|Coach Mike Babcock and his former assistant Todd McLellan worked together in Detroit for three seasons. (Photo by Dave Sandford)|
The former Red Wings’ assistant continues to deal with concussion-like symptoms after he was accidentally struck in the head with a stick during Sunday’s game in Minnesota.
To make matters worse, the Sharks lost to the Wild, finishing a dismal nine-game road trip with a 2-6-1 record. Then the team’s charter plane experienced mechanical problems leaving the Sharks in Minnesota for an additional day.
“Well, I haven’t been hit in the head with a stick on the bench – except for a few stitches to the face in practice,” Wings coach Mike Babcock said this week. “But the time we went off the runway in St. Louis was probably the worst time as flights go, but I really haven’t had an experience like that.”
McLellan was hurt on a freak play in the second period of Sunday's 4-3 loss. He was accidentally clubbed by the stick of Wild defenseman Marco Scandella, who had been checked into the Sharks' bench by Jamie McGinn.
In the moments after McLellan went down, no one seemed to know what occurred. A frightening scene ensued as a stretcher was wheeled across the ice to the Sharks’ bench.
McLellan is the latest NHL coach to suffer an upper-body injury, joining Edmonton’s Tom Renney and Buffalo’s Lindy Ruff on the injury list.
Renney was concussed earlier this month when he was struck in the head by a puck during a practice. He missed eight games before coaching last Saturday against Phoenix. Ruff broke ribs when he was sent flying by defenseman Jordan Leopold during a practice.
The Sharks had led the Western Conference in points, earning McLellan a coaching assignment in last month's All-Star game in Ottawa. But now the Sharks are clinging to their playoff lives as Phoenix, Colorado and Dallas are all giving them a serious run.
Still experiencing headaches, McLellan missed Tuesday’s home game against Philadelphia.
“Todd continues to make progress in his recovery from the stick incident in Minnesota on Sunday evening but is still experiencing concussion-like symptoms,” Sharks GM Doug Wilson said in a statement posted on the team’s website. “Thus, he will not be behind the bench until cleared by doctors to resume his coaching duties.”
Assistant coaches Matt Shaw and Jay Woodcroft lead the team in McLellan’s absence Tuesday.
“Our main concern at this point is for Todd’s full and complete recovery,” concluded Wilson in his statement.
In Nov. 2007, the Wings were forced to spend an additional night in St. Louis after the right rear wheels of their plane inadvertently crossed into a soggy grass area next to the tarmac and sank in mud. McLellan was on that flight, too.
|Chris Osgood, Darren McCarty and Dominik Hasek are examples of veteran players who have returned to Detroit under general manager Ken Holland. (Photo by Getty Images)|
No, it wasn’t because he had been traded from Colorado to Tampa Bay and then to Detroit where he originally began his NHL career as a fourth-round draftee nearly nine years ago. Rather, Quincey was stunned to learn he is the youngest of 17 Red Wings players who have left the organization – for one reason or another – only to be brought back by general manager Ken Holland.
“When you think of those guys, it’s just a huge compliment,” Quincey said. “I never really thought about it that way, but you bring up a great point and it’s a very great compliment and I’ll take it that way. That’s very nice.”
The 26-year-old Quincey is the third 20-something that Holland has reacquired, joining forwards Jiri Hudler (27) and Jason Williams (29). The other reacquired players were all in their 30s with the exception of Igor Larionov, who was 40, and Dominik Hasek, who was 42 when he returned to Detroit for a third time.
In his 14 years as the 10th GM in franchise history, Holland has brought back a few different goalies, scorers, leaders and fighters, but the basis of his philosophy has plenty to do with familiarity of each player and character of the person.
“In all of the cases, it's because we were familiar with the player, we had positive feelings about the player when he left,” Holland said. “In Kyle Quincey's case, we internally debated, and we made some decisions to keep some veterans around. We made some decisions to keep a couple of kids ahead of him that obviously, in hindsight, were wrong decisions. But we liked him enough to have that debate.”
Over the years, there’s also been a league-wide cogitation about the Wings’ overall age, and re-signing aging veterans only fuels the nonsense. But Holland says the tired and worn out debate is just that – unfounded and pointless.
