|Ducks winger Teemu Selanne and former Red Wings defenseman Nicklas Lidstrom battled each other since the two were teenagers. (Photo by Getty Images)|
DETROIT – The NHL’s oldest player is looking forward to facing the Red Wings Friday night for one specific reason: No Nicklas Lidstrom.
“Maybe in 20 years, he has missed one or two games I have played,” said Teemu Selanne, the 42-year-old star, who leads Anaheim with 14 points in 12 games. “In many ways, that's a relief because he was an unbelievable hockey player.”
Lidstrom was arguably the toughest defender to exploit, Selanne said.
“You know you can't beat him one-on-one because he's so smart, good skater and everything,” Selanne said. “He was a threat all the time, offensively, too, and (and on the) power play. It’s good news for other teams. But I miss him. I played against him since I was 16 on junior national team. It was a fun road to watch him play and do things on the ice because he was just magic.
“For sure the guys here and the fans and even the guys who play against him miss him. You can't hate that guy, he was so classy and he plays so fair and he has no enemies. He was just so good and fair.”
Against the Red Wings, Selanne has produced 23 goals and 58 points – the fewest goals and points that he’s totaled against all NHL teams that he’s played against at least 66 times.
On a team that currently has eight skaters who have scored at least four goals each, Selanne continues to be impressive in this his 19th NHL season. He’s had two four-point games already this season, becoming the oldest player to record four points in a game since Gordie Howe (42 days, 326 days) did it in 1971.
Lidstrom, who retired last summer after earning seven Norris Trophy honors as the league’s best defenseman, and helping the Red Wings win four Stanley Cup championships, is in Detroit this week. He was at Joe Louis Arena on Friday morning, where he was asked what it is about aging players – like himself and Selanne – who still produce for their teams despite playing at an advanced age?
“I think the most important thing is the love of the game,” Lidstrom said. “If you love coming to the rink, love playing, love being in competition, and they're all real good players, too. They have to take care of themselves in the off-season, too, to play at this level. I think the main thing (though) is the love of playing hockey.”
|Center Justin Abdelkader has engaged in one fight this season, going with Minnesota's Justin Falk in the third period of the Red Wings' 5-3 win on Jan. 25. (Photo by Dave Reginek)|
DETROIT – Fighting is up in the NHL season, and it’s no different – though surprisingly so – for the Red Wings.
Through Tuesday night, there were 186 NHL games played and there have been 112 fights, which is up 26 fights from the same point last season.
Center Justin Abdelkader led the Wings with six fights in 2011-12. Agitator Jordin Tootoo already has four fights in 12 games, putting him on pace for 16 fights in a lockout shortened 48-game schedule.
Asked if he though the short season has caused some NHL players to have shorter wicks than usually, Abdelkader said, “Could be. Maybe that has something to do with it. Every game is important. That would be my guess as to the reason why.”
Last season, the Red Wings were involved in 15 fights, an average of one fight every 5.4 games played. Detroit has five fighting majors this season, meaning they average one fight every 2.4 games.
The increased numbers of fighting majors caught Abdelkader by surprise. But he believes tempers will cool as the season goes on.
“I think maybe the start of the season fluctuated the numbers a little bit,” said Abdelkader, who’s been in one fight this season. “Maybe you won’t see as much fighting as we go later into the season. But I think at the start, teams were sending messages.”
For those keeping score, Columbus forward Jared Boll leads the NHL with seven fights in 13 games. Brandon Prust of Montreal, B.J. Crombeen of Tampa Bay, and Rich Crune of Nashville have recorded five fights each.
Last season, Prust, then with the New York Rangers, led the league with 20 fights in 82 games.
|Brendan Smith side-stepped a hit by the Blue Jackets' Jared Boll in the first period of Saturday's game. Smith later suffered a shoulder injury. His status is unknown.(Photo by Getty Images)|
For the second time this season, the Red Wings lost a defenseman during a game at Columbus’s Nationwide Arena when Brendan Smith suffered a shoulder injury in a first-period collision Saturday.
Having played Friday at home, the Wings were already at a disadvantage against the Blue Jackets who had Friday off. But with Smith’s injury, the Wings were forced to play the final two periods with only five defensemen, including Jakub Kindl, who skated six-minutes more than his 16 ½ minute average.
Smith logged 3:13 of ice-time before he left the game and did not return. He was injured while moving the puck out of the Red Wings’ zone when he was slammed along the boards by Jackets center Derek MacKenzie.
