POSTED ON Friday, 12.02.2011 / 9:53 AM
BUFFALO, N.Y. – Justin Abdelkader is a huge football fan and an even bigger Michigan State supporter, who’s excited that his alma mater is headed to Saturday’s inaugural Big Ten football championship with a chance to play in the Rose Bowl for the first time since 1988.
“I hope that Michigan State can come through, but I know it’s going to be a tough obstacle for them,” said Abdelkader, who he’ll be watching the nationally televised game with some Red Wings’ teammates in Denver.
The Spartans are preparing to beat Wisconsin for the second time this fall. MSU defeated the Badgers on a Hail Mary pass by quarterback Kirk Cousins on the game’s final play.
“Wisconsin is really good and it’s going to be tough beating them twice in a row,” Abdelkader said.
The Wings’ forward and the MSU quarterback have traveled similar life paths. Both grew-up in western Michigan where they were three-sport student-athletes for their high schools – Abdelkader played hockey, football and basketball at Muskegon Mona Shores, and Cousins was a football, basketball and baseball standout at Holland Christian.
And if things go the Spartans’ way this weekend, Cousins can claim to have led his team to a monumental win just as Abdelkader did when his last-second goal gave MSU a national hockey championship victory over Boston College in 2007.
Both guys know each other, and Cousins has been a previous guest in the Red Wings’ dressing room at Joe Louis Arena. And though Abdelkader doesn’t have Cousins’ cell number, he would offer valuable advice to the MSU senior.
“Just enjoy the opportunity, I mean, win, lose, draw, just go out there and have fun,” said Abdelkader, a former prep quarterback. “Obviously it’s a big game, but at the same time it’s the inaugural Big Ten championship game and playing in that on a national stage with an opportunity to go to the Rose Bowl. … Man, just enjoy it.”
Even though MSU is a 10-point underdog to the Badgers, Abdelkader likes the Spartans’ chances in Indianapolis.
“I think they have a good running game, I think they’re physical up front, Kirk Cousins is a really good quarterback and he’s not going to lose you the game, he’s not going to make mental mistakes,” Abdelkader said. “He knows the offense well and then with B.J. Cunningham they know each other well and obviously they have some threats on offense so I like them. I like their defense, I think their defense has done an outstanding job this year, but Wisconsin is really good and it’s going to be tough beating them twice in a row.”
Like a true athlete, Abdelkader won’t look past the Badgers with the possibility of returning to Pasadena for the first time in nearly a quarter century.
“It would be nice, but it will be tough to get there,” said Abdelkader, of the Rose Bowl. “I think they just have to focus on the game at hand, and hopefully we’ll get a win and get to the Rose Bowl – that would be awesome.
“You’re definitely think about it, but it’s a big game and it isn’t going to be easy because Wisconsin is a really good team. I think everyone is nervous, but excited and getting ready for the match-up.”
POSTED ON Thursday, 12.01.2011 / 5:26 PM
|The Red Wings' Darren Helm|
As Red Wings’ players filed onto Red Bird III Thursday afternoon for a short flight to Buffalo where they’ll face the Sabres Friday night, one thing was quite clear: Movember is over.
Several players throughout the league, including the Red Wings, participated in Movember, growing mustaches to bring awareness to men’s health issues, specifically prostate cancer and other cancers that affect men.
With the exception of one noticeable objector, the Wings who grew facial hair during the month-long campaign were clean-shaven on the first day of December.
Not only did forward Darren Helm grow a ’stache he let his dish-water blonde hair grow below his collar.
“I figured if I had a mustache I might as well have long, disgusting out-of-control hair,” Helm said Wednesday morning. “When I get a chance I'll probably trim it up a bit and the mustache will probably go.”
But somewhere along the way, Helm had a change of heart, trimming up the hair and the mustache for the Wings’ road trip, which begins in Buffalo before heading to Colorado and St. Louis.