“There’s been the age-old discussion about our team since 2001, since we lost out to LA,” Holland said. “Are we too old? Are we past our prime? Are we done? And it's 2012.”
The majority of the returning players have worked out for the Wings. Certainly Hasek, Dallas Drake, Chris Osgood and Darren McCarty are prime examples, as they returned to help Detroit win the 2008 Stanley Cup.
Yet whether they won a Cup or not in their return, all have been key veterans who played significant roles, guys like Todd Bertuzzi, Joey Kocur, Doug Brown and Kevin Miller.
“In all the cases, you know the player from the past. You liked them,” Holland said. “At the time with Kocur, we wanted some toughness, we wanted some experience. In Kyle Quincey's case, we wanted a defenseman.”
The hope is that Quincey can be a solid puck-moving defenseman while playing 22 minutes a night. But you never know how much you’re missed until you go away.
“We should have never let him go in the first place,” Holland said of Quincey. “He became available, and now he's back.”
|Pavel Datsyuk, who underwent arthroscopic knee surgery this week, hopes to be back in the lineup in two weeks. (Photo by Dave Reginek)|
“Maybe it was bothering me a little bit (before), but not like what happened in San Jose game,” said Datsyuk, who underwent arthroscopic knee surgery at the Detroit Medical Center on Tuesday. “I felt something in my leg, needed to check it.”
Despite a slow start, Datsyuk is having a Hart Trophy-like season, collecting 14 goals and 48 points in his last 42 games. One of, if not the best, two-way forwards in the NHL, Datsyuk is second in the league with 81 takeaways.
The surgery was necessary as doctors cleaned up some loose cartilage in his right knee. It’s expected that Datsyuk will miss at least two weeks, bit no more than three weeks.
“The doctor said after being in there it was something that needed to be done,” general manager Ken Holland said. “Our concern was Pav complained (Monday) and I don't know if he complained much before. With two months to go before the playoffs start – fortunately we've had a good run – we've got some points banked away. The timing couldn't have been better.”
Datsyuk was at Joe Louis Arena for the Wings’ Thursday morning game. He did a light off-ice workout, and indicated that he didn’t think returning to the ice Friday was out of the question, saying, “Maybe not. We’ll see.”
Either way, Datsyuk said that he’ll continue with the off-ice work with an eye on returning in two weeks.
“No time to relax,” he said. “No free tickets to Florida, I need to work out.”
|For the second straight season, NHL players have voted Pavel Datsyuk as the toughest player to get the puck from. (Photo by Dave Reginek)|
Twelve months later, Datsyuk has tripled his influence among his peers as the top vote-getter in six different categories determined by the second annual NHLPA/CBC Hockey Night in Canada player poll released Sunday.
The poll surveyed 257 players on several topics, including which player they would pick to start a franchise; the Canadian city they feel is most suited for an NHL club; the cleanest player; both underrated and overrated teams; both fighting and the instigator; best referee; coach they would most like to play for; most demanding coach; assistant coach they think should be the next head coach; best and worst ice; and their favorite arena.
For the second straight year Datsyuk was named the cleanest player and hardest to take the puck from. He was also named the league’s smartest player; the most difficult player to play against; toughest forward to play against; and goalies said he’s the most difficult player to stop.
Datsyuk leads the Wings with 43 assists and 59 points. He leads the league with 81 takeaways.
Captain Nicklas Lidstrom was the only other Wings’ player to finish on top of a category, as he was named the best role model, finishing three percentage points ahead of Pittsburgh’s Sidney Crosby. Lidstrom was third as smartest player and toughest defenseman to playa against.
Lidstrom and Henrik Zetterberg also finished in the top five as the cleanest player.
Other Wings to receive mention in the poll included center Darren Helm, who was third as fastest skater and tied for fourth as best skater, and Jimmy Howard tied for fifth as the most difficult goalie to score on.
Mike Babcock finished third in two categories: which coach would you most like to play for, and which coach demands the most of his players.
Joe Louis Arena was fourth in favorite rink and third in best ice.
