|Henrik Zetterberg has a pretty good idea of what Daniel Alfredsson is dealing with in his latest back-pain saga. (Photo by Getty Images)|
Captain Henrik Zetterberg has remained in contact with the team’s leading scorer from last season. Like the 41-year-old Alfredsson, Zetterberg knows all about debilitating lower-back pain, but he’s hopeful that the 18-season veteran will return for one more season.
“Says he feels better and I think this week will be an important week, and hopefully he will be with us next week,” Zetterberg said. “I think it was a wise decision for him to really take the time now and do his rehab and really give it a last shot. Hopefully it will work.”
Zetterberg had no other choice but to have surgery when a bulging disk reached the boiling point last February causing excruciating pain that prevented him from continuing in the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia.
“The symptoms are similar,” Zetterberg said. “It’s a different part of his back that he’s having issues with, so I hope that the last few weeks have been good for him and he’s doing the good things and hopefully he’s ready to go soon.”
The Red Wings still have 25 forwards in camp, but getting a healthy Alfredsson – who produced 18 goals and 49 points in 68 games – back in the lineup would be an early-season benefit, especially since Pavel Datsyuk (right shoulder) is expected to miss the first six or so regular-season games.
Meanwhile, Zetterberg, who returned to play in the final two games of last spring’s playoff series against Boston, said his bad back issues appear to be in the rearview mirror.
“I feel good,” he said. “I think the second game against Boston I felt better than the first one, and it’s nice to be in the preseason, in camp, and feeling good. Just preparing for games and you prepare for practicing and just feel ready to go when the season comes.”
Shots: 153 | +/-: 16
The Red Wings’ young guns have reached the semifinals of TSN’s “Play of the Year Showdown” with fans casting more than 4.4 million votes through the first three rounds on the Internet.
But first, the pair will need help to reach the finals, which begins June 6.
Voting for the first of two semifinal rounds – featuring Tatar, St. Louis forward T.J. Oshie and San Jose rookie Tomas Hertl – is under way now at TSN.ca.
Making things a little more interesting, or perhaps more game show-eque, TSN added a small twist by allowing analysts Jamie McLennan and Jeff O’Neill to bring back their favorite play that lost in an earlier round.
O’Neill, who played 11 NHL seasons, picked Hertl, who was defeated by Nyquist in Round 2. McLennan’s pick for the second semifinal series, which begins Monday, has not been announced.
Nyquist, who defeated Chicago forward Patrick Kane, Hertl, and Calgary goalie Reto Berra in the first three rounds, now faces Ottawa’s Clark MacArthur and the TBA player.
Nyquist’s highlight goal came in late March as the Red Wings desperately tried to keep their playoff hopes alive. TSN best described his second-period goal this way: “With a man all over him, Gustav Nyquist breaks into the zone, shoots, grabs his own rebound, spins and then scores from a very tight angle.”
Shots: 158 | +/-: 12
Among the earlier contestants were Red Wings center Pavel Datsyuk (at Boston, Oct. 14) and backup goalie Jonas Gustavsson (at New Jersey, Dec. 6). Both lost early matchups to Oshie and Pittsburgh goalie Marc-Andre Fleury, respectively.
Tatar’s goal was arguably the best end-to-end goal of the season. His athleticism and speed help him avoid a big hit in the Dallas zone before he shoveled a backhander over Stars goalie Keri Lehtonen on Jan. 4. The highlight has been a freight train in the tournament, breezing past Vancouver's Daniel Sedin, Ottawa captain Jason Spezza, and Fleury in the quarterfinals, where Tatar received more than 84 percent of the vote.
Voting in the first semifinal closes Monday at 12 p.m. EDT.
|Sunday's game in Washington will be the 677th game with the Red Wings for coach Mike Babcock. Only Jack Adams, Sid Abel and Scotty Bowman spent more time behind Detroit's bench. (Photo by Getty Images)|
DETROIT – Friday’s 4-3 shootout win over Washington was a big boost for the Red Wings in the Eastern Conference standings as they try to carve out a playoff spot for the 23rd consecutive season.
