|Sunday's game in Washington will be the 677th game with the Red Wings for coach Mike Babcock. Only Jack Adams, Sid Abel and Scotty Bowman spent more time behind Detroit's bench. (Photo by Getty Images)|
DETROIT – Friday’s 4-3 shootout win over Washington was a big boost for the Red Wings in the Eastern Conference standings as they try to carve out a playoff spot for the 23rd consecutive season.
But the win was also significant for Mike Babcock on a personal level. The 50-year-old Saskatoon native became just the third coach in franchise history to guide the Red Wings to 400 regular-season victories.
“Obviously I got my four-hundredth before,” said Babcock, who is coaching his ninth season with the Red Wings. “My four-hundredth with Detroit means I’ve been here a while and I’ve had good players. Let’s be honest, this last little while I haven’t exactly been mowing them down, so mowed ‘em down for a long time, and it’s been a bit of a grind here lately.”
Still, Babcock only trails legendary coaches Jack Adams (413) and Scotty Bowman (410) in franchise wins. On April 9, in Pittsburgh, Babcock is scheduled to coach his 702nd game behind the Red Wings’ bench, which will move him ahead of Bowman with only Adams (964) and Sid Abel (811) left to catch.
Babcock also resides among the league’s best playoff coaches, having compiled a 78-53 all-time record, which is a .595 winning percentage. Only Bowman (223), Al Arbour (123), Dick Irvin (100), Mike Keenen (96), Pat Quinn (94), Glen Sather (89), Joel Quenneville (88), and Toe Blake (82) have more playoff wins.
Currently, Babcock’s record with the Red Wings stands at 400-189-87. He has a 469-251-19-101 (W-L-T-OTL) all-time record, and his .630 winning percentage is fourth best among active coaches who have more than one season in the league, trailing Pittsburgh’s Dan Bylsma (.677), Anaheim’s Bruce Boudreau (.666) and San Jose’s Todd McLellan (.653).
Prior to him coming to Detroit for the start of the 2005-06 season, Babcock coached two seasons in Anaheim, where he led the Mighty Ducks to the Western Conference championship in 2003.
During the 2011-12 season, Babcock became the third-fastest coach in NHL history to reach 400 career wins, reaching the milestone in his 699th game as an NHL head coach. Only Bowman (690 games) and Sather (694) reached it sooner.
This month in Sochi, Russia, Babcock will return to the international stage, where he hopes to become the only coach in Team Canada’s history to lead the men’s ice hockey team to back to back Olympic gold medals. He’s already the only coach who’s a member of the prestigious Triple Gold Club, having led teams to titles in the Stanley Cup playoffs, Olympics and World Championships.
As a side note, last Friday’s game was the Wings’ 3,000th home game played in Detroit since a group of investors purchased the British Columbia-based Victoria Cougars of the Western Hockey League in 1926. Since December 1979, the Red Wings have played 1,324 of those games at Joe Louis Arena, where the home club holds a 760-392-119-53 record.
Next Saturday in Tampa Bay, the Wings will become the last Original Six franchise to play in their 6,000th all-time game.
Shots: 138 | +/-: 19
According to general manager Ken Holland, the Red Wings’ captain has an upper-body injury. Zetterberg’s status is day to day.
The top line has been hot lately with Zetterberg producing eight points in the last four games. Meanwhile, Nyquist has six points and Abdelkader three points in the same span.
Zetterberg has had a history of back problems through his career. Last month, a sore lower back forced him to miss 11 games, which definitely had a negative affect on the Red Wings who struggled their way to a 3-6-2 mark without the captain.
Since returning Dec. 28, Zetterberg has averaged more than a point per game, producing 14 points in his last 12 games. He leads the Red Wings in goals (16), assists (28), points (44) and plus-minus (plus-19).
