Of Red Wings-related note this afternoon:
1. The pre-game stories today focus on Petr Mrazek, as discussed by the Philadelphia Inquirer’s Sam Donnellon…
“Red Wings fans were always awesome,” he said after Tuesday’s morning skate at the Wings’ brand-new home. “They always cheer for us. If they cheer for me I’m really happy. But I don’t think they’re going to cheer for me tonight.”
Mrazek arrived early Tuesday and chatted with several old teammates. Asked by a Detroit reporter who might have the advantage, the goaltender who practiced daily against the shooters or the shooters who have practiced scoring on the goalie, Mrazek carefully deferred, saying the ebbs and flows of the game itself are likely to dictate that.
“Every game is different,” he said. “I wouldn’t know who is going to have [an] advantage.
Mrazek said he talked to Red Wings left wing Andreas Athanasiou this morning, and concluded: “I don’t know what he’s going to do. Is he going to do the same move he always does or is he going to [do something different]?”
Mrazek was also asked if, after platooning for much of the year, being traded into a playoff race and into a starter’s role had renewed his excitement.
“It’s always fun to be in a group with a chance to make the playoffs,” he said. “It was really good to get a fresh starts, especially with my contract almost up. I’m really excited for the opportunity.”
2. The Free Press’s Helene St. James…
“I think I was ready for it, but when the situation came, you realize that everything you had here is gone,” Mrazek said after Tuesday’s morning skate. “You are going to live a new life. I was really excited for it.”
Mrazek was slated to start Tuesday’s game against the Wings at Little Caesars Arena, his first game in Detroit since the trade. Before the morning skate, he joked with Wings forward Andreas Athanasiou about what he might try on a breakaway move. Like Tomas Tatar did two weeks ago when he made his return after being traded to Vegas, Mrazek used the trip to Detroit to do some more packing. Former teammates were happy to see him.
“Petr is a great guy, funny guy,” Gustav Nyquist said. “Like with Tats, it’s always tough to see someone go that has been with the team for quite a while.”
Approximately two hours before a game, the Wings put on a video loop of the opposing goalie showing the goals he has given up this season. That wasn’t the plan for Tuesday. The Wings know Mrazek well enough; he’d been a teammate for three-plus seasons.
“You have your spots,” Nyquist said. “But that might work out for him, too, because he knows where you like to shoot.”
Mrazek had an up-and-down season with the Wings. He was outplayed by Jimmy Howard in the first half, then went seven games between starts. Then in January, Mrazek started five of six games during a stretch.
With the Wings focused on acquiring draft picks, general manager Ken Holland had told Mrazek he might be traded. The call came Feb. 19.
“I got the call around 9:30 in the evening and went to the rink and packed everything I could,” Mrazek said. “Home, I just got the stuff I needed and move on. I was ready for it for a little while. I didn’t play much the first half of the year, but after the new year, I play lots of games that I was happy for. Those kind of games gave me the opportunity to be traded. Teams could see me play.”
3. The Detroit News’s Ted Kulfan…
Mrazek continues to stay in contact with some of his former teammates, although his best buddy, forward Tomas Tatar, was traded to Vegas shortly after Mrazek was dealt.
“We were playing in Montreal (on trade deadline day, when Tatar was traded) and I woke up in the afternoon and he texted me and said he couldn’t believe it happened,” Mrazek said. “I didn’t know what happened, but I called him right away and he told me. I was excited for him.
“I’m still in contact with the guys. Frkie (Martin Frk), I talk to him, I talked to Abby (Justin Abdelkader) a few times. I’m in touch with the guys. I don’t know who has the advantage (Tuesday). I saw Double-A (Andreas Athanasiou) before the (morning) skate and asked him if he has chance on a breakaway if he’s going to do the same move he always does or go backhand?”
The Red Wings were expecting to see the best of Mrazek, knowing his competitive nature.
“He can say it’s just another game but knowing his competitiveness, I’m sure he’s pumped to play this game,” Blashill said. “I figured he’d be starting, and I’m sure we’ll see his best. Petr is the ultimate competitor and I know he’s going to do everything he can to try and win. I know our guys are going to do everything they can to score.”
Said Frk, one of the Mrazek’s closest friends on the present Red Wings roster: “He’s looking forward to it. He was a Red Wing for a long time. It’ll be a special moment for him. But for us, too, playing against him. You want to get a win for sure. You don’t want to give him anything too easy.”
“Yeah definitely it’s different,” fellow Czech Republic native Martin Frk said. “He’s one of my good friends, so it will be tough, especially because he knows everyone who shoot on him. We know what he can do good also when he’s in net. We just gotta go and play good overall and show we want to beat him.”
Said defenseman Danny DeKeyser: “It will be a little bit different for sure. He’s friends with a lot of guys in this room. He was another guy that it was tough to see go. Hopefully tonight we get the better of him.”
It will be Mrazek’s first career start against the Wings after making 166 for them from 2012 to this season.
“Obviously, I know him well,” Gustav Nyquist said. “He’s a good guy. I had a lot of fun the time when he was here, together with him, so it will be fun to see him today.”
The Flyers’ top two goalies, Brian Elliott and Michal Neuvirth, have missed 18 games and 14 games, with lower-body injuries, respectively. That is why the Flyers traded a 2018 draft pick to the Wings to get Mrazek.
On Sunday, Mrazek won his fifth game as a Flyer, meaning the conditional draft pick will go from a fourth-round pick to a third-round pick, provided the Flyers make the playoffs.
“Yeah, it’s really exciting, really fun to be in a group that you have a chance to make the playoffs,” Mrazek said in the visitors’ dressing room after the morning skate. “If we’re going to play the way we’re playing right now, I think we have a really, really good chance to be in.”
5. And NHL.com’s Dave Hogg penned a game preview:
The Game: The Philadelphia Flyers can tie the Pittsburgh Penguins in points for second place in the Metropolitan Division with a win against the Detroit Red Wings at Little Caesars Arena on Tuesday.
Philadelphia, which has won its past two games, is two points behind Pittsburgh, but the Penguins have played one fewer game. Pittsburgh plays at the New York Islanders on Tuesday.
A win also would guarantee the Flyers remain third in the division. They have the same number of points as the fourth-place Columbus Blue Jackets, but lead them by one in the regulation/overtime win tiebreaker (35-34). The Blue Jackets play at the New York Rangers on Tuesday.
The Red Wings have lost 10 straight (0-9-1) and are 19 points behind the New Jersey Devils for the second wild card from the Eastern Conference.
Players to watch: Flyers goaltender Petr Mrazek will make his first start against his former team. The Red Wings traded Mrazek to the Flyers on Feb. 19 for two draft picks.
Red Wings forward Henrik Zetterberg has 21 points (10 goals, 11 assists) in 21 career games against the Flyers. He has 951 points, three behind Sergei Fedorov for fifth on the Red Wings all-time list.
They said it: “It is going to be fun to play against them, but we’re also in a playoff race, so the most important thing is getting two points.” — Flyers goaltender Petr Mrazek, on playing against his former team, the Red Wings, for the first time
“It is frustrating, because we just can’t score goals. We’re not getting blown out in most of these games, so if we could pick up some goals, we’d be in most of them.’ — Red Wings forward Justin Abdelkader
The Free Press’s Helene St. James also posted a video of Mrazek, Nyquist and Blashill speaking with the media:
And here’s the Flyers broadcasters’ Flyers-Wings game preview: