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POSTED ON Monday, 11.07.2011 / 4:00 PM
By Bill Roose - Managing Editor | DetroitRedWings.com / The Wheel Deal

Red Wings defenseman Mike Commodore once was
part-owner of Valkyrie Missile (above), a thoroughbred race horse.
Most players try to relax when they return home after a morning skate. For some that means picking up their kids from school, or for the young guys without family responsibilities that could mean heading to the grocery store to stock up for the week.

For Mike Commodore, relaxation last Saturday meant watching a dozen or so Breeders’ Cup horse races on TV from Churchill Downs in Louisville, Ky.

Ever since the Red Wings’ defenseman was invited to Churchill Downs to watch Big Brown claim the 134th running of the Kentucky Derby from the 20th starting gate, Commodore was hooked.

“When I got traded to Ottawa there, and we lost out to Pittsburgh, I went back to Carolina – that’s where my stuff was – packed my stuff up,” said Commodore, who’s celebrating his 32nd birthday today. “I didn’t have a contract, I didn’t know where I was going, I didn’t know anything. I was just kind of sitting there for a few days and a buddy of mine called and said, ‘What are you doing this weekend?’ Want to go to the Kentucky Derby?’ I was like, ‘Sure, I might as well. I’ve got nothing else going on.’ ”

Commodore had so much fun at the Derby that horse-racing, you can say, is now in his blood.

“I bought a suit, one of those Seersucker suits, and went to the Kentucky Derby with a group through Little Red Feather Racing, who got us the tickets,” he said. “There were a couple of hockey guys: Barret Jackman was there, Ryan Johnson who was here with us at camp, was there. A couple of NFL football players were there. We had like 15 guys there and just had a blast.

“Then the company said, ‘It seems like you’re having fun, and if you’re ever interested in getting involved, just let us know.’ I really didn’t think too much of it, then I started watching a little bit more. I didn’t want to put a whole lot of money into it, I mean it’s horse racing, you know what I mean? I don’t know that much about it. But I do know that getting a good horse is like winning the lottery.”

Commodore has been part-owner of several different horses over the last 3 ½ years, and as many as a half dozen horses at one time, including a gelding named Valkyrie Missile and a filly named Killagram.

Valkyrie Missile was sold before training camp, and Killagram suffered a life-threatening injury and had to be euthanized.

“She ended up hurting herself and we had to put her down, which was awful,” Commodore said. “It was her pelvis. She had a minor surgery, and she woke up in the middle of the night. I don’t know what the hell happened. But she woke up, and moved around and broke her pelvis. It was devastating.”

While he’d love to have a horse in the Running of the Roses, Commodore said he’s in it more for the entertainment value than an investment.

“First and foremost, it’s for fun,” he said. “I don’t look at these races like I’m making money off of them. I like when my horses win, I like collecting checks. I’d like to learn more about the sport and become more knowledgeable. I have a lot to learn. I still, when I go to the track, and get the program, I’m better than I was, but there’s still a lot of stuff on that sheet that I have absolutely no clue what it means. I’d like to become more knowledgeable.”

Still, Commodore hopes that his calendar won’t permit him to attend the race in May.

“Now I’m hooked, yeah. But hopefully, I don’t get to go to another Kentucky Derby until I’m retired,” he said, “which probably means I’m playing in the playoffs.”


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POSTED ON Monday, 11.07.2011 / 12:29 PM
By Bill Roose - Managing Editor | DetroitRedWings.com / The Wheel Deal

Rookie center Cory Emmerton gave kudos to
Commodore's practice skills at right win Monday.
After snapping a six-game winless streak Saturday night, the Red Wings were back at work Monday morning, albeit short-handed.

Forwards Todd Bertuzzi and Jiri Hudler are battling colds, and center Darren Helm was not available as he nursed a charley horse, which he received in Saturday’s 5-0 win over Anaheim.

Coach Mike Babcock wasn’t certain about the status for his two forwards for Tuesday's game against the Colorado Avalanche at Joe Louis Arena. But he said that Helm “got a bump on his leg the other night during the game. Just a maintenance day. We expect him back tomorrow.”

The Wings also received good news from forward Patrick Eaves, who skated for the second time since hurting his lower back last Tuesday against Minnesota.

“Back felt good today,” Eaves said. “I'll be aiming for Tuesday. It keeps getting better everyday. No troubles in the morning. It feels a lot better, that's all I can tell you.”

To help balance out the forward lines, defenseman Mike Commodore practiced at right wing Monday, and received kudos from rookie center Cory Emmerton, who tweeted, “Big shout out to @commie22 who celebrated his 32nd birthday today by playing right wing in practice, he looked comfortable.

Commodore said he felt as comfortable as he looked. But don’t look to see him play up anytime soon.