POSTED ON Wednesday, 11.30.2011 / 11:07 PM
|DAVID MANNINO - 1993-2011|
There wasn’t an ounce of bashfulness in him. And that’s what you first noticed most when meeting Dave. He was just an openly-friendly teen with a gregarious and unflappable personality.
He made you laugh, and he made you think, whether it was about hockey, or the validity of pro wrestling or the rivalries of the sports teams in the Detroit Catholic High School League.
He had such a bright outlook on life.
Even when he discovered a lump on his right collarbone last April, and doctors told that it was acute lymphoblastic lymphoma, Dave remained upbeat and positive. Even when chemotherapy treatments kept him from attending senior prom at the University of Detroit Jesuit High School, and from walking the stage at graduation, he was optimistic.
Dave was an outstanding student-athlete. He earned all-state honors as a forward on the Cubs’ prep hockey team, carried a 4.2 grade point average in the classroom, and had been accepted at the University of Michigan.
Earlier this month Dave got a dose of great news when he learned that the cancer had gone in remission.
He was so excited to share the news with everyone during the Wings’ game against the Dallas Stars on Nov. 12. He ever sat in my office that Saturday night and chatted for 20 minutes, said he had one more major round of chemo starting on Monday and that he would return to the JLA ice crew by January.
He skated with his crew members that night, shoveled the ice during TV timeouts at the 14, 10 and 6-minute marks of each period. The chemo zapped his strength, and it took everything that he had to perform the on-ice duties that he loved to do so much.
Still, when we last saw him at The Joe, he assured us that he would return. He was a fighter, and there was no doubt that the future was as bright as his personality.
But this week the cancer took that promising future away.
Dave died Monday with his family at his side. He was 18-years-old.
He loved life and enjoyed people, and he especially liked annoying fellow ice crew members, Brittany and Maria. He was a fan of The Rock, the pro wrestler, and had a penchant for Puma athletic shoes and anything purple.
Al Sobotka, the building manager and Zamboni driver at JLA, oversees the ice crew and often kiddingly called Dave “Jay Leno” for his likeness to the late night comic.
Last Thursday, Dave sent Al Sobotka a text message. In it he wished the Red Wings’ Zamboni driver a Happy Thanksgiving, and finished the note with, “I look at you as my third grandfather”.
Dave is survived by his parents, Dr. Thomas and Annita; his brother Thomas Jr.; sister Andrea; grandmother Annita; and many loving aunts, uncles, cousins, and friends.
A visitation will be held this Friday from 1-9 p.m. at McCabe Funeral Home, 31950 West 12 Mile Road, Farmington Hills, Mich. A funeral service is scheduled for 10 a.m. Saturday at Brightmoor Christian Church, 40800 West 13 Mile Road, Novi, Mich.
Donations may be made to the foundation seventyk.org.
POSTED ON Wednesday, 11.30.2011 / 3:34 PM
|Growing up a Steve Yzerman fan, playing for his idol and wearing his No. 19 has been a dream for Lightning center Dominic Moore. (Photo by Getty Images)|
Steve Yzerman, the last to wear the number in a Wings’ uniform, is the reason so many budding hockey stars – from mini-mites to frozen pond rockets all across Michigan – still select No. 19 for their sweaters.
Now there were a lot of terrific hall of famers in the history of sports who did the No. 19 proud, from Baltimore quarterback Johnny Unitas to Cleveland fireballer Bob Feller, and even Colorado captain Joe Sakic. And today, there are 16 NHL players that wear the number, including Boston’s Tyler Seguin, Chicago’s Jonathan Toews and San Jose’s Joe Thornton.
Players pick numbers for different reasons and who knows if the above mentioned wear 19 out of respect, or not, for the Wings’ legend, but for Dominic Moore wearing 19 in Tampa carries a whole different meaning and responsibility.
“My two idols were Doug Gilmour, a local guy, a Toronto Maple Leaf, and Stevie Yzerman,” Moore said, “because my mom would always say, ‘Look at that Steve Yzerman, isn’t he such a class act?’ She wanted for us to look up to people like him as a role model. And obviously he was an incredible two-way player and I looked up to that.”
