POSTED ON Friday, 10.28.2011 / 4:15 PM
|Justin Abdelkader won 227 face-offs last season, fifth best on the Red Wings. (Photo by Dave Reginek)|
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.”
POSTED ON Wednesday, 10.26.2011 / 3:56 PM
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.”
POSTED ON Tuesday, 10.25.2011 / 5:31 PM
|Chris Pronger moments after getting hit in the face with a stick Monday in Toronto.
“I wanted to protect my eyes,” said Lidstrom, who began wearing a visor only after he suffered a broken nose and took 25 stitches under the right eye when he was struck in the face by a puck during the 2008 preseason opener.
“It can still happen, you can still get a stick under there or even a puck,” he said. “But that was one of the precautions I wanted to take after I got hit.”
It’s not known whether or not a visor would have prevented the horrific injury that Philadelphia’s All-Star defenseman Chris Pronger suffered Monday in Toronto. But that was the talk among players in the Wings’ dressing room Tuesday morning at Nationwide Arena.
“My incident was more of a fluke play where (teammate Marian) Hossa put his stick there and (the puck) went off his stick and came right up,” Lidstrom said. “If I would have had a shield, it probably would have hit the shield, so that's why I put one on. It kind of gave me a wake-up call, not having worn a shield for 17-18 years. So that's why I put one on after I got the puck in the eye.”
At least six current Red Wings don’t wear a visor, including Johan Franzen, who needed 21 stitches last spring to close facial cuts received in Game 2 of the Western Conference quarterfinals against Phoenix. Others who have said ‘no’ to visors are, forwards Tomas Holmstrom and Todd Bertuzzi, and defensemen Jonathan Ericsson, Ian White, and Mike Commodore.
Players are required to wear visors in the American Hockey League, but many of them choose to forgo the half-shields once they graduate to the NHL.
“The thing is, I had a lot more cuts when I had a visor on (in the AHL), the visor cut me,” Ericsson said. “If I run into a guy or hit someone … those screws in the visor are not super tight, so that thing comes down and can cut you. So, for me, it's safer without a visor so far, much safer.
“But I think smaller guys, where the sticks are kind of in the range, it's easier to get a stick up there. But I'm one of the taller guys, I think it's advantage to have no visor because I had a bad experience with a visor, so I would like to keep mine off.”
For veterans like Lidstrom, wearing a visor or cage takes some adjustment time.
“Especially where the visor ends, that's where your vision is sometimes,” he said. “When you're looking down at the puck, if the puck is right where the visor ends, that was a bit of an adjustment for me.”
But Lidstrom and Ericsson are divided on the visor debate with the captain siding with the players’ right to choose. For Ericsson, however, he believes visors are potentially more dangerous.
“I still believe it should be the player's choice,” Lidstrom said. “I would encourage them to wear them, start right away when they start skating to get used to it.''
“For me it's safer (without) and I see better, too,” Ericsson said. “Don't have an edge in your way. Absolutely, no question about it, 100 percent, I'm favoring no visors.”
POSTED ON Monday, 10.24.2011 / 6:49 PM
With 10 of his teammates already members of the Dad’s Club, there was plenty of fatherly advice for the newest member to the Red Wings’ father fraternity Monday afternoon.
As news of Jimmy Howard becoming a dad for the first time spread, Wings’ players showed genuine excitement for their goalie, and his wife, Rachel, who gave birth to the couple’s first child Sunday. James Russell Howard IV entered this world at 7 pounds, 13 ounces.
“I got a text message,” said Nicklas Lidstrom, referring to how he heard the news. “We're all happy for him."
How about some advice from the captain, who has three sons of his own? "Get ready for some sleepless night,” Lidstrom said
Even before players returned to Detroit prior to training camp, Howard had been growing more and more anxious about the arrival of his new son.
“He’s been looking forward to this for a long time,” Henrik Zetterberg said. “We’re all happy for him and we can’t wait to see him.”
Late Monday afternoon, coach Mike Babcock spoke to his goalie, who was back in metro Detroit enjoying his new family.
“Congratulations to Howie and Rachel,” Babcock said. “Kids are gift from God and it's the most awesome thing that will ever happen to you. It's the one thing they give you without any training. It's a gift. Now you have an obligation to do a good job.”
POSTED ON Monday, 10.24.2011 / 6:12 PM
The Red Wings returned to the ice Monday afternoon for the first time since taking a 7-1 loss, their first of the season, on the chin in Washington Saturday night. The Wings practiced for nearly 45-minutes in preparation for Tuesday’s game against the Blue Jackets at Nationwide Arena.