“That was a loss for us,” coach Mike Babcock said. “Smitty’s a competitive kid. He moves the puck and he competes ultra-hard. We’re already on fumes a bit and now losing him, so we don’t know how long he’ll be out, but obviously it’s a blow to us.”
The Red Wings have had a slew of injuries to defensemen with Carlo Colaiacovo, Jonathan Ericsson, Ian White and Kindl all missing action already in the first month of a compressed 48-game season. Smith is the second defensemen injured at Columbus this season. Colaiacovo suffered a left shoulder injury against the Blue Jackets on Jan. 21.
White said on Friday that he hopes to be ready to return Tuesday when the Wings host the Calgary Flames. If not, rookie Brian Lashoff, who has performed admirably in four relief appearances, will be ready to go.
In all, the Red Wings’ defensemen have lost 18 man games to injuries through the first eight games of the season.
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|Chef Mike Berend shows off the Royal Swedish Snowballs, which go on sale at Red Wings home games beginning this Friday. (Photo by Bill Roose/Detroit Red Wings)|
DETROIT – As word of the Royal Swedish Snowballs spread through the Red Wings locker room, some players thought they were being duped when told of their captain’s entrepreneurial endeavor.
It’s no practical joke, Patrick.
Zetterberg is a co-owner of a Sweden-based company that introduced metro Detroit to the traditional Scandinavian treats last September. But the light vanilla crème, chocolate, and coconut concoction will finally make its Joe Louis Arena debut Friday night when the Red Wings host the St. Louis Blues.
Fans can gobble up the tasty morsels at all remaining home games. A four-pack of the delicious treats are just $6, and can be found at three JLA locations – East End Joe’s (section 116), Hockeytown Grill (section 126), and Mike’s Inside Scoop (section 112). Individual snowballs, for $1.50 each, can also be purchased at the Mike’s Inside Scoop location.
Sales for the Royal Swedish Snowballs – manufactured at Just Baked, a specialty cupcake and bakery with 12 locations across suburban Detroit – have been brisk enough for the company to take another step, Zetterberg said.
“It’s been good,” he said. “It’s exciting, and when we started it was a goal of ours to have them here at The Joe and now we’re here. It’s been a long wait, a long road, but it’s exciting to have them out there.”
Drew Miller likes them, but not before wondering what took so long for his teammates to learn of the low-calorie Swedish Snowballs.
“You would think that with him being the new captain and all that he would share with his teammates a little bit, have them on the plane,” said Miller, sarcastically.
When told of Miller’s request, Zetterberg was quick to point out how spoiled the players are on Red Bird III. “We have a lot of treats on there already,” he said. “But I will bring some along on one of these trips.”
|Jakub Kindl had some fun at his dentist's office on Monday afternoon, posting these before and after photos of his new crowns. (Photos courtesy of Jakub Kindl)|
However, he thought he’d get a rise out of some hockey fans by posting a picture from the dentist’s office on Monday afternoon. The photo of Kindl’s metal mouth makes the Czech native look more like more like a movie villain.
“When I was 17 I was hit in the mouth with a stick,” Kindl said. “So those were my real teeth. I had a little metal and have them moved out yesterday and I’m doing new crowns. Now I have my new teeth sitting on top of them.”
Kindl made the menacing image look more sinister after he discovered a new Twitter app that allows users to edit pictures before posting them to their account.
“The fun thing is that I didn’t realize that you can play with the picture too before you post it,” Kindl said. “So you can chance up the color and I made it look even worse. Why not? I was hoping to make people laugh.”
The “after” photo of Kindl’s new Chiclets (far right) is much more appealing.
|Rookie defenseman Brian Lashoff (23) scored his first NHL goal on his first NHL in his first NHL game last week in Columbus. (Photo by Getty Images)|
DETROIT – Rookie defenseman Brian Lashoff had a quizzical look on his face Monday morning when an assistant equipment manager handed him a red practice jersey.
“J.R. came up with the jersey and said, ‘You’re playing forward today,’” Lashoff said, following Monday’s practice at Joe Louis Arena.
Red practice jerseys are reserved for the team’s top six forwards. Defensemen and goalies wear black jerseys, while the bottom six forwards don white.
The 22-year-old Lashoff was called up following a rash of injuries along the blue line last week, and made his NHL debut in Columbus last Monday. It was there that the Albany, N.Y., native scored his first NHL goal on his first shot.