Zetterberg likely aggravated his herniated disk in the first period of Friday’s 4-1 win over Montreal. About 6 ½ minutes into the opening period, Zetterberg collided with defenseman Alexei Emelin, which sent the Wings’ captain head over heels behind the Canadiens’ net. A few minutes later, Zetterberg scored on a one-timer from the top of the left circle. With about four minutes left in the period he went to the dressing room and returned for the second period.
DETROIT – A pair of Red Wings goalies got into the Christmas spirit recently, showing off new holiday-themed equipment.
“It’s just for fun,” said Mrazek, of his new red and white leg pads featuring six large snowflakes and a top-hat wearing snowman. “Teammates, I think they like it. They’re like, ‘It’s cool. No one has that idea before.’ I knew a couple people didn’t like it, they think it’s ugly or they think it’s like a kid, but no one has it before so I think it’s a good idea.”
Mrazek said he got the idea of the snowman pads from Grand Rapids equpiment manager Brad Thompson. However, Mrazek’s plans for the specially designed pads depend on the health of Howard (sprained knee) and backup goalie Jonas Gustavsson (groin). If Mrazek is up with the Wings he’ll wear them the NHL Winter Classic in Ann Arbor on New Year’s Day, otherwise he’ll wear them for the Griffins’ AHL game against the Toronto Marlies during the Hockeytown Winter Festival at Comerica Park on Dec. 30.
“I love it,” Mrazek said.
Meanwhile, Howard, who has missed the last seven games, had planned to donate a specially designed mask that was to be auctioned by the U.S. Marines Corps Reserves Toys for Tots. The original plan was for Howard to wear the mask once, Monday against the New York Islanders.
“I told them I’d do it this year, but since the knee injury happened, I’m not sure when I’m going to be able to wear it,” Howard said. “I don’t know if I’m going to hold off until next year with it or wear it when I come back after Christmas.”
The Christmas-inspired design – created by famed-hockey mask artist Ray Bishop – features a blue-eyed, rosy-cheeked Santa Claus and mistletoe.
“I like it, it’s sharp,” Howard said.
Shots: 28 | +/-: -4
“Last night was no good,” Weiss told media at practice in Tampa Bay on Wednesday. “I’m concerned; anytime you’re not in practice and able to skate, it’s not a good feeling. So I’m just going to see what the tests say.”
Weiss will undergo further tests with team doctors later this week when the team returns from their two-game swing through Florida on Friday.
A groin injury forced Weiss to miss six games last month. He missed all but 17 games last season with a wrist injury that required season-ending surgery. In 26 games this season, Weiss has produced two goals and four points with a minus-4 rating.
Weiss will be out of the Wings’ lineup for the foreseeable time, but coach Mike Babcock was skeptical to set a timetable for the veteran center’s return.
“I just know it’s been affecting him, and now here we are,” Babcock said.
With Weiss out for Thursday’s game at Tampa Bay, the versatile Johan Franzen will move to the middle again where he’ll likely fill the No. 2 center hole with Pavel Datsyuk centering the top line and Joakim Andersson and Cory Emmerton remaining on the third and fourth lines, respectively.
“Mule’s got to go back in the middle,” Babcock said. “We’ll figure out the lines tomorrow.”
Weiss he’s been susceptible to groin injuries in the past, but usually they have been limited to the first few weeks of the season, he said.
“I don’t know why it’s happening. I’m trying to do what I can to prevent it,” Weiss said. “It’s not really working, so maybe there is something going on in there.”
Regardless, it’s a discouraging time for Weiss who’s been hard on himself over his lack of offense this season.
“It’s a bad feeling,” he said. “You want to be out there with the guys, feeling good and 100 percent. When you’re not, it takes a toll on you, especially when things are going the way they have. But again, it’s part of sports, sometimes these things happen and you don’t know why. You try to do whatever you can to prevent these things. Sometimes they just happen and you got to deal with it the best you can and fix it and come back stronger. Hopefully, the tests aren’t that bad and we can get back soon.”
|Torey Krug grew-up in metro Detroit and played a number of games through his college days at Joe Louis Arena. Wednesday night will be his first 'official' NHL game at The Joe. (Photo by Getty Images)|
DETROIT – Torey Krug probably played more games as a kid at Joe Louis Arena than he has suited up for the Boston Bruins. But the rookie defenseman, who grew-up in suburban Detroit and graduated from Churchill High School in Livonia, is excited to final play his first regular-season game at The Joe Wednesday night against the Red Wings.
“It’s great, it’s a lot of fun,” said Krug, who played midget hockey for Belle Tire. “We came in preseason it was a little bit different. Coming in now with our full squad playing their full team it’s going to be a lot of fun, especially coming in on Thanksgiving. It’s a good time to play in front of friends and family and hopefully the right team comes out on top.”
An undrafted free agent out of Michigan State, Krug has been dynamite for the defending Eastern Conference champions. An solid puck-moving defenseman, the 5-foot-9 Krug has shown a sound ability to contribute to the Bruins’ offense. Through 24 games, the former CCHA Player of the Year in 2012 has produced seven goals and eight assists with a plus-6 rating.
“I’m just surrounded by good teammates, good players and good teachers,” Krug said. “I spent some time down at Providence last year and really picked up a lot of skills that helped me play the way that I do today. Coming up here to Boston, there’s great coaches and great teammates that I can learn a lot from.”
But there certainly has been a learning curve for the 22-year-old.
“Well you keep things simple,” Krug said. “If you try to do too much or get yourself in trouble because you become vulnerable so you gotta make sure you keep the game simple and you know I learn a lot of that from my teammates. They do a great job of thinking the game in a way that puts yourself in successful situations and you gotta continue to do that.
“Sometimes you get overly excited and jump up a little bit too early sometimes but you definitely have to think about it a little bit more. You have to take your chances when they come, you can’t be over anxious if you do you’re going to get yourself in trouble.”
Krug was an outstanding collegiate player at MSU. In three seasons, he averaged nearly a point per game, was named CCHA best offensive defenseman of the year twice, and was a finalist for the Hobey Baker Award in 2012.
By his estimate, Krug played in about 10 college games at JLA, where he helped the Spartans claim the 2009 Great Lakes Invitational championship in his freshmen season
“Those games weren’t exactly exciting we won 10-1 and 6-1 so that wasn’t exciting, but every time we played Michigan in this building it was unbelievable, packed house and close games,” Krug recalled. “We lost in overtime to them one game and I just remember the excitement. As a fan watching that game it’s gotta be pretty cool, but we came out on the wrong side of that one.
“It’s a lot of fun playing in this building and it’s going to be cool.”
It’s also exciting to be back in Detroit around the holidays, especially Thanksgiving, when family and Lions football are huge traditions among so many Detroiters. And as a fan of the Detroit Lions, Krug is no exception, predicting a win for the home team over the Green Bay Packers in their 21st Thanksgiving Day meeting in Detroit.
“Yeah, I’m a big Lions’ fan,” Krug said. “They’ll win. (Packers QB) Aaron Rodgers isn’t playing right? Yeah, I don’t think so, so that’s pretty good.”
DETROIT – Seems like the Red Wings are close to signing a long-term deal that will keep Jonathan Ericsson in Detroit through at least the 2017-18 season.
Neither the club nor Ericsson would confirm details of an Internet report, which surfaced late Tuesday night, speculating that the a four- or five-year contract is in the neighborhood of $4 million per season.
Shots: 16 | +/-: 2
The 29-year-old Swedish defenseman is in the final year of a three-year contract worth $9.75 million. Ericsson is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent on July 1, and a five-year deal means Ericsson would be 35 by the time the contract expires.
The last player taken in the 2002 NHL draft, Ericsson has become a bona fide talent in the league. One of the team’s top penalty-killers, he has a goal and three assists in 12 games this season. He missed 10 games with a separated shoulder suffered in Phoenix on Oct. 19.
“It would great to get that done,” Ericsson said of a new contract. “They’ve been talking back and forth, seems like we’re coming really close. That feels good.”