Moore, who grew-up north of Toronto in Thornhill, Ontario, was one of the first free agent-signings by Yzerman when he took over as Tampa Bay's vice president and general manager in 2010.
The Lightning is Moore’s eighth NHL team in eight seasons. But playing for an Yzerman-led team and wearing the number that he made so famous during a 22-season Hall of Fame career has been a real treat.
“Everyone knows what type of guy he is and the reputation he has,” said Moore, who played collegiately at Harvard with his brothers, Mark and Steve. “He’s first class all the way and his track record speaks for itself.
“I like the number, but it’s one of those things that you want to carry yourself the best that you can and be yourself and play your game and nothing else.”
POSTED ON Monday, 11.28.2011 / 1:48 PM
|The hockey careers of Steve Yzerman and Mike Babcock have crossed a few times over the years, including the 2010 Winter Olympics as Babcock coached Team Canada for GM Yzerman. (Photo by Getty Images.)|
But instead of wearing a Red Wings’ lapel pin on his tailored suit, the Hall of Famer who won three Stanley Cup championships as Wings’ center will be sporting one with a cobalt blue lightning bolt when he accompanies his Tampa Bay squad into JLA Wednesday night.
Like Gordie Howe and Ted Lindsay, who eventually left the organization to play for other clubs, Yzerman will forever be a Red Wing for helping build a hockey renaissance that brought Stanley back to Detroit after a 42-year dry spell.
But for the last year and a half, Yzerman has been the vice president and general manager for the Lightning. He also served as executive director for a Team Canada squad that won the gold medal in the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver.
While Yzerman will likely receive a lot of media attention this week, Wings coach Mike Babcock, who coached the 2010 Canadian team, said he’s looking forward to it.
“I’m a big fan of Stevie’s, obviously from coaching with him, from working with him, from working with him in the Olympics,” Babcock said. “I talk to Steve – regularly would be too much – but quite a bit. And I think they do a good job there. I’m a fan of the coach (Guy Boucher) there and they have good players and it should be fun.”
Tampa Bay plays the Minnesota Wild tonight in St. Paul and will travel to Detroit right after the game. The Lightning are taking the unusual approach and staying in suburban Birmingham and practicing at the Troy Sports Center. Tuesday the Bolts will stake from 2-4 p.m. EST, and they will have a morning skate Wednesday at 11:30 a.m.
“We get to watch them on TV here tonight and see what they’re more about,” Babcock said. “We went through quite a bit of it today already, but we’re excited to play them.”
POSTED ON Sunday, 11.27.2011 / 4:37 PM
|Ron Duguay was a fan favorite in Detroit, and he's still No. 50 in all-time franchise scoring with 90 goals and 127 assists.|
Now that the league has instituted a senior game, Wings’ fans get a chance to see a handful of old-timers with ties to Hockeytown back on the ice when the puck drops on the Winter Classic Alumni Game set for New Year’s Eve at Philadelphia’s Citizens Bank Park.
The New York Rangers and Flyers each have six former Wings on its rosters or acting as coaches, or in the case of 72-year-old Hall of Fame goalie Eddie Giacomin, who is representing the Rangers as an ambassador.
The game, which can be seen live on Versus, will feature a pair of former Wings’ draft picks in Rangers forward Adam Graves (second-round, 1986) and Flyers center Keith Primeau (first-round, 1990). Of the dozen former players, Primeau lasted the longest in Detroit, amassing 97 goals, 133 assists, 781 penalty minutes and a plus-61 rating in 363 games in a Wings’ uniform.
Primeau will be an assistant coach on the Flyers’ bench, while former defenseman Colin Campbell will be on the Rangers’ bench. Campbell is among three alumni participants whose final NHL games were played with the Red Wings. Giacomin and Mark Howe are the others.
Besides Primeau and Howe, Philadelphia’s other Wings connections will be goalie Mark LaForest, and defensemen Terry Carkner, Derian Hatcher and Brad Marsh.
Meanwhile, the Rangers will deploy former Wings defenseman Mathieu Schneider, and forwards Ron Duguay and Kris King.