“That was pretty cool,” Lashoff said. “Being on the line with Bert and Pav, that was pretty fun. It was a cool experience just to say that you’ve done it once in practice or whatever, but it was fun.”
Valtteri Filppula’s sore knee kept him out of Monday’s practice, which meant there was an opening on the second forward line as the team went through drills. And since the Red Wings had seven defensemen at practice, the coaches had Lashoff fill in at forward.
Lashoff has played in four games with the Wings, logging more than 17-minutes per game. He was called up to participate in the Wings’ mini-training camp earlier in the month, which he said, certainly helped prepare him for what he’s experienced in the big leagues so far. Camp gave the undrafted rookie a pretty good idea that he could eventually contribute to the Wings this season.
“It kind of gave me an idea that I’m in the plans as far as if they need me I have to be ready,” said Lashoff, who had two goals and four assists in Grand Rapids this season. “The camp really helped.”
Besides his first goal, Lashoff said he’s had a few other moments that have validity his NHL experience.
“I think maybe the first couple of games when I’ve been in certain situations as far as penalty-killing situations and being out there against some pretty good players,” he said. “You’re definitely sitting out there and saying, ‘OK, let’s get ready, because this is it.’ Yeah, I’ve definitely had a few of those.”
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|Defenseman Jonathan Ericsson (shoulder) will be a game-decision before tonight's game at Columbus. (Photo by Getty Images)|
COLUMBUS, Ohio – The Red Wings will find out later today if Jonathan Ericsson will be able to play against the Blue Jackets tonight at Nationwide Arena.
The Wings’ 6-foot-4 defenseman injured a shoulder during Sunday’s practice when he fell hard into the boards after accidently stepping on a puck as he finished a skating drill.
“I guess it's a game-time decision,” Ericsson said. “I don't know how much I'm supposed to say. It just hurts.”
Coach Mike Babcock fully expects that Ericsson will be ready and play on the Wings’ top defensive pairing with his partner Niklas Kronwall. But if Ericsson can’t go, Babcock said the plan is to have 22-year-old Brian Lashoff make his NHL debut.
Lashoff is on his way from Grand Rapids to Columbus this afternoon and will be here in time for the game, should he be needed in the lineup. In order to make room for Lashoff, the Wings have placed Jakub Kindl (groin) on injured reserve.
This season with the Red Wings’ AHL-affiliate in Grand Rapids, Lashoff has produced two goals, four assists and a plus-4 rating in 36 games.
Lashoff was called up to compete in the Red Wings’ week-long training camp where he was mainly paired with Jakub Kindl, before the team’s seventh defenseman suffered a groin injury at mid-week.
As for Ericsson, he said the shoulder felt better than it did Sunday evening, however, it’s “Not as good as I hoped. We'll see, I'm going to have to wait until later today.”
The season has just begun and already the Wings have five players injured or ill. Center Darren Helm (back) remains on IR – though he hopes to be back for Friday’s game against Minnesota – forward Todd Bertuzzi (mononucleosis) and Jan Mursak (collarbone) are out indefinitely, and Kindl and Jonas Gustavsson (groin) are out for the next two games.
The good news is that forward Patrick Eaves (post-concussion syndrome), who last played on Nov. 26, 2011 will face Columbus, and skate on the fourth line with center Cory Emmerton and forward Jordin Tootoo.
|Center Pavel Datsyuk leads all Red Wings with 69 career points against the St. Louis Blues. (Photo by Getty Images)|
ST. LOUIS – In a league that stresses the importance of divisional matchups, it only stands to reason that players’ statistical performances would be better against regional rivals than those outside of the division.
However, it’s interesting to note that nearly 40 percent of the Red Wings’ current 23-man roster has stockpiled more points against the Blues than their other Central Division foes.
Led by star center Pavel Datsyuk, nine different Wings’ players have produced some of their career best statistical numbers against St. Louis. Datsyuk, who is 10 goals shy from becoming the 11th player in franchise history to reach 250 goals in his career, has produced 69 points, including 22 goals in 58 games against the Blues.
Even better, Datsyuk seems to enjoy playing in St. Louis. It’s here, at Scottrade Center, that he’s collected more road assists (26) and points (36) than any other building in the league. His plus-21 rating at Scottrade is also a career-best.
Newly-minted team captain Henrik Zetterberg also seems to enjoy playing the Blues, producing his highest totals against them with 22 goals, 37 assists and 59 points.