Ericsson, who become a first-time father to a baby daughter last month, said he’d like to get a deal done with the Red Wings before it can become a distraction during the season.
“Absolutely, so I don’t have to worry about it later on,” he said. “Last time, really wanted to stay but everything was really up in the air, staying on the team and what defensemen we had and the opportunities that were going to be give, I feel like I’ve found a good role they want me to play in that I really feel comfortable in and really like. I’m so happy to be here. This is the team I want to play for, no other team. If we can get things done now that would be awesome. I couldn’t be happy if it gets done.”
The Red Wings are among the three fewest penalized teams in the league, averaging 8.6 penalty minutes per game this season. And while they’ve killed off 24-of-25 penalties in the last seven games, the Red Wings don’t want to give the Capitals a reason to fire up their potent power-play machine.
The Capitals’ power play is led by the lethal combination of Alex Ovechkin and his offensive sidekick Nicklas Backstrom. With the season nearly the end of the first quarter, Ovechkin and Backstrom are 1-2 in the league in power-play points. Ovechkin leads the NHL with seven power-play goals, while Backstrom has compiled a league-best 11 power-play assists.
“He’s just a big man of super, super skill,” Wings coach Mike Babcock said. “He can be physical but his ability to shoot the puck makes you so nervous. He’s a great skater. When he plays the off-side he pulls it in through your legs and shoots it through a screen all the time. When he’s playing the forehand side he does that outside-in move a fair bit. He finds a way to activate himself real well and get open. He hangs out high. If you give him any space at all he can kill you that way. He’s a guy who can play big minutes. He scores goals. It’s hard to score goals in the NHL.”
A three-time Maurice Richard Trophy winner as the NHL’s top goal scorer, Ovechkin is currently two goals shy of league-leader Alexander Steen (16) of the St. Louis Blues. He’s definitely a dangerous man, as the Wings know all too well. He has registered 12 points in eight career games against Detroit, including nine points on the power play.
“You’ve just got to minimize his space and time,” Wings captain Henrik Zetterberg said. “Obviously, he’s got a great shot and finds a way to always be open it seems. Playing with Backstrom, too, he’s a really good disher. You’ve just got to be aware of them whenever they’re out there and try to have the puck as much as possible.”
Since returning from an upper-body injury 10 days ago, Ovechkin has four goals and two assists in five games. He’s heating up and looking forward to facing the Red Wings.
“A great team, a great organization,” Ovechkin said. “It’s always fun to play against those kinds of teams, especially with those players.”
|Justin Abdelkader (right) celebrates with Johan Franzen after he scored the game-winning goal at Colorado last month. (Photo by Getty Images)|
DETROIT – After missing five of the last six games with an injury that he’s not talking about, Johan Franzen said he plans to return to the lineup Tuesday when the Red Wings host the Winnipeg Jets at Joe Louis Arena.
Franzen spoke to the Detroit media following Monday’s practice, but wouldn’t disclose his injury, which it’s believed occurred on Oct. 27, the day before the Red Wings headed to western Canada for a four-game road trip. Franzen didn’t make the trip to Vancouver, but met the team in Calgary on Oct. 31 and played in just over 9-minutes against the Flames before leaving the game with a reported “illness”.
Seemingly in good spirits Monday afternoon, Franzen, who has two goals and three assists in 13 games, led kind of a game of “20 Questions” with the Detroit media as they tried to guess the ailment that has kept Mule out for two weeks.
Here is part of the 70-second locker room exchange:
Question: What was issue?
Franzen: “I can’t say that yet.”
Question: When can you say?
Franzen: “When it’s 100 percent healed.”
Question: Did you re-injure it in the Calgary game?
Franzen: “No, I didn’t. I just couldn’t play. I wasn’t ready.”
Question: What makes you think you’re ready now?
Franzen: “The way I’ve been practicing. Feeling better.”
Franzen did laugh off speculation that he’s been dealing with a psychiatric disorder. He said he was told by a friend that a rumor made it around the Internet over the weekend that Franzen was battling anxiety issues, which he has dealt with in the past.