Before the team left for the airport Monday, coach Mike Babcock said that he wasn’t quite sure what his fourth forward line will look like.
“I'll decide tomorrow,” he said.
However, if the line combinations from Monday’s practice are any indication, the Wings’ coach may go with Drew Miller at center, and Patrick Eaves and Tomas Holmstrom on the wings.
That would leave forward Fabian Brunnstrom and rookie center Cory Emmerton has healthy scratches. It would be the first time this season that Emmerton, who has a goal and an assist with a +1 rating, would miss a game.
Other absenses for Tuesday's game are forward Jan Mursak (ankle), defenseman Mike Commodore (knee) and goalie Jimmy Howard, whose wife, Rachel, delivered the couple's first child Sunday. Mursak will likely be out until after the Christmas holiday, but Commodore hopes to be ready, if called upon, this weekend.
For the third time this month, the Wings will back on back-to-back night when they host San Jose this Friday, and play in Minnesota Saturday evening.
POSTED ON Friday, 10.21.2011 / 5:41 PM
Ever wonder where old Zamboni ice resurfacers go to die?
First of all, let’s get one thing straight: these custom-made machines are built to last. They don’t die. They get makeovers. And that’s the plan for the pair of 6,700-pound machines at Joe Louis Arena.
As part of Miller Brewing Company’s sponsorship renewal, the Red Wings’ resurfacers are getting new paint jobs and being reskinned with new digitally-printed vinyl signage over the next few weeks.
Navigating one of these behemoths around the dasher boards isn’t easy, and painting one isn’t as simple as saying, Earl Scheib, either.
This is a job for experts, which is why K&T Kustom’s Kollision in Shelby Township was called in on this assignment, which started this week with the 1988 Model 500 that used to be bright blue, but now sports a fresh new coat of snow white automotive-grade paint.
“It was red at one time, and it was blue recently, and there was another color, so I would say for sure that this was at least the fourth paint job from new,” said Kelly Wojcik, K&T owner. “We sanded it and prepped it so we could lay a paint job down on it and it will hold up.”
With its new paint job, the older of the two resurfacers looks brand new, and it should considering that it took approximately 280 man-hours to restore.
“Over my career of doing this type of stuff, I got my experience in a lot of different vehicles,” said Wojcik, who has restored everything from a ’53 Hudson Hornet to a ’72 Corvette that took first-place in the 1995 Detroit Autorama. “But the Zamboni … that was my first one. But whether it a Zamboni or an old antique tractor, the preparation is almost on the same order.”
The ’88 Zamboni still bears the Miller Lite brand, but with new updated signage, said Rob Croll, the Red Wings’ director of corporate sponsorship.
“The one that you’ve known as Miller Genuine Draft will go to Molson,” Croll said, “because that is the official beer of hockey – the whole new Miller deal with the NHL – where they have realigned their brands with Miller Lite on the domestic side and Molson on the import side. That’s real important branding for them.”
The 1998 Model 500 – the one always driven by Al Sobotka – will undergo its transformation next month while the team is in southern California. It will be outfitted in Molson signage.
POSTED ON Friday, 10.21.2011 / 2:55 PM
Niklas Kronwall has experienced the loss of a loved one at an early age, which basically makes him an authority on the devastating affects of a despicable disease like breast cancer.
While the Red Wings defenseman is thankful that nobody in his immediate family has been inflicted with the disease, he hopes that a cure can be found before it does strike close to home.
“Obviously, it’s a big thing out there, and the more that we can do to research, the better it is,” Kronwall said. “It’s terrible and hopefully at some point in time we’ll be able to find a cure for it. Who knows how long that will be, but it’s going to take a lot of money and a lot of effort from a lot of people.”
The Wings plan to contribute to the fight against cancer tonight when they host their fifth annual Breast Cancer Awareness Night at Joe Louis Arena. The event is in conjunction with the NHL’s month-long Hockey Fights Cancer initiative.
The Wings have plenty of fund-raising activities planned, including a silent auction, puck draw, 50/50 raffle and a special sale on pink knit hats with all of the proceeds benefiting the Liggett Breast Cancer Center in Grosse Pointe Woods, as well as the Weisberg Cancer Treatment Center in Farmington Hills.
During tonight’s pregame warm-ups, Wings’ players will use sticks wrapped with pink hockey tape. These sticks will then be autographed and auctioned on the JLA concourse during tonight’s game.
Fans that wear pink to tonight’s game against the Columbus Blue Jackets will be entered into a drawing where the winner will receive a team-signed jersey.