“If I had to I could,” he said. “But you wouldn’t' see me do anything spectacular. I don't mind it when you have the puck, it's like the races to the puck. I wouldn't mind fore-checking, but back-checking would suck. I think I could get by. I'm pretty sure I could be a good defensive forward, if anything else provide a third D out there.”

Follow Bill Roose on Twitter | @RooseBill


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POSTED ON Friday, 11.04.2011 / 2:41 PM
By Bill Roose - Managing Editor | DetroitRedWings.com / The Wheel Deal

Jiri Hudler has his face driven into the end-boards by Calgary defenseman Scott Hannan during second-period action Thursday at Joe Louis Arena. (Photo by Gregory Shamus)
If the old adage is correct – a picture can tell a thousand words – then what does the image, which shows Scott Hannan’s left arm driving Jiri Hudler’s face into the end-boards, possibly say?

Not too much, apparently.

After the hit, which occurred in the second period of Thursday’s game against Calgary, Hudler needed 26 stitches to close two nasty gashes – one above and one below – his left eye. He also needed a new plastic visor to replace the one broken when his face unceremoniously met the hard plastic ridge that sits atop the dasher boards.

As a result of the play, Hannan received a two-minute minor penalty for – get this – holding. The Red Wings scored on the ensuing power-play, but that wasn’t enough to stop them from dropping a 4-1 decision to the Flames.

Once sewn up, Hudler returned to action in the third period. But after the game, he was accompanied home by a reminder of the hit: A swollen face and headache that made for a restless night.

“I didn’t get much sleep, but what are you going to do with 26 stitches?” said Hudler, who practiced with the Wings Friday afternoon. “It’s not up to me to make the call, obviously. … I feel pretty lucky. I hit the boards pretty hard.”

The play started when Hudler chased a loose puck deep in the Flames’ zone. He engaged Hannan near the bottom of the right circle, and as the players’ momentum carried the pair toward the end-boards to the side of the Flames’ net, Hannah used his leverage to shove the Wings’ forward face-first into the boards.

It’s unlikely that Hannan, who is three-inches taller and nearly 40-pounds heavier than Hudler, will receive any further disciplinary action from the league office.

“I was protecting myself,” Hannan told the Calgary Herald after the game. “It looked like (Hudler) caught an edge, and I just put him into the boards a little bit.”

I didn’t see Hudler catch an edge. But I did see Hannan catch a big break.

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POSTED ON Friday, 11.04.2011 / 12:01 AM
By Bill Roose - Managing Editor | DetroitRedWings.com / The Wheel Deal

Ian White has shown the ability to grow a pretty fine moustache, as he did in his Toronto days. (Getty Images)
When Ian White first attempted to grow a moustache it was out of protest. Now, the Red Wings’ defenseman will sport facial hair above his upper lip for a much better cause.

White is among five Wings’ players participating in Movember, a month-long global initiative started by the Prostate Cancer Foundation and LIVESTRONG – the Lance Armstrong Foundation, which helps raise funds to continue the fight against cancers that affect men.

“Anytime that you can bring attention to cancer research it’s a huge thing, obviously,” White said. “It’s a terrible disease that pretty much affects everyone, so the more attention or awareness you can bring to it, it’s important.”

White is joined by goalie Ty Conklin, and forwards Henrik Zetterberg, Justin Abdelkader and Patrick Eaves, who have agreed to put the razor down this month.

This is the first year that the Wings have participated in Movember, but the second year for White, who was among four Carolina Hurricanes last November to grow for the cause.

But it was a few years earlier when White – then a member of the Toronto Maple Leafs – first sported a ’stache.

“It worked good at that time,” he said. “I started growing it out of a silent protest for being sat-out, being scratched for the first 11 games. I thought maybe they forgot about me, so I figured I’d grow a moustache and maybe they would see me.”

The ploy must have worked, though. When the Leafs finally inserted White into the lineup, the defenseman played up on a forward line where he responded with a six-game point streak, which is still his career best.

“I scored a goal in the first shift, and it seemed to work and I couldn’t get rid of it then,” White said. “I thought it was funny and we got a good rise out of the hockey community. People seemed to enjoy it, so I ended up keeping it for a year.”

If you would like to contribute to the Movember cause, click on the player’s photo to make a donation.

 
ABDELKADER CONKLIN EAVES WHITE ZETTERBERG

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POSTED ON Thursday, 11.03.2011 / 1:29 PM
By Bill Roose - Managing Editor | DetroitRedWings.com / The Wheel Deal

Drew Miller registered his third multi-penalty game of his NHL career with two minor infractions last Tuesday against Minnesota (Photo by Dave Reginek)
If Drew Miller were asked to serve his total career penalty-minutes in one continuous sitting, the Red Wings’ forward could do so in less time then it would take to watch an episode of “NCIS”.