The Wings finished second to Chicago as the team that players would most like to play on.
To see the results, CLICK HERE
|Pekka Rinne, who has been impressed by the Red Wings' home winning streak, hopes the Predators can put a stop to it Friday night. (Photo by Getty Images)|
The Wings re-wrote the record book, surpassing a 36-year-old mark for most consecutive home victories when they defeated the Dallas Stars earlier this week, marking their 21st straight win.
Detroit hasn’t lost at home since dropping a 4-1 decision to Calgary on Nov. 3.
“I think it's truly amazing. Anytime a record's broken, or tied, or even in the same characteristic of any other record, it's special,” Stars forward Steve Ott said. “I think if you talk to Wayne Gretzky about Sam Gagner (eight-point game) and he'd tell you it's pretty amazing in this age. The players are a lot similar. The teams are a lot similar. That parity, it's so much closer than it was back in the 80s or the 70s, or even the 90s for that fact.”
Detroit has now gone 107 days without losing a game on home ice, outscoring opponents, 86-31. The Wings go for win No. 22 tonight when they host the Nashville Predators, who are currently the sixth seed in the Western Conference standings.
“I think it's one of the great records in the game,” Preds coach Barry Trotz said. “There isn't a team in this league that you can just say, ‘Hey play.’ There’s so many good goaltenders that can steal games. There's so many things that can happen. You've got travel. In the Western Conference, travel can beat you up. They've done it, and all the credit to them.”
Nashville is 13-2-2 versus its four Central Division foes – Detroit, Chicago, St. Louis and Columbus. The Predators will try to prevent from becoming the sixth team to lose more than once to the Wings during their winning streak.
Detroit defeated the Predators, 4-1 on Nov. 26. the last time they were in town.
“I don't think we can stress that too much,” Nashville goalie Pekka Rinne said. “It's just a fact that everyone realizes and is in the back of our minds. But once the game starts, you're not going to think about those kinds of things. It's just another battle for another two points.”
The Wings’ record was first established by the Boston Bruins at the end of the 1929-30 season. Forty-six years later, the Philadelphia Flyers equaled the mark by winning the last 20 games of the 1975-76 campaign.
But Trotz is quick to point out that the Wings established the new mark in a far different fashion than the Flyers.
“Home ice isn't as big as an advantage as it was in the 70s, when you had to fight your way out of the rinks in Philadelphia, or somewhere like that, where you were just trying to get out of there alive,” Trotz said. “I think it's less intimidating that it was in the past. That's why I think it's more impressive of a record, because building aren't intimidating like they used to be.”
Hasn't the Predators' coach heard the playoff atmosphere inside Joe Louis Arena?
|Tomas Tatar makes his season debut with the Red Wings tonight against Nashville, filling in for Henrik Zetterberg, who is nursing a lower-body injury. (Photo by Dave Reginek)|
Now, nearly 14 months later, the 21-year-old Czechoslovakian forward will have his second chance at the NHL when he makes his season debut for the Red Wings tonight against the Nashville Predators.
Tatar was recalled from Grand Rapids on Thursday shortly after the team declared that Henrik Zetterberg (lower-body) and Danny Cleary (knee) would sit out Friday’s contest.
Meanwhile, Tatar has had an outstanding season in Grand Rapids, eating up minutes in virtually every situation, including penalty kill and power play.
“He played well and he played hard for us. He's a threat at the American League level,” Wings coach Mike Babcock said. “When you come up here, you're on the fourth line, you've got to be good defensively, you've got to take care of the puck, you've got to get yourself in on the forecheck and hang on to the puck in the offensive zone. You do those things, we like you.”
Tatar will skate on the Wings’ fourth line with fellow rookies Cory Emmerton and Jan Mursak. Forward Tomas Holmstrom is usually paired on the fourth line, but against the Predators, he’ll skate with Drew Miller and Darren Helm.
The Wings will be gunning for their 22nd straight home win tonight, extending their league-best home winning streak, which they set with Tuesday’s 3-1 victory over Dallas.
For Tatar, the streak adds some pressure to his first league game of the season.