Others to amass career highs against St. Louis are forwards Johan Franzen (14 goals), Daniel Cleary (29 points), Valtteri Filppula (11 goals, 19 points), Jordin Tootoo (six goals, 14 points), and Justin Abdelkader (six points), and defenseman Niklas Kronwall (24 points).
Goalie Jimmy Howard, who gets the start tonight in St. Louis, has 10 career wins against the Blues, which is his career best against any NHL teams.
|Former Red Wings forward Mike Knuble (29), who has worked out with the team during the shortened training camp, was signed to a 25-day PTO on Friday. (Photo by Dave Reginek)|
DETROIT – The Red Wings made their final roster moves Friday afternoon before heading to St. Louis where they will begin the 2013 season against the Blues at Scottrade Center on Saturday night.
Coach Mike Babcock said that defenseman Brian Lashoff has been returned to the club’s AHL-affiliate in Grand Rapids, and 40-year-old veteran forward Mike Knuble has agreed to a 25-day professional tryout (PTO).
“It’s a PTO, it gives me the flexibility to decide what I’m going to do versus signing a two-way contract, where you’re stuck with one team,” Knuble said. “It gives you a better chance to be open to everybody.”
With the compressed NHL schedule, teams certainly will suffer injuries along the way, and that’s where an experienced player like Knuble may greatly be a benefit.
“It’s going to be a crazy year,” Knuble said. “Guys are going to be dropping. They’re going to find young guys can’t handle the grind, they’re not ready. You stay with it, two weeks in, you should see how this whole year is going to shape out. Teams are in trouble already.”
Knuble will head to the Wings’ minor-league team in Grand Rapids, where he’ll continue to prepare physically should Detroit, or another NHL club need his services.
At 6-foot-3 and 230-pounds, Knuble is still agile enough and he could still wind up in the NHL this season. The former Red Wing – the last member from the 1997 Stanley Cup squad still playing pro hockey – has logged 1,040 NHL games spanning 15 seasons with five different clubs.
But he was realistic about his chances of starting with the Wings this week, especially without an exhibition season to properly audition for the coaching staff.
“I didn’t think I had any crazy illusions of something happening here this week,” Knuble said. “It is what it is. It gives me the chance to play and get back in the frame of playing again. And you get your name out there that you’re active.”
If things don’t go as he hopes, Friday could very well have been Knuble’s final skate at Joe Louis Arena. At one point during the practice, Knuble took a look toward the rafters where 11 Stanley Cup banners hang from the ceiling.
Asked if he was soaking in the moment, Knuble chuckled and said, “I like to be dramatic like that, but I wasn’t. I was probably just staring off into space for some reason.”
“You know I’ve played here a lot,” said Knuble, who played 41 NHL games at JLA. “I think the first time I player here in this building I might have been 12-years-old playing in front of these empty seats in the Little Caesars Hockey League, so I played a lot of hockey through the course of the years in this building. It has a distinct feel when you walk in, a distinct smell, something that I’ll always remember.”
|The Red Wings will look to have forward Johan Franzen handle the net-front responsibilities on the power play this season. (Photo by Dave Reginek)|
Obviously, neither is going to make anyone forget the valuable contributes made by Nicklas Lidstrom and net-front guru Tomas Holmstrom over two decades, but the Red Wings, who finished in the bottom third of the league in power-play efficiency, believe they have experiences players who can adequately man those positions.
Holmstrom made a living out of parking himself in front of the crease and tipping 100 mile-per-hour slap shots from the blue line behind opposing goalies. Franzen, who learned from the league’s best, is no slouch either.
“I’ve been doing it on and off for the past four or five years, so I’ve been working on it all that time, too,” he said. “I’ve been watching Homer and worked on different things with him after practices, so it’s not a big difference for me. I’m used to doing that part.”
Now, the power play’s deficiencies haven’t necessarily hurt the Red Wings in the past, after all, Detroit has finished among the top four league teams in 5-on-5 scoring over the last two seasons.
Still, with a compressed schedule, scoring, no matter how teams get it, will be important.
“It would be a good thing to have a good power play,” Franzen said. “It always helps to be good at special teams.”
Lidstrom and Holmstrom will definitely be missed, coach Mike Babcock said, but there’s no sense in dwelling over something that can’t be controlled.
“Mule, net-front, is as good as anybody,” he said. “Mule has been waiting to be out on the first unit since he got here. He thinks he should be. We think he should be too. So it’s a natural fit.
“Kronner is a hell of a player, but I’m not trying to tell you that he’s Nick Lidstrom. So I don’t know what we do about that.”