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POSTED ON Thursday, 04.19.2012 / 4:19 PM
By Bill Roose - Managing Editor | DetroitRedWings.com / The Wheel Deal

Friday's Game 5 in Nashville will be playoff game No. 263 for Red Wings defenseman Nicklas Lidstrom. (Photo by Getty Images)
With the Red Wings staring down the barrel of an elimination game Friday in Nashville, captain Nicklas Lidstrom was asked following Thursday’s practice if he’s begun to contemplate the inevitable.

Whether the legendary defenseman – who is assured a place in Hockey’s Hall of Fame – ultimately decides to retire after this season or comes back for a 21st NHL season that decision is far off.

“I don't think like that,” said Lidstrom when asked if these are his final games. “I think I’ve learned from other years I try to push that aside and try to play a real solid game, great game and come out with a win.”

Nine days away from turning 42-years-old, Lidstrom is also four games shy of catching former defensive partner Chris Chelios for the most all-time playoff games played in NHL history. Lidstrom has collected 54 goals and 129 assists in 262 playoff games.

In that time, he’s only missed two playoff games, both during the 2009 Western Conference finals after Chicago’s Patrick Sharp accidentally speared him, causing a groin injury that required surgery and forced Lidstrom to miss the final two games of the series.

In February a deep ankle bruise forced him to miss 11 games, which has brought into question the defenseman’s durability, if not his desire to return after this season, which he quickly dismissed.

“It won't be a factor. My health is good,” Lidstrom said. “That's something I'll look back at once the season is over. Once the summer comes, you start thinking about the future. That comes into your thought process again.”

Lidstrom leads all Wings’ skaters with 24:02 of ice-time in the playoffs, despite being the team’s only defensemen not to log anytime on the penalty kill. But that’s purposely done to prevent further injury if he were to block a shot with his right ankle.

Mike Babcock has heard the same stories tying the lingering injury to Lidstrom’s future, but the Wings’ coach isn’t interested in worry about that right now.

“The way I look at it is we have to win a game, so that’s our approach,” Babcock said. “I haven’t thought much about Nick. When Nick decides to retire I’m sure it will be his wife and then his kids, then I think the community, I don’t know, then after that I’ll hear it on the news somewhere. Who knows. I’d be shock if he retires, but I’ve been shocked before.”

Lidstrom’s teammates haven’t given much consideration to life without Lidstrom, either.

“It's crossed my mind,” admitted goalie Jimmy Howard. “You try not to think about it. It's been quite an honor to play with Nick and I hope he comes back.”

Follow Bill Roose on Twitter | @Bill_Roose

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POSTED ON Tuesday, 04.17.2012 / 5:25 PM
By Bill Roose - Managing Editor | DetroitRedWings.com / The Wheel Deal

Swedish DJ Tim Bergling, who is knock professionally as Avicii, released the hit song "Level" in 2011. His song is often played during pre-game warmups at JLA. (Courtesy of Avicii.com)
Remember the scene from the movie “Slap Shot” when Paul Newman’s character Reg Dunlop races up the stairs and accosts the arena organist for playing “Lady of Spain”?

Clearly, that would never occur with any of the current Red Wings, right? Especially since the playlist is selected by one of their own.

Besides practices, team meetings, off-ice workouts, and receiving treatment for a bothersome knee, veteran forward Danny Cleary – as the team’s self-appointed Music Man – still manages to pick the songs played in the arena before and during games.

“We like to have good warm-up music, for sure. Some guys don’t even hear the music. I’m not one of those guys,” Cleary said. “I like how music fires you up and gets you going, and not only in warm-ups, but before the game and in timeouts and breaks. In Detroit we like the certain music that we play and at certain points in the game. I just love it.”

Ayron Sequeira and T Campbell, the DJ for the last 18 seasons at The Joe, are in charge of the in-arena entertainment during Wings’ home games. And getting Cleary’s input is just one aspect of their preparations.

“Dan is very specific and I actually appreciate that because it’s easy when somebody tells you what they like and what they want to hear,” said Sequeira, in her fourth season as executive producer of event entertainment for the NHL club.

A music aficionado with an eclectic taste, Cleary likes everything from alternative rock to hip-hop and techno, whether it’s Linkin Park, Foo Fighters, Riahanna, Jay Z, Avicii, Duncan and Outasight.

“He’s all over the place,” Sequeira said.