POSTED ON Thursday, 10.20.2011 / 7:25 PM
Dozens of film producers, camera operators and assorted others descended on Joe Louis Arena this week to shoot a TV commercial for Ram Truck that features none other than ‘The Mule’ Johan Franzen.
Good thing the Red Wings were in the middle of a long five-day break this week – their longest of this season – because Franzen definitely put in some long hours in front of the camera.
For more than four hours, Franzen was in uniform and did a lot of standing around on his skates at center ice next to a bright red Dodge Ram. The premise of the commercial is Ram vs. Mule, though Franzen doesn’t have a speaking part, standing on skates for that long of a time is quite taxing.
“Did different stuff, mostly hard skates, was doing sprints from one side to the other, 20 times total, something like that,” Franzen said. “It's kind of hard when you're cold, you want to get it to look like you're really going hard. I tried to push it. I was cold. I was trying to sit down and stretch it a little bit so I wouldn't pull anything. It was fun.”
The crew was even equipped with an SUV, which is specially outfitted with a very impressive-looking movie camera attached to a large robotic arm affixed to the vehicle’s roof. Crewmembers that I spoke to Wednesday estimated the net worth of the black SUV – cameras, rigging and all – at approximately $1 million.
The only glitch of the day – which began at 9 a.m. and finally wrapped up before 10 p.m. – was getting the SUV on and off the ice. Crewmembers had to remove the wheels just so the camera arm could clear the AT&T sign above the Zamboni entrance to the rink.
Last month, we learned that the Ram, which is built in suburban Detroit and is a three-time recipient of Motor Trend magazine’s Truck of the Year Award, is now the official truck of the Red Wings.
POSTED ON Thursday, 10.20.2011 / 6:55 PM
I‘m thinking it might be a pretty good time to be a hockey fan living in Scandinavia right about now, especially if you’re a fan of the Red Wings.
The NHL announced a landmark deal this week that will allow for every single regular-season game – that’s 1,230 games in all – to be broadcast live on pay channels or free TV in Sweden, Finland, Denmark and Norway.
With more than 25 percent of NHL players hailing from outside of North America, and 50 percent alone on the Wings’ roster, league games have always attracted large TV audiences in the Nordic region. And that’s certainly something that the league has capitalized on, particularly over the last five years when they send NHL teams to Europe to begin the season.
The Wings, you’ll remember, started the 2009-10 campaign with a pair of games against the St. Louis Blues in Stockholm.
Captain Nicklas Lidstrom is grateful for the NHL deal so that his parents back home can watch the Wings with more regularity.
“Last year they were showing up to three NHL games over there,” he said. “So my parents saw some of our games. But I think, especially in Sweden, the people want to follow the Swedish players.”
The TV deal is a far cry when Lidstrom was growing up. Back then, he said, the only live NHL games that were available back home were the Stanley Cup finals.
“They would usually show highlights, but at odd times,” Lidstrom said. “But now if they show 7:30 games from here at 1:30, in the middle of the night, they at least replay them around 7:30 in the morning, so you can at least get the scores, if not watch the whole game.”
POSTED ON Tuesday, 10.18.2011 / 12:28 PM
‘Hockeytown Thanks’ was an overwhelmingly huge success this week.
And why shouldn’t it? After all, with five off-days between games, the Red Wings had some time to burn, and what better way to do it than to say ‘thank you’ to those diehard fans, who’ve supported this team through thick and thin.
Over the last two days – and through the collective assistance of the team’s corporate sales, marketing and public relations staffs – nearly every player went into the community as a gesture of goodwill, thanking fans, as well as corporate sponsors.
Players welcomed customers at seven different retail stores in western Wayne and Oakland counties, spending an hour each at a Meijer, Kroger, Tim Hortons (see video below), Little Caesars, Belle Tire, AT&T, and Szott Dodge/Ram. They also visited the downtown Detroit offices of Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan and Quicken Loans, where they greeted employees.
It’s fair to say that hundreds of BCBS employees were beyond surprised as they arrived to work Monday morning and saw forwards Tomas Holmstrom, Drew Miller and Fabian Brunnstrom standing in their lobby.
Perhaps the best light-hearted moment at BCBS occurred when Miller greeted a group of employees, who were making their way to the lobby escalator and beyond.
Sounding like he took a page from the socialist manifesto, Miller told the small, yet swift-moving group, “Welcome to work”. Of course, his message drew a mixture of employee responses, from a few grumbles to a spattering of laughs.