That’s why Miller’s uncharacteristic charging penalty Tuesday drew a phone call from his older brother – Buffalo goalie Ryan Miller – who said he thought Drew had more respect for goaltenders.

Drew Miller’s penalty on Minnesota goalie Josh Harding gave the Wild a 5-on-3 power-play in the third period of Tuesday’s 2-1 overtime loss, the Wings’ fifth straight. The Wings managed to kill off the penalties.

“The pucks there, he plays it and I'm just trying to take the boards away,” Miller said. “It's just one of those things. I've got to be smarter. I went hard, seeing an opportunity to get the puck off the goalie. It's not a very good penalty to take. I won't be doing that again. It was one of those situations where it looked way worse than it was.”

Miller had two of the Wings' nine minor infractions called against them Tuesday, which prevented them from gaining any kind of continuity in the offensive end. Miller went to the penalty box early in the first period for inteference. Tuesday's minor penalties were the first of the season for Miller, who has served just 52-minutes in his career. It was also just his third career multiple penalty game.

“The common sense thing is the less time you're in the box the more you get to play your big guys,” Miller said. “We need to be responsible for our own actions. When things aren't going your way and you're trying to play really hard sometimes penalties happen. We need to control that, but continue to play hard. I think we just need to be smarter.”


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POSTED ON Wednesday, 11.02.2011 / 2:04 PM
By Bill Roose - Managing Editor | DetroitRedWings.com / The Wheel Deal

Niklas Kronwall needed some assistance to get to the Wings' bench
following the overtime hit by Mikko Koivu (Photo by Dave Reginek)
Niklas Kronwall was woozy after the hit that he took from Minnesota centerMikko Koivu in the Red Wings’ 2-1 overtime loss Tuesday. But following Wednesday afternoon’s practice at Joe Louis Arena, the Wings’ defenseman declared that he was fine.

“I got a little ding right off of the hit for the first five or seven seconds or so,” said Kronwall, who underwent a concussion test after the game, as well as another one Wednesday morning. “Felt fine as soon as I got off of the ice. You never know with incidents like that.”

The hit initially left Kronwall stunned on the ice. He tried to get up immediately, but dropped to one knee before gathering his senses and eventually skating off after Koivu setup Devon Setoguchi’s game-winner.

The hit occurred after Koivu followed up his own rebound, which deflected into the right corner off of goalie Jimmy Howard. Upon retrieving his own rebound in the lower right circle, Koivu turned his back to Kronwall and took a hard step backward.

It appeared that Koivu’s right shoulder connected with Kronwall’s face, sending the Wings’ 6-foot defenseman hard to the ice. Replay shows Kronwall’s head snapping backwards and the back of his helmet striking the ice.

There was some question whether or not Koivu should have received an interference penalty for what essentially was a body check on a defensive player not in possession of the puck.

But Kronwall took responsibility for the play breaking down in the Wings’ end.

“It was a good play on his part,” Kronwall said. “He caught me off guard. It ended up costing us the game, so obviously I have to be a little bit more aware out there.”



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POSTED ON Tuesday, 11.01.2011 / 4:10 PM
By Bill Roose - Managing Editor | DetroitRedWings.com / The Wheel Deal
Gustav Nyquist

Gustav Nyquist will have plenty of support from his teammates, especially his countrymen, when he makes his NHL debut tonight as the Red Wings host the Minnesota Wild at Joe Louis Arena.

The Swedish forward will be paired on the second line with forward Todd Bertuzzi and center Johan Franzen, who called him a “really smart player out there. He creates a lot of chances and he's always open; feels like he wants the puck. Really good hockey sense in him, too. He'll do just fine. He'll be good for us.”

Forward Tomas Holmstrom called the 22-year-old, from Malmo, in southern Sweden, a fine two-way player.

“He’s a skilled player, he's quick, he's got great hockey sense and he's also responsible in his own zone,” said Holmstrom, who was 23-years-old when made his Wings’ debut in 1996. “He's a great player and it's great to see him get a chance like this early in his career.”


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POSTED ON Friday, 10.28.2011 / 5:58 PM
By Bill Roose - Managing Editor | DetroitRedWings.com / The Wheel Deal

To Mike Commodore, it probably seems a lot longer than it has been. But finally, after 30 days, the veteran defenseman was cleared to return to action by team doctors.
Mike Commodore was brought to Detroit to compete for a spot on the Red Wings' third defensive pairing. (Photo by Dave Reginek)

Commodore, who suffered a Grade 1 sprain to his left MCL last month, won’t play this weekend – tonight against San Jose nor Saturday in Minnesota. However, he’d like to make his Red Wings’ debut sooner than later, but he understands that certain obstacles are in the way.

