

Wings injury updates … Howard skates briefly on his own; Jurco takes part in full practice

DETROIT >> Here are a few injury updates.

— Tomas Jurco (lower back pain) took part in his first full practice since leaving after two periods against Edmonton on Jan. 6. It’ll all depend how he reacts Tuesday morning if he’ll be back in the lineup.

“I felt good,” Jurco said. “It wasn’t too hard, but it’s different in a game. Way different. I need to make sure I’m ready then I can go.”

— Jimmy Howard (groin) skated on his own briefly for the first time since getting injured on Jan. 10. He’ll make the road trip to Florida.

“I don’t want to say anything just yet,” Howard said when asked about a possible date for his return. “We don’t know what’s going to happen in the near future. We’re just going to keep following the timetable we have, 3-4 weeks and hopefully it just keeps getting better.”

Howard said he hasn’t watched the replay of his injury, that he had to taken out on a stretcher when it occurred.

“I don’t know if it was when my foot hit the post or when I extended,” Howard said. “I heard something pop and found out the next day I had a tear.

“I was in so much pain,” Howard continued. “But after a week I was able to go up and down the stairs and everything like that again, so it was kind of nice.”

— Jonas Gustavsson (shoulder) and Jakub Kindl (sprained elbow) practiced. Both are most likely out Tuesday, which means defenseman Xavier Ouellet will remain in the lineup and goalie Tom McCollum with backup Petr Mrazek.

— Johan Franzen (concussion-like symptoms) did not practice.

Wings’ five-game win streak means nothing according to Babcock as team embarks to play 11 of next 14 on road

TAYLOR >> The Detroit Red Wings come out of the All-Star break winners of five games in a row.

That means nothing to coach Mike Babcock after the team returned to practice Monday at Taylor Sportsplex.

“That’s over with,” Babcock said after the 40-mintue practice. “To me, we’ve got a new game. It’s like starting all over. We’ve got a 35-game push here and let’s get started. These next five games for us are real important. If I’m not mistaken four of them are on the road, so let’s get off to a good start and do well.”

The Wings embark on a pretty tough schedule off a five-day break playing 11 of their next 14 on the road starting Tuesday night at Florida. That’s followed with a game at Tampa Bay Thursday before returning home to face the New York Islanders.

“It’s always a challenge to go on the road, but you’ve got to stick with what you do,” Niklas Kronwall said. “We’ve had a lot of games on the road just after Christmas and I thought we did a fairly good job of sticking with it. We’ve got to get back to work here and do the right things.”

All three teams of the Wings’ next opponents have given them trouble in recent years.

Florida has won both meetings this season against Detroit, both played at Joe Louis Arena. The Panthers are also 5-2-0 since the start of last season against the Wings. Three of those wins were in a shootout.

Tampa Bay is 5-1-0 against Detroit since the start of last season, while the Islanders are 7-1-0 in their past eight against the Wings.

“You’ve got to win games,” Henrik Zetterberg said. “If you look at our division, the teams ahead of us are winning games and the teams behind us are winning games so you have to keep winning if you want to be in the hunt.”

The Wings have 63 points through 47 games and are just a point behind Tampa Bay for the overall lead in the Eastern Conference.

“I feel we’ve won some games, but I don’t think we’ve played our best hockey in these last few at all,” Babcock said. “I feel we’re a confident group that has a pretty good understanding of how we have to play and now we got to get back and do that again. I don’t get all hung up on where all the games are, we’ve got a game in Florida (Tuesday) and we’re going to get there and try to play well.”

Are the Wings over overachieving this season? Team is a point out of the top spot in the Eastern Conference

DETROIT >> If you had taken a poll inside the Wings’ locker room prior to the start of the season and asked if the team would be a point out of first place for the top spot in the Eastern Conference by the All-Star break, a majority of the responses would have been no.

Well that’s just where Detroit is at, with 63 points in 47 games and just a point behind Tampa Bay.

“When I thought about around July 5 when not much happened this summer, I was disappointed, like a few of my veteran players who called me were disappointed, too,” Wings coach Mike Babcock said. “I don’t think any of us would have believed we’d be at this spot, the general manager and myself included.”

The team didn’t land any of the needs it had searched for through free agency, mainly a right-handed shooting defenseman, and essentially brought back the same squad from last season.

So far it’s worked out.

The Wings (27-11-9), who will come out of the break on a five-game winning streak and tied with the New York Islanders for second overall in the Eastern Conference, have 13 more points than they did after 47 games last season.

Health has also played a major role in getting the Wings to where they’re at in the standings.

Last season Detroit had the second most man games lost according to mangameslost.com at 421 and still found a way into the playoffs. And the Wings’ two best players – Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk – were limited to 45 games each.

“The contributions of players that were out a lot last year due to injuries have been a real positive and then the continued development of the younger players,” Wings general manager Ken Holland said. “At the end of the day, when you’re in the playoffs 23 straight years it means a lot of picking late and we’re trying to accomplish two goals at the same time, we’re trying to make the playoffs and compete for the Stanley Cup and we’re also trying to rebuild the team on the fly.”

This year Detroit is 14th in man games lost with 111. Columbus is first with 283.

“Everyone’s been healthy and we’ve been playing well, so it’s not a huge surprise,” Darren Helm said. “It’s hard work but it’s paid off.”

The injuries last season has helped in the development of the younger players, including Tomas Tatar and Gustav Nyquist, who lead the team in goals with 21 and 19 respectively.