“I'm going to try my best, hit somebody, bring some energy, but for the game, there's other guys to make the game difference, not me,” he said. “It would be nice to continue on the streak. It would be nice for me to be part of this, a new NHL record. I'm going to try my best to help the guys win the game.”
In just his second pro season, Tatar has compiled 89 points with a plus-22 rating in 128 games. Because he turned pro at such an early age, he still has two full-seasons of eligibility in Grand Rapids before he runs out of options.
“My draft year was guys like Landon Ferraro, and they just got to Grand Rapids,” Tatar said. “This is my third year there. This should actually be my first year pro, if I didn't come so early. I'm still young. It's not like I have to be rushing something. I still have lots of years to develop and get better, and hopefully one day, I can be part of this team for a whole season.”
|Patrick Eaves is still battling post-concussion symptoms from a head injury that he suffered against Nashville on Nov. 26. (Photo by Dave Reginek)|
The veteran forward was at Joe Louis Arena Thursday morning and spoke exclusively to The Wheel Deal blog in the Red Wings’ dressing room.
“I’m dealing with a lot of headaches right now, but yeah, it’s getting better, slowly,” said Eaves, who had one assist in 10 games before the injury. “I have one pretty much all of the time.”
Eaves, 27, suffered a broken jaw when he was hit on the right side of the head while trying to block a high-rising slap shot by Nashville’s Roman Josi on Nov. 26.
Two days later, he had surgery to fix his fractured jaw.
Wings general manager Ken Holland said last week that there’s no timetable attached to Eaves’ return, saying, “We’re going to be real conservative with him.”
Now that the jaw has fully recovered, Eaves has tried to regain some physical activity, but certainly nothing close to levels that he’s used to. And he’s only put the skates on once, which was more therapeutic than anything, he said.
“Yeah, it definitely helps to come down here and do the same routine that I was accustomed to,” he said. “I can cruise on the bike a little bit, but nothing too crazy.”
Originally assessed as a “jaw” injury, Eaves can certainly now be added to the growing list of NHL players who have sustained serious head trauma this season. Concussions have decimated the league with the likes of Pittsburgh’s Sidney Crosby, Ottawa’s Milan Michalek, Carolina’s Jeff Skinner, Philadelphia’s Chris Pronger and St. Louis’ Andy McDonald, among others, all being sidelined.
The Flyers have already announced that Pronger will miss the rest of the season and playoffs, but the future for Eaves remains cloudy.
“I just have to take time to let the brain heal,” Eaves said.
Asked about the next steps in his recovery, Eaves said, “I’m not sure. It’s just see how the symptoms come and go.”
|Philly center Zac Rinaldo gives up five-inches in height to Red Wings defenseman Jonathan Ericsson. (Photo by Dave Reginek)|
The second he noticed that it was No. 36 – the Flyers’ 5-foot-11 Zac Rinaldo – he knew it had to be an illegal hit. Rinaldo received a two-minute charging penalty.
“As a shorter guy to come up to my face, that’s illegal,” said Ericsson. “I thought it was a little bit of a dirty hit.”
Brendan Shanahan, the NHL’s dean of supplement discipline, thought so, too, levying a two-game suspension without pay on Rinaldo for a charging incident in which the Flyers’ rookie center catapulted himself into Ericsson in the first period of Sunday’s game.
“I was surprised, I didn’t expect it at all,” Ericsson said of the hit. “I know he’s the type of player who runs late. I saw him up there and I played the puck before the first post and never expected to get hit after, so I felt the hit was late.”
Ericsson accepted some blame for the hit, as he had his head down trying to cycle the puck backwards behind the net when the hit occurred at 13:25 of the first period.
“Guys like that, you have to kind of keep your head up,” he said. “Maybe I’ll have to keep my head up sooner next time.”
This month Rinaldo, 21, has forfeited $10,885.88 in salary for three separate incidents, including two that occurred in a game against the New Jersey Devils, which sparked a fight involving Ilya Kovalchuk.
