If you know Ottawa head coach Paul MacLean, you know that the old defenseman in him comes out from time to time.
I’ve known Paul since he returned to the Red Wings as an assistant coach six seasons ago. He’s not a very talkative guy, but he will surprise you once in a while.
Every now and then he’d spot me in the hallways inside Joe Louis Arena. Most of the time I walk with my head down, which is a big no-no in hockey circles. “Don’t you know that you should never put your head down?” MacLean would tell me. From that point, it became a running joke.
“Head up,” he’d say whenever he’d see me.
“Head's up, Coach,” was the usual reply.
So now that MacLean has return to Detroit as the appointed leader of the enemy Senators, what will Friday’s opening night be like for him in his old stomping grounds?
“I'm just hoping I'm not scared to death,” he said. “I think I'll be alright. The Joe is always an exciting night. Being here at The Joe is a little bit special. They're not raising any banners so that's probably a good thing.”
Just keep your head up, Coach.
The Red Wings signed Mike Commodore on the first day of the free agency period last July. The 6-foot-4 defenseman was brought in to compete for a spot on the team’s third defensive pairing.
Now Commodore, who won a Stanley Cup with Carolina in 2006, hasn’t skated in a week since catching a skate blade in the ice at Chicago’s United Center last Wednesday. Diagnosed with a Grade 1 MCL sprain, he will be fitted for a brace Thursday. But as far as a timetable for his return, everything is up in the air, Commodore said.
“This is all new to me. Never had a knee injury,” he said.
However, Commodore only has to remember last October as the last time he missed significant time early in a season, because of injury. Last year, he suffered a broken thumb in an opening-night fight with San Jose’s Ryane Clowe, and never really bounced back from the injury, collecting six points in 20 games with Columbus.
“It was bad timing. I came back from that,” said Commodore when asked about the thumb. “This is a little different. I’ve never had a knee problem in 12 years. The good thing is it’s only a Grade 1. Once I get this brace and skate for a few days, I’ll be ready to go.”
With Commodore out for at least Friday’s opener against Ottawa and Saturday’s game at Colorado, 24-year-old Jakub Kindl will be inserted into the role as the sixth defenseman. Still, Commodore isn't overly concerned about falling behind Kindl on the depth chart.
“I know my place,” Commodore said. “If he plays well that’s great. If the team is doing well, that’s what I’m here for. I want to be part of a good team that’s why I came here. I’m not worried about playing time at all, falling behind or losing ice-time.
“My main concern right now is getting my knee healthy and getting myself back in it. And when I’m healthy they’ll know I’m available.”
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Coach Mike Babcock ordered the Swedish forward off of the ice before practice even began.
"It was pretty obvious that he was in pain," Babcock said. Still, the Wings' coach is confident that he'll have Holmstrom back in time for the opener against the Ottawa Senators at Joe Louis Arena.
As for other injuries, it looks as if defenseman Mike Commodore (MCL) will likely be the only guy not ready to return to action this weekend. Not only is he expected to miss Friday's opener, he'll also likely sit out Saturday's game at Colorado. The absense of Commodore means that Jakub Kindl will start the season as the sixth defenseman and will be paired with Jonathan Ericsson.
Center Pavel Datsyuk (sore back), forwards Henrik Zetterberg (upper body), Danny Cleary (upper body) and Patrick Eaves (foot) should all be ready to go against the Senators. Eaves and Commodore did not practice Tuesday.
Yet Babcock was satisfied to see everyone else back on the ice Tuesday morning.
“It’s amazing when you get rid of exhibition now who gets healthy fast,” Babcock said. “It’s like the Fountain of Youth.”
Here are the line combinations and defensive pairings as they skated today at JLA:
Valtteri Filppula - Henrik Zetterberg - Johan Franzen
Danny Cleary - Pavel Datsyuk - Jiri Hudler
Justin Abdelkader - Darren Helm - Todd Bertuzzi
Fabian Brunnstrom - Cory Emmerton - Drew Miller
Nicklas Lidstrom - Ian White
Niklas Kronwall - Brad Stuart
Jonathan Ericsson - Jakub Kindl
Jimmy Howard - Ty Conklin