POSTED ON Saturday, 11.26.2011 / 5:52 PM
|Sure it's frustrating, but Patrick Eaves remains positive and prepared for when he's called upon to play, as he will Saturday against Nashville. (Photo by Getty Images)|
“There’s not really much to talk about. I’ve been waiting to get this opportunity,” said Eaves, who will play tonight against the Nashville Predators – his first time in the lineup since Nov. 15 in St. Louis. “I’ve just been staying in shape and keeping my mind in hockey mode; that’s all you can really do. You can only control what you can control.”
There was a time in Eaves’ career when he was considered a top-six forward. The Wings even tinkered with the idea in training camp of moving him up to the top forward line with Pavel Datsyuk and Danny Cleary.
And despite signing a three-year contract worth $3.6 million last July, Eaves has appeared in just nine games with one assist and an even-rating.
But coach Mike Babcock says don’t read anything into Eaves’ situation that isn’t there.
“Eaves has been fine. The reality is the way our lineup is setup this year, I like Patty to play with two skaters,” Babcock said. “So he’s been the odd man out, not because of things he’s done. He played great in St. Louis. Other guys who aren’t quite as mobile have been using those two skaters. That’s just the way it goes.”
Against the Preds, Eaves will be paired with a pair of elite skaters in center Darren Helm and forward Jiri Hudler.
“As a player you want to play, so it's frustrating in that sense,” Eaves said. “I'm getting better every day (in practice). That's the beauty of the situation. Even though it's not what I want exactly, I'm getting better every day, I'm working hard and I'll be ready.”
Eaves replaces rookie Cory Emmerton in Saturday’s lineup. Emmerton was shaken up a bit in the third period of Friday’s 3-2 shoot-out win at Boston when he collided with Dennis Seidenberg, who received a kneeing penalty.
Emmerton said that he felt good enough to play, but Babcock made a decision to move Justin Abdelkader to the fourth line center role.
“It’s didn’t feel very good, obviously, at the start but I was fortunate,” Emmerton said. “I feel fine.”
Watch for Eaves to possibly play a physical role against Nashville. In 14 career games against the Preds, he has 23 hits, the most he’s had against any NHL opponent.
“I know the kind of player I am and the way I need to play,” he said. “That's what I try to focus on and I try to do my best at what I do.”
By the way, in case you're curious about the other eight players who have been healthy scratches, they are Fabian Brunnstrom (13), Mike Commodore (10), Emmerton (3), Drew Miller (2), Jakub Kindl (2), Tomas Holmstrom (2), Hudler (1), and Brendan Smith (1).
POSTED ON Wednesday, 11.23.2011 / 4:17 PM
|Mickey Redmond (with glasses) and Mark Howe dropped ceremonial opening pucks prior to the Red Wings-Flames game Wednesday at Joe Louis Arena. (Photo by Dave Reginek)|
Espo went onto to score more than 700 times and conventionally landed in the Hall in 1984. And while injuries cut-short Redmond’s career it didn’t stop him from blazing a different path to the Hall of Fame.
Last week, Redmond, the Wings’ longtime TV analysis, received the Foster Hewitt Memorial Award, which was first presented – ironically so at the same induction that honored Esposito – in 1984 by the NHL Broadcasters’ Association. The award recognizes members of the radio and television industry, who have made outstanding contributions to the profession and the game of hockey.
The award is named in honor of the late “Voice of Hockey” in Canada.
Redmond and newly-minted Hall of Fame defenseman Mark Howe, will be honored in a pre-game ceremony prior to Wednesday night’s Thanksgiving Eve game at Joe Louis Arena.
“It was a great, it was a whirlwind for 48 hours and it will more than likely set in and register a lot more once everything settles down,” said Redmond, referring to last weekend’s festivities in Toronto. “The fact that it was recognition for giving back to the game through broadcasting really meant the most to me because my mom and dad spent their lives giving to the game of hockey. It really meant a lot and felt good to me to be able to continue that tradition and continue to be a caretaker of the game, if you will, and to give back like my mom and dad did. That meant so much to me.”