“Hopefully we keep playing well, and if it takes a while for that opportunity then so be it,” said Commodore, 31. “That's fine. I just need to focus on myself and be ready when the time comes around.”

The Wings brought Commodore in during the off-season, signing the 6-foot-4 physical force to challenge for the sixth defensive spot. But in his absence, Jakub Kindl has played admirably while collecting two points with a +3 rating.

This is the first time that the Fort Saskatchewan, Alberta, native has had to deal with a knee injury of any kind. He was recently fitted with a brace, which has taken some time getting used to, but for nothing more then piece of mind, he’ll likely wear it for the rest of the season.

“For the rest of the year for sure,” he said, “if not for the rest of my career. I don't actually mind it. First game I'll probably hate it, but it's been fine in practice. Some guys get used to is easily and keep wearing it in practice. Other guys hated it.”

The way the defensive corps is currently playing, cracking the lineup for Commodore won’t be easy, coach Mike Babcock said.

“Commodore's cleared healthy now, he's got to win a spot in the lineup,” the Wings’ coach said. “So the first step's getting healthy always and then you got to take someone's job.”



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POSTED ON Friday, 10.28.2011 / 4:15 PM
By Bill Roose - Managing Editor | DetroitRedWings.com / The Wheel Deal

Justin Abdelkader won 227 face-offs last season, fifth best on the Red Wings. (Photo by Dave Reginek)
For the third straight game, the Red Wings will insert a new face in at fourth line center.

Tonight, Justin Abdelkader will start the game against the San Jose Sharks, playing between forwards Drew Miller and Tomas Holmstrom. Miller started Tuesday’s game in Columbus at fourth line center, and rookie Cory Emmerton drew the assignment in the previous five games.

“I'm comfortable. I played center pretty much my whole career,” Abdelkader said. “I feel pretty comfortable on wing, too. It's an easy switch. It's not going to affect me in any way. It'll be fun. I enjoy playing center or wing, just go out there and keep doing the same thing.”

Even though it’s the first time that he’s played the position this season, Abdelkader said he’s stayed sharp at taking face-offs in practice.

“You’ve got to be ready to jump in and take face-offs,” he said. “Sometimes it can be tougher when you only take one or two a game, to get into a groove. You don't get into a tendency. When you take more face-offs during a game you kind of know the tendencies of the other guy. You have a little feel for it, too.”

Through the first seven games, Abdelkader has been pressed into the circle 17 times. However, last season he won 52.8 percent of the 430 draws that he took.

“Last year working with (Kris) Draper quite a bit, just taking draws against Helmer and Fil and Pav, bounce some ideas off each other, just working at it,” he said. “When you get to this level all the guys are really good at face-offs and take pride in them. Just got to get that experience, see what works and what doesn't.”

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POSTED ON Wednesday, 10.26.2011 / 3:56 PM
By Bill Roose - Managing Editor | DetroitRedWings.com / The Wheel Deal

When Jimmy Howard’s pregnant wife Rachel told him not to pack a bag for a routine checkup last weekend, the Red Wings’ goalie thought otherwise.

“My wife didn’t want to bring any of the bags to the hospital, thinking that it wasn’t going to be anything,” Howard said. “But I was like, ‘Well, we better bring them, just in case. You never know.’ ”

But like any quick-thinking goalie, Howard made the right move.

“Next think you know,” he said, “the doctors are saying, ‘You’re not going anywhere.’ ”

A few hours later, and six days earlier than the originally scheduled delivery date, Howard became a first-time dad with the birth of James Russell Howard IV at 2:52 p.m. Sunday.

“It was all sort of a whirlwind,” said Howard, with a big beaming smile as he answered questions from the media Wednesday. “It’s been a great couple of days for my family.”

The two Jimmys even watched the Wings’ game Tuesday. While they had hoped for a better outcome, it was a perfect bonding opportunity for father and son, Howard said.

Plus, ‘James the Fourth’ even got a mention on Tuesday’s Fox Sports Detroit game telecast.

“The little guy saw himself on TV last night for the first time,” Howard said. “It was cool to be able to sit down and watch the game.

“Finally, to have him out, I’ve been talking to him while he was in my wife’s belly. To finally see him face to face, and to see his little blue eyes and the (facial) expressions that he already has, it’s pretty special.”

The Wings’ goalie was back at practice Wednesday after spending the last three days with his wife and their new buddle of joy. But he was glad to be back to work at Joe Louis Arena.

“I’m very excited to get back here, especially today, to get back on the ice after having off, which felt like forever,” said Howard, who will start Friday when the Wings host San Jose. “We have to right the ship here and get back to paying attention to details and doing the little things in the defensive zone.”

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