The entertainment tandem also has specific music picked out for each player after he scores. So who are the easiest and most difficult players to find music for?

“I know that Nicklas Lidstrom likes AC/DC and the Rolling Stones,” Sequeira said. “Pavel Datsyuk wanted some Pitbull then he wanted some other song. He’s changed his goal song the most out of any player and the one that he wants now is Kalinka, which is a Russian folk song.

“But the world is so small right now with music that it’s not terribly difficult to find songs, but there are times when T and I will be look at each other and be like, ‘What the heck is this one?’ ”

Pregame warm-ups are slated to last 15-minutes, which usually allows for 5-6 full-length songs a night. But with Cleary in control, playlist is always subject to change.

“We did one (list) at the beginning of the year and wanted to see how it would go,” Cleary said. “We obviously had a great home record so we would like to keep it going. We always change it for the playoffs and we’ve gone back to some older years, so I told her it’s up to her tonight. So there’s a lot of pressure on her.”
 
Fans at Game 4 can expect to hear the following songs during warm-ups at The Joe:

“Levels” by Avicii
“Infinity” by Guru Josh Project
“We Found Love” by Riahanna
“Good Feeling” by Flo Rida
“Tonight is the Night” by Outasight
“Light up the Sky” by Duncan

Follow Bill Roose on Twitter | @Bill_Roose


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POSTED ON Saturday, 04.14.2012 / 7:46 PM
By Bill Roose - Managing Editor | DetroitRedWings.com / The Wheel Deal

Todd Bertuzzi tangled with Shea Weber early in Game 2, retaliating for the defenseman's treatment of Henrik Zetterberg at the end of Game 1. (Photo by Getty Images)
DETROIT – The Red Wings have led the league with the fewest fighting majors in each season since the NHL lockout, which isn’t much of a surprise since the team was assembled for speed and puck-possession, not fisticuffs.

But emotions are heightened in the Stanley Cup playoffs, and before Friday’s Game 2 in Nashville, the Wings had 10 fights in the last 12 postseason series.

“We're built different than lots of teams,” admitted coach Mike Babcock, who was asked if he expected his team to retaliate against Shea Weber for Wednesday’s end-of-game incident when the Predators’ captain grabbed Henrik Zetterberg by the back of the helmet and slammed him face-first into the glass.

Weber’s actions also left Zetterberg’s helmet cracked in two places.

While fighting isn’t necessarily a characteristic of the Detroit organization, Todd Bertuzzi wasn’t going to stand idly by and allow Weber to get away with his reckless indiscretion. On his first shift, Bertuzzi dished out some of his own hockey justice, zeroing in on Weber at the start of Friday’s game at Bridgestone Arena.  

“I think it's an important part of hockey, standing up,” Babcock said. “I just thought that the incident the other night wasn't part of hockey. I haven't seen it since junior hockey. I thought it was unacceptable and I think sometimes when things don't get looked after (by the league) you have to look after it yourself. And I didn't think things were looked after at all.”

Weber received a roughing minor at the end of Wednesday’s series opener, which the Predators won, 3-2. He also received a $2,500 fine, which the league said, is the maximum allowed under the Collective Bargaining Agreement.

Clearly not wanting to discuss his role as Wings’ sheriff, Bertuzzi summed up his actions as “Something you gotta do. You have to stick-up for your teammates and do stuff like that.”

However, the fight seemed to give the Wings a spark, as they built a 2-0 lead before the first intermission, and Zetterberg said it sent a message.

“It was nice of Bert going out,” he said. “It was a good start to the game, the crowd got going, we got going. You get fired up. You get a little momentum. It’s easier for us to get going.”

Now the series is tied and the table it set for Game 3, which is Sunday at Detroit’s Joe Louis Arena, but Wings captain Nicklas Lidstrom doesn’t expect any carryover.

 “I think it was taken care of early on and we showed that we didn't accept that and moved on from there,” Lidstrom said. “Bert took care of it on the first shift and we just went out and won a game last night.”

Follow Bill Roose on Twitter | @Bill_Roose

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POSTED ON Tuesday, 04.10.2012 / 10:58 AM
By Bill Roose - Managing Editor | DetroitRedWings.com / The Wheel Deal

Danny Cleary has battled through the pain of a sore left knee for much of the second half of the season. Now he's set to play through the pain in the playoffs. (Photo by Getty Images)
As the majority of the Red Wings’ walking wounded have returned to the lineup over the last few weeks and are getting back into “game shape” – as they like to call it – there is one guy who has come to the realization that pain is something he’ll have to deal with for as long as the 2012 Stanley Cup playoffs last.