Redmond, 63, has been a fan favorite for years with his whimsical repertoire of one-liners that he’s picked up long the way in his broadcasting career, like “Bingo Bango”, “Katie bar the door” and “No place for a nervous person”.
Dropping the puck tonight in front a raucous JLA crowd and a large TV audience isn’t a place for a nervous person either.
“I really hadn’t thought about it,” Redmond said. “I guess I try to minimize things like that when you’re in the public eye or in the middle of a crowd like that; hadn’t thought about it at all. But dropping the puck shouldn’t be a big problem, though you never know.
“I’ll just go with the flow, soak it in, just enjoy the moment, and keep the nerves down the best I can.”
POSTED ON Tuesday, 11.22.2011 / 3:58 PM
|Niklas Kronwall is currently tied with Nicklas Lidstrom for second among NHL defensemen in goal-scoring this season. (Photo by Getty Images)|
Still, how have the Wings’ blue-liners had so much success to this point?
“Sometimes things like that just happen,” said Niklas Kornwall, who has six goals and is tied with Nicklas Lidstrom for second in goals among NHL defensemen. “I think that's something we would like to do on a more regular basis, and not just chip in here and there. Anytime you can spread out your offense it can only do your team good. We've had some success in the past with some goals from the D-men but everything starts from a solid overall game. Lately we've been doing OK.”
In some ways, the offense from the defensive corps has been a blessing, especially since Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg have experienced uncharacteristically slow starts to the season with four goals each.
“We know when we're playing good and we know what we're doing right,” said Zetterberg, referring to himself and his Euro Twin. “We just have to figure why we're playing bad and just do better.”
Lidstrom, Kronwall, Ian White and Brad Stuart have scored a combined 18 of the Wings’ 53 goals. White and Stuart have three goals each. The team continues to lead the league in shots per game (35.2) while the defense is registering 10.3 of those shots taken.
But the most impressive first-quarter performance, Lidstrom said, just might be the all-around job that Kronwall has done.
“He's just so sound defensively, playing against the top lines, and he has some offensive skills too, whether it's knowing when to jump up into the play or moving the puck on the power play,” Lidstrom said. “It's great to see he's been rewarded by getting some points and scoring goals for us.
“And we have Stewie chipping in. … Anytime you can get the defense involved in the offense it can only help your team.”
POSTED ON Saturday, 11.19.2011 / 4:02 PM
|The NHL's float that Larry Murphy will ride on during the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade next Thursday in New York City.
“I’ve been in a couple of parades, a couple of good ones down Woodward Avenue that I enjoyed,” said Murphy who won four Stanley Cup rings, including a pair with the Wings in 1997 and ’98. “But besides that I’ve never done a parade. I’m looking forward to it, there’s no bigger parade, and I’m flattered that the league asked me to do it.”
The NHL asked Murphy and former Boston forward Cam Neely if they would ride along on the league’s new float that will help promote the Thanksgiving Showdown game the following afternoon between the Wings and Bruins at 1 p.m. EST on NBC and TSN.
It was a no-brainer for Murphy, who’s a big kid at heart anyway.
“I’m just worried about making sure that I don’t fall off the float, I mean that’s goal No. 1,” he said. “I want to stay on it for the whole ride.”
The float depicts an autumn scene near a frozen pond turned into a makeshift hockey rink that features a scoreboard, a 25-foot tall turkey as a goalie, and a perch for watching the 8-10 youth skaters doing their thing on the synthetic ice.
“Being there for that part of the year, just being part of that huge event, it’s going to be spectacular,” Murphy said. “You look at big events throughout the year, and that’s one of them.”
Besides the thrill of the parade, Murphy, who claims to have been a very good boy this year, a chance to meet Jolly Old St. Nick is a bonus.
“I’m hoping to meet him,” Murphy said. “I mean it’s an opportunity, and there are a couple of things that I want for Christmas, so hopefully I’ll be able to corner him at some point.”