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POSTED ON Wednesday, 11.16.2011 / 6:36 PM ET
By Bill Roose - Managing Editor | / The Wheel Deal

That did not take long at all.

In just one day, the Red Wings sold all 23 special commemorative jerseys that paid homage to their former teammates and coach that perished in tragic plane crash that killed all onboard, including every member of the Lokomotiv Yaroslavl hockey team last September in Russia.

The jerseys were those worn by the Red Wings in their Oct. 7 season-opening win over Ottawa at Joe Louis Arena. And Wings' fans stepped up by once again showing their incredible generosity and continued support for these families and the organization.

All 23 red jerseys in the set were sold out by Wednesday afternoon, raising more than $15,000 for the families of the former Wings.

Each jersey has an arm patch containing the initials BM*RS*SL in red letters along with a blue stripe. Red and blue are the Lokomotiv team colors. Recognized on the patch are the initials of Brad McCrimmon, an assistant coach from 2008-11 and defenseman from 1990-93; Ruslan Salei, a defenseman with Detroit last season; and goalie Stefan Liv, who was drafted by the Wings in 2000 and was a prospect until 2007.

Each jersey also contains a unique tag imprinted on the inside with game date and opponent as well as the words “Love For Lokomotiv”, guaranteeing that the jersey is a part of the Wings’ one-time opening night set. Each purchaser also received a photograph from the Oct. 7 depicting the player wearing the jersey.

POSTED ON Wednesday, 11.16.2011 / 2:06 AM ET
By Bill Roose - Managing Editor | / The Wheel Deal

Brendan Smith is anxious to make his NHL debut. But will it come this week in California? That's the $64,000 question. (Photo by Rena Laverty)
After Tuesday’s morning skate at Scottrade Center in St. Louis, defenseman Brendan Smith characterized the last two days with the Red Wings as an audition.

“Kind of like training camp, show what I got,” Smith said before the Wings’ 2-1 loss to the Blues.

With the injury to defenseman Ian White (fractured cheekbone) last weekend, Smith was recalled from Grand Rapids, which was an ideal time for him to serve the last of an eight-game NHL suspension, which he did Tuesday night.

The question before the Wings set-off on a seven-day trip Monday afternoon was would Smith stay with the team for the duration, or would he be returned at some point to the Griffins?

The question was answered Tuesday night, well, sort of.

Without knowing how Niklas Kronwall will fare from a first-period hit-from-behind that he took from the Blues’ Chris Stewart, Smith’s presence is insurance should Kronwall not be able to play Thursday in San Jose.

Coach Mike Babcock told the media immediately following Tuesday’s game that he “had a few minutes to think” about Smith’s travel itinerary.

Well moments later, Smith boarded Red Bird III and was California-bound with the rest of the Wings. Detroit also plays Saturday afternoon in Los Angeles, and Sunday evening in Anaheim.
It’s no guarantee that Smith will make his NHL debut in the next three games, nor is it assured that he will be with the team for the rest of the seven-day trip. But at least the suspension is over, he said, and he can begin concentrating on making his debut.

“Finally, to get this out of the way, I can get my sights set to maybe playing an NHL game, my first game,” Smith said. “But we'll see how that goes.

“I'm excited that I'm still coming up and seeing some of the boys. It's been a long time, just bag skating here after the stuff and doing the fundamental stuff instead of getting my sights set on playing my first NHL game.”
POSTED ON Tuesday, 11.15.2011 / 4:59 PM ET
By Bill Roose - Managing Editor | / The Wheel Deal

ST. LOUISTodd Bertuzzi did not participate in Tuesday’s morning skate at Scottrade Center. The Wings’ forward has been battling a sinus infection and vertigo-like symptoms that have forced him to sit out the last four games.

Until this current illness, Bertuzzi had played in 197 out of a possible 198 games – regular-season and playoffs – since coming back to the Wings in 2009-10. Only captain Nicklas Lidstrom, who hasn't missed a game since then, has played more.

Bertuzzi has skated just once – last Thursday for half of practice – since Nov. 3. The dizziness and loss of balance has also limited any off-ice workouts that he can do, though he did manage to squeeze in some off-ice work the last two days.

“The medication is starting to kick in,” Bertuzzi said, Tuesday. “Hopefully within the next little while I can try to start skating and take it from there.

“I haven't missed games in a while. It's not fun missing games, but you can't go out there and play at 50-60 percent. What good are you? Kind of take a step back and get myself healthy and start over.”
POSTED ON Monday, 11.14.2011 / 7:34 PM ET
By Bill Roose - Managing Editor | / The Wheel Deal

Brendan Smith is happy to finally serve the last of his eight-games suspension, which he will do Tuesday in St. Louis. (Photo by Bill Roose)
Once completed, Brendan Smith’s eight-game suspension levied by the NHL for his illegal hit to the head of Chicago forward Ben Smith in an exhibition game in late September will have taken a lengthy 48 days to serve.