But the win was also significant for Mike Babcock on a personal level. The 50-year-old Saskatoon native became just the third coach in franchise history to guide the Red Wings to 400 regular-season victories.
“Obviously I got my four-hundredth before,” said Babcock, who is coaching his ninth season with the Red Wings. “My four-hundredth with Detroit means I’ve been here a while and I’ve had good players. Let’s be honest, this last little while I haven’t exactly been mowing them down, so mowed ‘em down for a long time, and it’s been a bit of a grind here lately.”
Still, Babcock only trails legendary coaches Jack Adams (413) and Scotty Bowman (410) in franchise wins. On April 9, in Pittsburgh, Babcock is scheduled to coach his 702nd game behind the Red Wings’ bench, which will move him ahead of Bowman with only Adams (964) and Sid Abel (811) left to catch.
Babcock also resides among the league’s best playoff coaches, having compiled a 78-53 all-time record, which is a .595 winning percentage. Only Bowman (223), Al Arbour (123), Dick Irvin (100), Mike Keenen (96), Pat Quinn (94), Glen Sather (89), Joel Quenneville (88), and Toe Blake (82) have more playoff wins.
Currently, Babcock’s record with the Red Wings stands at 400-189-87. He has a 469-251-19-101 (W-L-T-OTL) all-time record, and his .630 winning percentage is fourth best among active coaches who have more than one season in the league, trailing Pittsburgh’s Dan Bylsma (.677), Anaheim’s Bruce Boudreau (.666) and San Jose’s Todd McLellan (.653).
Prior to him coming to Detroit for the start of the 2005-06 season, Babcock coached two seasons in Anaheim, where he led the Mighty Ducks to the Western Conference championship in 2003.
During the 2011-12 season, Babcock became the third-fastest coach in NHL history to reach 400 career wins, reaching the milestone in his 699th game as an NHL head coach. Only Bowman (690 games) and Sather (694) reached it sooner.
This month in Sochi, Russia, Babcock will return to the international stage, where he hopes to become the only coach in Team Canada’s history to lead the men’s ice hockey team to back to back Olympic gold medals. He’s already the only coach who’s a member of the prestigious Triple Gold Club, having led teams to titles in the Stanley Cup playoffs, Olympics and World Championships.
As a side note, last Friday’s game was the Wings’ 3,000th home game played in Detroit since a group of investors purchased the British Columbia-based Victoria Cougars of the Western Hockey League in 1926. Since December 1979, the Red Wings have played 1,324 of those games at Joe Louis Arena, where the home club holds a 760-392-119-53 record.
Next Saturday in Tampa Bay, the Wings will become the last Original Six franchise to play in their 6,000th all-time game.
Shots: 138 | +/-: 19
According to general manager Ken Holland, the Red Wings’ captain has an upper-body injury. Zetterberg’s status is day to day.
The top line has been hot lately with Zetterberg producing eight points in the last four games. Meanwhile, Nyquist has six points and Abdelkader three points in the same span.
Zetterberg has had a history of back problems through his career. Last month, a sore lower back forced him to miss 11 games, which definitely had a negative affect on the Red Wings who struggled their way to a 3-6-2 mark without the captain.
Since returning Dec. 28, Zetterberg has averaged more than a point per game, producing 14 points in his last 12 games. He leads the Red Wings in goals (16), assists (28), points (44) and plus-minus (plus-19).
Zetterberg likely aggravated his herniated disk in the first period of Friday’s 4-1 win over Montreal. About 6 ½ minutes into the opening period, Zetterberg collided with defenseman Alexei Emelin, which sent the Wings’ captain head over heels behind the Canadiens’ net. A few minutes later, Zetterberg scored on a one-timer from the top of the left circle. With about four minutes left in the period he went to the dressing room and returned for the second period.
DETROIT – A pair of Red Wings goalies got into the Christmas spirit recently, showing off new holiday-themed equipment.