“I’ll tell you Monday,” Franzen said. “I thought I could tell you today, but I couldn’t.”
|Forward Anthony Mantha is off to a tremendous start, leding all scorers in the Canadian Hockey League, producing 18 goals for 33 points in 12 games in the QMJHL. (Photo by Dan Mannes/Detroit Red Wings)|
DETROIT – The Red Wings’ front office must be delighted with a few of their younger prospects who had great individual weekends for their junior teams.
Four prospects earned First Star of the game recognition for their respective junior teams.
Last week, Mantha was named Canadian Hockey League player of the week. On Sunday, the Red Wings’ prospect was the First Star scoring two goals and adding two assists for Val'd-Or Foreurs as they crushed Cape Breton, 7-3, in a Quebec Major Junior Hockey League contest. He also had an assist in Friday’s 5-2 loss at Halifax
The Wings’ first-round draft pick last summer, Mantha exploded offensively last week, recording back-to-back five-point games in a pair of victories.
Mantha, 19, leads the QMJHL in scoring with 18 goals and 15 assists in 12 games.
On Monday, Nastasiuk, the Wings first of two second-round picks in June, was named Owen Sound’s player of the week for tallying seven points in two games over the weekend. Trailing 2-1 in Sarnia, Nastasiuk scored the tying and winning goals on Friday. The next night, the 6-foot-1 winger had two goals and two assists in a win over Kingston. He has seven goals and seven assists in 12 games.
Bertuzzi had a good weekend, collecting a goal and two assists as the Guelph Storm posted wins over Niagara (5-4) and Ottawa (7-3). Bertuzzi earned the No. 1 Star in Friday’s win over the IceDogs when he scored a goal and assisted on another. In 10 games this season, Bertuzzi, the Red Wings’ second-round pick in July, has three goals and eight assists.
Athanasiou scored the game-winner and assisted on two other goals for the Barrie Colts who claimed a 4-2 win over Plymouth on Saturday.
|Already an entrepreneur in metro Detroit, former Red Wings forward Dino Ciccarelli will open his new sports bar in downtown Detroit on Wednesday. (Photo by Bill Roose/Detroit Red Wings)|
DETROIT – During the mid-1990s it wasn’t unusual to see Dino Ciccarelli and some of his Red Wings’ teammates at the Post Bar following a victory.
For hockey fans, one of the oldest bars in downtown Detroit was the epicenter for fun with many Wings among the regulars at the tavern located at 408 West Congress Street. The eclectic crowds used to fill every crevice of the long, narrow bar standing shoulder to shoulder and hip to hip from the front door to the bathrooms in the back.
Heck, the Stanley Cup was even known to drop in at the graffiti-laden bar back then too.
But that was years ago, before the place was mothballed.
Now, Ciccarelli is resurrecting it.
Ciccarelli’s Sports Bar will be an ideal spot of hockey fans before and after Wings’ home games. They will be open at 4 p.m. on Wednesday, four-hours before the Wings host the Buffalo Sabres in the season-opening game for both NHL clubs.
The Hockey Hall of Famer, who already owns a bar in Shelby Township, recently purchased the Post Bar and one of its sister locations, near the Palace of Auburn Hills.
“We’ll be open for the Red Wings’ home-opener,” said Ciccarelli, of the downtown establishment that is walking-distance to Joe Louis Arena. “It’ll be an exciting day for sure.”
Renovations have been going on at the Detroit bar for the last week. The old industrial-looking interior still features the same old wooden bar covered in graffiti and carvings from two decades ago. Together, with a fresh coat of slate gray paint on the walls, a new sound system and newly built facade above the front door, and Ciccarelli’s is ready for the hockey season.
A two-sided marquee is supposed to be installed outside on Wednesday in time for the start of the home-opener, Ciccarelli said.
If Ciccarelli’s Sports Bar is anything like the old place, Dino will have himself a hat trick.