“It feels like I’m getting out of prison, finally,” Smith told reporters following Monday’s practice at Joe Louis Arena.

The Red Wings’ defensive prospect hasn’t played a single second of regular-season hockey in the NHL, but he was recalled from Grand Rapids Monday after Ian White suffered a fractured cheekbone last Saturday evening.

Smith traveled with the Wings to St. Louis where they will face the Blues at Scottrade Center Tuesday night. However, Smith will sit out the game – the last of his league sentence.

“I’m glad to get this last one out of the way, it’s seems forever,” said Smith, who leads the Griffins’ defensemen with five assists in 11 games. “It’s good to get this last one done. I thought it might be until after Christmas, so this is good to get it out of the way.”

Besides White, the Wings also practiced without defenseman Niklas Kronwall, who is expected to play against the Blues.

Without White, who is expected to miss between 3-7 games, Jonathan Ericsson has been moved up to the top defensive pairing where he will play on the right side of Nicklas Lidstrom. The two have played sparingly together on special teams, but not a lot at even-strength.

“I feel a little bit more comfortable on the left side because I have more forehand inside, but I've been playing right side with Nick on the penalty kill the first 15 games,” said Ericsson, who has an assist and a plus-3 rating. “I'm a little used to it in the defensive zone. I'm sure I'm going to get used to it.”

POSTED ON Saturday, 11.12.2011 / 6:25 PM ET
By Bill Roose - Managing Editor | / The Wheel Deal

Jan Mursak is proving to be a pretty fast healer.

Originally thought to be sidelined with a fractured left ankle until after Christmas, the rookie forward is hoping to be back sooner.

“I think sometime around there (Christmas), maybe a week earlier,” said Mursak, who was injured in an exhibition game against Chicago in September. “It's looking pretty good right now and we'll see how it goes.”

While surgery wasn’t required, Mursak was in a cast up to his knee, which was removed two weeks earlier than expected. From the cast, he was wearing an immobilizing boot.

“It's going pretty good. Every day it's a lot better and I can do more stuff,” he said. “There's still certain things I can't do. Hopefully in the next couple of weeks it gets better and I can get back on the ice and start skating.”

Besides breaking the ankle, Mursak had some ligaments damaged in the incident. While there’s been some atrophy in the ankle, the 23-year-old Mursak is confident that he’s bounce back well.

“I don't think it will affect my speed. It's just an ankle,” he said. “The speed doesn't come really from the ankle it comes from your thighs and legs. So I don't worry about that stuff.”

Even though he isn’t skating yet, Mursak is still doing whatever off-ice condition that he can do, within limits, of course.

“I do almost everything except running or jumping,” he said. “It takes time to stretch that ankle because it's so stiff. We'll see in the next few weeks how it goes. … I still can't put much weight on my toes but it's getting better every day. I can do more and more stuff, so it's good.”

POSTED ON Friday, 11.11.2011 / 6:12 PM ET
By Bill Roose - Managing Editor | / The Wheel Deal

Danny Cleary is the 62nd player in Red Wings' history to wear No. 11. Former Wings Shawn Burr (11 seasons) and Mathieu Dandenault (9 seasons) are the only ones to wear it longer. (Getty Images)
Some people believe that the No. 1 signifies a new beginning. And doubling and tripling it can only mean far better luck.

That’s why today – 11/11/2011 – is such a big deal for numerologists, who say that people are fascinated with repetitive numbers because are brains are hardwired to be pattern-matching machines.

However, Danny Cleary, one of four repetitive number-wearing Red Wings on the current roster, isn’t necessarily a believer.

“I never really thought about it,” said Cleary, who at the urging of his wife, Jelena, chose No. 11 when he signed with the Wings as a free agent seven years ago.

The Wings’ other double-number wearers are defensemen Mike Commodore (22) and Niklas Kronwall (55), and forward Todd Bertuzzi (44).

Would Cleary be a convert if he kept with the theme tonight and racked up 11 points against Edmonton at Joe Louis Arena? As a matter of fact, if he were so fortunate, he’d top Darryl Sittler’s 35-plus year old NHL record set when the Maple Leafs’ captain scored six goals with four assists in Toronto’s 11-4 win over Boston.

“Can you imagine?” said Cleary, laughing. “Hopefully it brings good luck.”

However, we’re pretty certain that Cleary would be fine if he managed to duplicate his two-goal performance in the Wings’ 6-2 win over Edmonton last Nov. 11.

Cleary is the 62nd player to don No. 11 in Wings’ history, and just the sixth to wear it for more than five seasons, joining forwards Shawn Burr (1984-95), Mathieu Dandenault (1995-04), Marty Pavelich (1951-57), Eddie Wares (1937-43), and Walt McKechnie (1974-77, 1981-83).

He ranks fourth in all-time franchise scoring among No. 11 wearers with 211 points, trailing only Pavelich (252), McKechnie (256) and Burr (362).