“It’s just for fun,” said Mrazek, of his new red and white leg pads featuring six large snowflakes and a top-hat wearing snowman. “Teammates, I think they like it. They’re like, ‘It’s cool. No one has that idea before.’ I knew a couple people didn’t like it, they think it’s ugly or they think it’s like a kid, but no one has it before so I think it’s a good idea.”
Mrazek said he got the idea of the snowman pads from Grand Rapids equpiment manager Brad Thompson. However, Mrazek’s plans for the specially designed pads depend on the health of Howard (sprained knee) and backup goalie Jonas Gustavsson (groin). If Mrazek is up with the Wings he’ll wear them the NHL Winter Classic in Ann Arbor on New Year’s Day, otherwise he’ll wear them for the Griffins’ AHL game against the Toronto Marlies during the Hockeytown Winter Festival at Comerica Park on Dec. 30.
“I love it,” Mrazek said.
Meanwhile, Howard, who has missed the last seven games, had planned to donate a specially designed mask that was to be auctioned by the U.S. Marines Corps Reserves Toys for Tots. The original plan was for Howard to wear the mask once, Monday against the New York Islanders.
“I told them I’d do it this year, but since the knee injury happened, I’m not sure when I’m going to be able to wear it,” Howard said. “I don’t know if I’m going to hold off until next year with it or wear it when I come back after Christmas.”
The Christmas-inspired design – created by famed-hockey mask artist Ray Bishop – features a blue-eyed, rosy-cheeked Santa Claus and mistletoe.
“I like it, it’s sharp,” Howard said.
Shots: 28 | +/-: -4
“Last night was no good,” Weiss told media at practice in Tampa Bay on Wednesday. “I’m concerned; anytime you’re not in practice and able to skate, it’s not a good feeling. So I’m just going to see what the tests say.”
Weiss will undergo further tests with team doctors later this week when the team returns from their two-game swing through Florida on Friday.
A groin injury forced Weiss to miss six games last month. He missed all but 17 games last season with a wrist injury that required season-ending surgery. In 26 games this season, Weiss has produced two goals and four points with a minus-4 rating.
Weiss will be out of the Wings’ lineup for the foreseeable time, but coach Mike Babcock was skeptical to set a timetable for the veteran center’s return.
“I just know it’s been affecting him, and now here we are,” Babcock said.
With Weiss out for Thursday’s game at Tampa Bay, the versatile Johan Franzen will move to the middle again where he’ll likely fill the No. 2 center hole with Pavel Datsyuk centering the top line and Joakim Andersson and Cory Emmerton remaining on the third and fourth lines, respectively.
“Mule’s got to go back in the middle,” Babcock said. “We’ll figure out the lines tomorrow.”
Weiss he’s been susceptible to groin injuries in the past, but usually they have been limited to the first few weeks of the season, he said.
“I don’t know why it’s happening. I’m trying to do what I can to prevent it,” Weiss said. “It’s not really working, so maybe there is something going on in there.”
Regardless, it’s a discouraging time for Weiss who’s been hard on himself over his lack of offense this season.
“It’s a bad feeling,” he said. “You want to be out there with the guys, feeling good and 100 percent. When you’re not, it takes a toll on you, especially when things are going the way they have. But again, it’s part of sports, sometimes these things happen and you don’t know why. You try to do whatever you can to prevent these things. Sometimes they just happen and you got to deal with it the best you can and fix it and come back stronger. Hopefully, the tests aren’t that bad and we can get back soon.”
|Torey Krug grew-up in metro Detroit and played a number of games through his college days at Joe Louis Arena. Wednesday night will be his first 'official' NHL game at The Joe. (Photo by Getty Images)|
DETROIT – Torey Krug probably played more games as a kid at Joe Louis Arena than he has suited up for the Boston Bruins. But the rookie defenseman, who grew-up in suburban Detroit and graduated from Churchill High School in Livonia, is excited to final play his first regular-season game at The Joe Wednesday night against the Red Wings.
“It’s great, it’s a lot of fun,” said Krug, who played midget hockey for Belle Tire. “We came in preseason it was a little bit different. Coming in now with our full squad playing their full team it’s going to be a lot of fun, especially coming in on Thanksgiving. It’s a good time to play in front of friends and family and hopefully the right team comes out on top.”