“Our scouts have done a real nice job and obviously (Grand Rapids Griffins coach Jeff Blashill) has done a good job in developing and then we’ve done a good job here,” Babcock said.

Special teams have also contributed. The Wings rank in the top 10 in both power play (second) and penalty kill (sixth).

“We’re in a good situation and now we’ve got to get better,” Babcock said. “Our penalty kill hasn’t been near as good here lately. We’ve got to get our penalty kill back, our faceoff circle back and get everyone playing a little better. I think the big thing right now is just get guys away and get them freshened up and get ready for a push.”

Detroit also is 10th in goals per game and seventh in goals against.

“We’re doing a lot of good things,” Zetterberg said. “We’ve gotten better and got it going here. Compared to last year we’re more healthy. I think we’re a little deeper. Special teams are a little bit better.

The Wings have also taken advantage of a favorable schedule.

During the first half they’ve had a favorable home schedule and have faced teams coming off games the night before 13 times.

However, coming out of the break Detroit plays 11 of its first 14 on the road and 20 of its last 35.

“There’s a long way to go and we have to keep winning games,” Zetterberg said. “We know that. Montreal and Tampa will win games. And Boston will win games. We need to keep playing well if we want to have fun in the end.”

Pulkkinen has yet to register a point with Wings; he’s not pressing and just happy team is winning

DETROIT >> Teemu Pulkkinen went from being a team’s leading scorer to having difficulty finding room to shoot the puck.

Heading into play Tuesday, Pulkkinen has no goals and no assists in five games, while averaging a little over 12 minutes a game.

He also has just eight shots on goal.

“There’s no space,” Wings coach Mike Babcock said. “It’s the NHL, so there’s no space. In the American League or in Europe you swing by something or you cruise around, big shot, if you’re not in the right spot you never get the puck and then if your feet aren’t turned right so you can release it on the one-touch you never getting a shot. It’s just coming in and getting used to the league and understanding. It usually takes guys, unless you’re an absolute superstar, more than one try.”

Prior to being called up from Grand Rapids, Pulkkinen led the AHL in scoring with 20 goals and was tied for second with 39 points.

He had also equaled a Griffins franchise record prior to joining the Wings with goals in eight consecutive games. The mark was set by Donald MacLean in the 2005-06 season.

“I feel pretty good, unfortunately I haven’t scored any goals or gotten any points,” Pulkkinen said. “For me this is good experience and I now I know I can play here and compete against these guys and battle hard against stronger and bigger guys.”

Pulkkinen was moved to the top power play unit for tonight’s game against the Minnesota Wild.

“When you try harder to score you never score,” Pulkkinen said. “You just have to keep going, feel calm and relaxed and just play the way you play. When you start pushing it too much it’s not going to be good. I just go out and play. Of course I want to score, but it’s not easy. It’ll come.”

Pulkkinen played three games last season with the Wings and didn’t register a point while averaging less than eight minutes of ice time per game.

“It’s hard here,” Pulkkinen said. “The game is faster, players are aggressive, stronger. The game is better here. The D knows how to block the shots, where to be when guys are shooting.

“I want to score goals, get some points, but I don’t want to get frustrated that I haven’t scored,” Pulkkinen continued. “The team is winning right now so that’s perfect. Everything is good here. I just try and push hard and play better every night.”

Pulkkinen had just four shots on goal in those three games last season in Detroit.

“It’s been good,” Pulkkinen said. “We’ve won the last four games so it’s good for the team. The team is playing really good. It’s good right now.”

Pulkkinen, along with Xavier Ouellet, was selected to the AHL All-Star game, which takes place on Jan. 26.
He wasn’t sure if he’ll be playing in it or not.

“I think I’m going there,” Pulkkinen said. “We’ll see after the game to see what for sure is going on. They’re going to decide what’s going on.”

Babcock juggles third and fourth lines; team looks for Mrazek to bounce back

DETROIT >> Quick update from the Wings’ morning skate prior to taking on the Minnesota Wild tonight at Joe Louis Arena.

Wings coach Mike Babcock has switched up his third and fourth lines.

He’s got Riley Sheahan centering Drew Miller and Luke Glendening, while Joakim Andersson will center Stephen Weiss and Teemu Pulkkinen.

For Andersson, it’s the first time he’ll play center all season.

“Working down low in the D-zone is the biggest difference I would say,” Andersson said. “Playing wing, on the wall, you have to get the pucks out and stuff. It’s stuff you’re not used to and breaking out of the zone when we rim the puck up the walls, you’re not used to that as a center, otherwise not too much.”

When Andersson had been in the lineup he was playing wing alongside Glendending, who centered the line, and Miller.

“The way we play we try and have all three forwards doing everything right,” Andersson said. “The first guy will play down low, as a winger you might not have as much responsibility to be the third guy. We have to have all three guys doing everything.”

Andersson has a goal and four assists in 34 games this season.

Petr Mrazek will be back in goal. Mrazek was pulled on Sunday after allowing three goals on seven shots against the Buffalo Sabres.

“The team was brutal, let’s be honest,” Babcock said of his team’s 6-4 come-from-behind win over the Sabres. “He was part of it. No one was prepared to play. He never got an opportunity to play in the second and third when everyone else got an opportunity to bail themselves out, so he has an opportunity here. That’s what the league is about, it’s an everyday league. Part of being a young guy is when you have success is you dwell on the success instead of getting ready for tomorrow. You have these lapses in back to back games with young guys, so here’s an opportunity to bounce back.”