POSTED ON Friday, 11.11.2011 / 12:20 PM ET
By Bill Roose - Managing Editor | / The Wheel Deal

Mike Babcock said Friday morning that Henrik Zetterberg is a game-time decision with a "middle-body" injury. (Getty Images)
Mike Babcock said that forward Henrik Zetterberg will be a game-time decision when the Red Wings host the Northwest Division-leading Edmonton Oilers tonight at Joe Louis Arena.

Zetterberg was at Friday’s morning skate, but left the ice early, and was not available to the media afterwards.

“I think (Z) is in but I'm not 100 percent sure,” Babcock said. “It’s not an upper body, it's not a lower body, it's a middle body. How's that? I don't know if it's anything.”

If Zetterberg isn’t available for tonight’s game, Babcock anticipates moving Valtteri Filppula to center with Johan Franzen on left wing and either Jiri Hudler or Fabian Brunnstrom on the right side.

“We’ll see what happens,” Babcock said. “Like I said, I’m going to spend the afternoon figuring it out.”

Asked if it was up to Zetterberg on whether he plays or not, Babcock said, “It’s always up to the player if he plays. I mean if he’s feeling good he’ll be playing, if he’s not feeling good he won’t be playing.”

Forward Patrick Eaves will return to the lineup after missing the last three games with a sore lower back. Still looking for his first point of the season, he’ll skate on the fourth line with rookie center Cory Emmerton and forward Drew Miller.

“He’s in tonight because of the penalty-kill,” said Babcock, referring to Eaves. “Our penalty-kill’s got to be better. We think our structure has been better than our results. We don’t think we’re giving up that much, but it’s in our net all of the time. We want to be a great penalty-kill team, and Patty Eaves is a good penalty-killer.”

POSTED ON Tuesday, 11.8.2011 / 1:29 PM ET
By Bill Roose - Managing Editor | / The Wheel Deal

Avs forward Gabriel Landeskog leads all NHL rookies with 51 shots on goal this season. (Photo by Bill Roose/Detroit Red Wings)
It’s been a whirl wind year for Gabriel Landeskog, the 18-year-old Stockholm native, who was the second-overall draft pick in last June’s NHL draft and who made his NHL debut last month against the Red Wings at Pepsi Center.

Like any wide-eyed teenager, Landeskog was mesmerized at the sight of seeing the Wings’ impressive group of all-star Swedes. The only thing that made the Avalanche’s Opening Night more special was that the player who Landeskog idolized most as a young boy was honored that evening.

“Peter Forsberg was my favorite player growing up,” said Landeskog, who leads all NHL rookies with 51 shots on goal through 14 games. “It was pretty surreal, but I still let myself enjoy that for a little bit, but not too much. I have to focus on what I’ve got to do, and focus on helping my team win. But at the same time, especially that first game, I was going to allow myself to soak it all in. You only play your first NHL game once, so I had fun with it.

“You couldn’t write a better script for my first NHL game, that’s for sure. I was able to fly my family over for the first game. Like any other Swedish kid, idolizing Forsberg, it was pretty cool, and then to be playing against all of those guys on the Red Wings.”

Landeskog had the opportunity to skate with a host of Swedish NHL stars during the offseason, including Douglas Murray, Henrik Tallinder, Nicklas Grossman, Jhonas Enroth, Marsuc Kruger and Jacob Josefson. It’s also where Stockholm native Niklas Kronwall first met the budding star.

“He’s a really low-key, down-to-earth kind of guy,” said Kronwall, of Landeskog. “He’s a hard working power-forward, who is strong on the puck. I think he’s going to have a great career in the NHL because you can kind of tell right away with some guys that they have a determination, and he’s definitely one of those guys.”

In the few times that he managed to skate along side established NHL stars this summer, Landeskog said it gave him a different perspective about what life is like as a pro hockey player.

“Skating with some NHL guys and getting to know them off of the ice, too, and hearing some of their stories, and learning how down-to-earth they are, it was a lot of fun, especially Niklas,” Landeskog said. “I mean, he’s won the Stanley Cup, it was a pretty cool experience.”

Making the jump from juniors to the pros has been a huge adjustment period for the young forward, who turns 19 on Nov. 23. The key, he said, is not to get caught up in star-gazing too much.

“I’ve been learning stuff every day by coming to the rink," he said. "Just being around the guys, and being on the road trips, and obviously playing the NHL schedule is a bit different from junior, but it’s a lot of fun, especially on nights like this when you play against Datsyuk, Kronwall, Lidstrom, Zetterberg, Franzen. It’s a pretty neat experience to look over the glass there and see them sitting on the other bench. It’s a pretty cool thing.”

POSTED ON Monday, 11.7.2011 / 4:00 PM ET
By Bill Roose - Managing Editor | / 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.”

POSTED ON Monday, 11.7.2011 / 12:29 PM ET
By Bill Roose - Managing Editor | / 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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