An undrafted free agent out of Michigan State, Krug has been dynamite for the defending Eastern Conference champions. An solid puck-moving defenseman, the 5-foot-9 Krug has shown a sound ability to contribute to the Bruins’ offense. Through 24 games, the former CCHA Player of the Year in 2012 has produced seven goals and eight assists with a plus-6 rating.
“I’m just surrounded by good teammates, good players and good teachers,” Krug said. “I spent some time down at Providence last year and really picked up a lot of skills that helped me play the way that I do today. Coming up here to Boston, there’s great coaches and great teammates that I can learn a lot from.”
But there certainly has been a learning curve for the 22-year-old.
“Well you keep things simple,” Krug said. “If you try to do too much or get yourself in trouble because you become vulnerable so you gotta make sure you keep the game simple and you know I learn a lot of that from my teammates. They do a great job of thinking the game in a way that puts yourself in successful situations and you gotta continue to do that.
“Sometimes you get overly excited and jump up a little bit too early sometimes but you definitely have to think about it a little bit more. You have to take your chances when they come, you can’t be over anxious if you do you’re going to get yourself in trouble.”
Krug was an outstanding collegiate player at MSU. In three seasons, he averaged nearly a point per game, was named CCHA best offensive defenseman of the year twice, and was a finalist for the Hobey Baker Award in 2012.
By his estimate, Krug played in about 10 college games at JLA, where he helped the Spartans claim the 2009 Great Lakes Invitational championship in his freshmen season
“Those games weren’t exactly exciting we won 10-1 and 6-1 so that wasn’t exciting, but every time we played Michigan in this building it was unbelievable, packed house and close games,” Krug recalled. “We lost in overtime to them one game and I just remember the excitement. As a fan watching that game it’s gotta be pretty cool, but we came out on the wrong side of that one.
“It’s a lot of fun playing in this building and it’s going to be cool.”
It’s also exciting to be back in Detroit around the holidays, especially Thanksgiving, when family and Lions football are huge traditions among so many Detroiters. And as a fan of the Detroit Lions, Krug is no exception, predicting a win for the home team over the Green Bay Packers in their 21st Thanksgiving Day meeting in Detroit.
“Yeah, I’m a big Lions’ fan,” Krug said. “They’ll win. (Packers QB) Aaron Rodgers isn’t playing right? Yeah, I don’t think so, so that’s pretty good.”
DETROIT – Seems like the Red Wings are close to signing a long-term deal that will keep Jonathan Ericsson in Detroit through at least the 2017-18 season.
Neither the club nor Ericsson would confirm details of an Internet report, which surfaced late Tuesday night, speculating that the a four- or five-year contract is in the neighborhood of $4 million per season.
Shots: 16 | +/-: 2
The 29-year-old Swedish defenseman is in the final year of a three-year contract worth $9.75 million. Ericsson is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent on July 1, and a five-year deal means Ericsson would be 35 by the time the contract expires.
The last player taken in the 2002 NHL draft, Ericsson has become a bona fide talent in the league. One of the team’s top penalty-killers, he has a goal and three assists in 12 games this season. He missed 10 games with a separated shoulder suffered in Phoenix on Oct. 19.
“It would great to get that done,” Ericsson said of a new contract. “They’ve been talking back and forth, seems like we’re coming really close. That feels good.”
Ericsson, who become a first-time father to a baby daughter last month, said he’d like to get a deal done with the Red Wings before it can become a distraction during the season.
“Absolutely, so I don’t have to worry about it later on,” he said. “Last time, really wanted to stay but everything was really up in the air, staying on the team and what defensemen we had and the opportunities that were going to be give, I feel like I’ve found a good role they want me to play in that I really feel comfortable in and really like. I’m so happy to be here. This is the team I want to play for, no other team. If we can get things done now that would be awesome. I couldn’t be happy if it gets done.”
The Red Wings are among the three fewest penalized teams in the league, averaging 8.6 penalty minutes per game this season. And while they’ve killed off 24-of-25 penalties in the last seven games, the Red Wings don’t want to give the Capitals a reason to fire up their potent power-play machine.