Rinaldo was fined $2,500 – the maximum allowed under the Collective Bargaining Agreement – for a late hit on Devils center Jacob Josefson in the second period. Rinaldo also was fined another $2,500 for his dangerous trip – a slew foot – of New Jersey captain Zach Parise after a whistle in the third period. No penalty was assessed, but it triggered a scrum that ended with Kovalchuk knocking down Brayden Schenn in a fight.
Rinaldo is the third opposing player suspended this season for an illegal hit on a Red Wings’ player, joining St. Louis Blues’ Chris Stewart and Ian Cole, who both received three-game suspensions.
|Tomas Holmstrom sits on the snowmobile that his Red Wings' teammates presented to him Saturday in recognition for playing in 1,000 NHL games. (Photo by Dave Reginek)
The 39-year-old Demolition Man has won four Stanley Cup titles and dealt with numerous debilitating injuries throughout a 14-plus season career that would surely limit – if not altogether end – the hockey lifeline of lesser willed individuals.
And it made perfect sense that Holmstrom receive a battle scar, a sort of reminder of his longevity milestone when in the first period Friday he had his nose broken and bloodied, courtesy of Anaheim forward George Parros.
“Of course it's going to happen in my 1,000th game,” Holmstrom said of his first career broken nose. “A little pain to remember.”
But by Saturday morning, Holmstrom was on to more pleasant thoughts when his Red Wings’ teammates surprised him with a Ski-Doo Renegade snowmobile, driven onto the ice at Joe Louis Arena by Henrik Zetterberg.
It’s a hockey tradition for players to pony-up to get a nice gift for a teammate who reaches 1,000-games. When asked for ideas, Holmstrom told his teammates that he would love to go on an Alaskan fishing trip. But the Wings’ players know how he likes snowmobiling, something that he’s done with his kids in northern Michigan during past few All-Star breaks.
The players threw Holmstrom a curveball when they purchased the iron sled model designed for the rider who prefer to hit off-trail terrain more than groomed trails.
“That was nice for the boys. I've got some nice teammates,” said Holmstrom, who began snowmobiling as a pre-teen growing up in northern Sweden. “They know I love snowmobiles. It was nice of them.”
The snowmobile was natural choice, Zetterberg said.
“I grew up loving snowmobiles. We enjoyed doing it,” Zetterberg said. “He really enjoys the outdoors, so it was a pretty easy choice. He had a few different ones, and we thought the snowmobile he would always use.”
|Red Wings goalie Ty Conklin is a licensed private pilot, who flies a Super Cub, two-seat airplane, similar to this one.|
But the Red Wing’ third string goaltender first needed to drum up transportation to the westside of the state. And that’s where backup goalie Ty Conklin entered the picture.
A licensed private pilot, Conks offered Joey Mac a lift, err, flight, to get his gear.
“It was good, he was awesome,” said MacDonald, of Conklin’s piloting skills. “I had to go there and he was flying anyways, so he offered to take me over.”
Flying out of Oakland/Troy Airport, the goalies took to the Wild Blue Yonder on an unusually picturesque February day in Michigan.
“It was enjoyable, a smooth ride on a clear day, you could see everything,” MacDonald said of the flight, which took 35-40 minutes from wheels up to wheels down.
Last Friday, MacDonald traveled from Grand Rapids to Edmonton – via a connector through Toronto – when he was called up by the Wings after Jimmy Howard fractured his right index finger in a shoot-out win at Vancouver.
Doctors told Howard that it would be 4-6 weeks before his finger healed, though he’s hoping to return to the Wings’ lineup a lot sooner. Still, MacDonald gives the Wings a chance to win every night. In three games, he’s posted a 1-1-1 record with a 1.83 goals-against average.
Clearly, goalies are adventurous types – anyone who stands in front of a 100-m.p.h. slap shot must be, right? – and after flying for the first time with Conklin at the controls, MacDonald said he’s entertaining thoughts of perhaps enrolling in flight school.
“I definitely would consider doing something like that,” MacDonald said. “I’ve always been interested in it, and I love flying. It’s fun and when you get to enjoy something like that it’s a nice hobby. … It was interesting to see what Ty has to do to fly something like that.
“He’s great, one of the best pilots, ever.”