The Capitals’ power play is led by the lethal combination of Alex Ovechkin and his offensive sidekick Nicklas Backstrom. With the season nearly the end of the first quarter, Ovechkin and Backstrom are 1-2 in the league in power-play points. Ovechkin leads the NHL with seven power-play goals, while Backstrom has compiled a league-best 11 power-play assists.
“He’s just a big man of super, super skill,” Wings coach Mike Babcock said. “He can be physical but his ability to shoot the puck makes you so nervous. He’s a great skater. When he plays the off-side he pulls it in through your legs and shoots it through a screen all the time. When he’s playing the forehand side he does that outside-in move a fair bit. He finds a way to activate himself real well and get open. He hangs out high. If you give him any space at all he can kill you that way. He’s a guy who can play big minutes. He scores goals. It’s hard to score goals in the NHL.”
A three-time Maurice Richard Trophy winner as the NHL’s top goal scorer, Ovechkin is currently two goals shy of league-leader Alexander Steen (16) of the St. Louis Blues. He’s definitely a dangerous man, as the Wings know all too well. He has registered 12 points in eight career games against Detroit, including nine points on the power play.
“You’ve just got to minimize his space and time,” Wings captain Henrik Zetterberg said. “Obviously, he’s got a great shot and finds a way to always be open it seems. Playing with Backstrom, too, he’s a really good disher. You’ve just got to be aware of them whenever they’re out there and try to have the puck as much as possible.”
Since returning from an upper-body injury 10 days ago, Ovechkin has four goals and two assists in five games. He’s heating up and looking forward to facing the Red Wings.
“A great team, a great organization,” Ovechkin said. “It’s always fun to play against those kinds of teams, especially with those players.”
|Like most players, Darren Helm has sported a playoff beard, like this one from the 2012 playoffs. But rarely does he grow just a moustache like he is this month. (Photo by Getty Images)|
DETROIT – Watch out, Henrik Zetterberg, your mustache has a little competition this month.
Mustaches are sprouting throughout the Red Wings’ locker room in honor of Movember, an effort to raise awareness for prostate and testicular cancer and mental health challenges.
“I think it’s always important to bring awareness to anything of this magnitude,” forward Darren Helm said. “I mean we do the breast cancer thing, the cancer thing and it’s all very important for people to remember. It’s just a small thing we do to help and it’s just a fun thing to do.”
The players are having plenty of fun with the effort. The mustaches are growing at different speeds and angles, but two weeks into Movember there is already a clear frontrunner.
“Just kind of the biggest one is looking at Gustavsson, he looks I’m not sure how to say it, but not like himself,” defenseman Brendan Smith said. “Normally he looks like he could be in Persia with that mustache.”
“In this room? Gustav’s a pretty nice one,” Helm said “A lot of guys that are younger this year, the younger guys, don’t really grow as much, it’s the amateur mustache race this year.”
Amateur or veteran aside, Gustavsson is clearly winning the ‘stache race.
“Well I don’t know if I’m winning, I kind of cheated,” Gustavsson said. “I didn’t shave it all off and went from zero to this so I kind of had a couple weeks advantage, at least.
“It’s obviously for a good cause. Normally I don’t look like this so it’s fun for a few weeks, to do something different.”
The Red Wings are taking part in the month-long effort to raise awareness for men’s health, a worldwide issue that hits close to home for everyone in the team’s dressing room.
“Everyone in here knows somebody who has been affected one way or another so it’s just a little thing that goes a long way and plus it’s fun to grow a mustache,” Howard said.
It’s a fun effort, but the players know it’s for a serious cause. Howard, Smith and Helm officially teamed up to take their Movember effort one step further, allowing fans to donate money and support men’s health, and their mustaches, online at DetroitRedWings.com/Movember.
“We want to draw a little attention to it,” Smith said. “It’s funny when you see people in the stands wearing fake mustaches and stuff so it’s obviously bringing the fans into it so it’s a good idea.”