For the last several months now, forward Danny Cleary has tolerated the physical discomfort of two Baker’s cysts behind his left knee.

“Nothing I can really do,” said Cleary, who has had several procedures to drain fluid from the cysts. “The rest helps a lot to bring down the swelling, but once you get back on the ice, it's pretty sore.”

Without Cleary and center Darren Helm (sprained left knee) on the third forward line, the Wings are missing two of their most aggressive, grinding forecheckers, along with forward Drew Miller, who has proven to be equally as valuable on the penalty kill. Helm, who missed the final 10 games of the regular-season, is likely out for Wednesday’s series opener at Nashville.

However, Cleary is expected to be in the lineup at Bridgestone Arena.

“I'm going to play for sure,” he said.

Cleary indicated that he will have a pain-killing shot before each game, and that surgery is in his future, but not until after the playoffs. He’s also three Synvisc injections that doctors said they won't know the results until third week of April before it the medication fully sets in.

“I've got bone-on-bone rubbing, which is causing a lot of swelling, a lot of fluid, that's why I get the Baker's cysts in the back that get drained every 10 days,” Cleary said. “There's a few things going on.”

But so how effective he can be on one healthy knee is anybody’s guess.

“It's another level, that's for sure,” said Cleary, who estimates that he’s at 50 percent. “Mentally, I'm, just going to have to find a way to get through it, do the best I can, contribute and try to be a factor.

“It's hard to gauge, until you get going in a playoff series. A lot of people play with different things, injuries. Sometimes the situation can alleviate a little bit of pain. Pain medication will help a lot.”

Follow Bill Roose on Twitter | @Bill_Roose

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POSTED ON Saturday, 04.07.2012 / 4:58 PM
By Bill Roose - Managing Editor | DetroitRedWings.com / The Wheel Deal

More than 700 hockey fans made their way from Quebec City to cheer for the Red Wings Saturday and to lobby for an NHL franchise. (Photo by Dave Reginek)
If the objective was to be seen – and heard – the large group clad in blue T-shirts and jerseys adorned with fleur-de-lis emblems, sure got their message across to the nationally televised audience at a sold-out Joe Louis Arena on Saturday afternoon.

More than 700 fans of the former Nordiques organization made the exhausting 725-mile road trip from Quebec on 14 busses to attend the Red Wings season finale – a 3-2 shootout loss to the Chicago Blackhawks.

Genevieve Malenfant, of Quebec City, said the group known as Nordiques Nation, wants the NHL to return to the capital city, which is the second most populated city in Quebec after Montreal.

“I’m here for my Wings, of course,” said Malenfant, decked out in Red Wings’ gear. “But we are here because we want to have our team, the Nordiques, like we did 17 years ago. We want to have our hockey team back in Quebec.”

According to Richard Levesque, who attended Saturday’s game with his son, Detroit was the fifth and final NHL city on the group’s North American tour this season, having also visited Newark, Miami, Ottawa and Boston.

“We like for the Red Wings Detroit to win the game,” said Levesque, in a thick French accent, “but we’re having some fun.”

The Nordiques are the only major professional sports team to have been based in Quebec City, calling it home from 1972 when they started out in the World Hockey Association. In 1995, the Nordiques were granted membership into the NHL, however, financial troubles made it difficult for them to complete in a new age of rising player salaries, and they moved to the United States where they became the Colorado Avalanche.

Many members of the boisterous group said that they believe the Nordiques will return soon, and in the form of the Phoenix Coyotes, who’ve been owned by the NHL since 2009.

“For myself, I would say next year, but for the majority of the people here, even my boyfriend, they’ll say in these coming few months. But for sure I’ll say next year because they’re building a big arena and it will be ready in two years in 2015.”

Follow Bill Roose on Twitter | @Bill_Roose


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POSTED ON Friday, 04.06.2012 / 3:56 PM
By Bill Roose - Managing Editor | DetroitRedWings.com / The Wheel Deal

As a high school freshman, Patrick Kane attended Detroit Country Day for the 2003-04 school year. (Photo by Getty Images)
Comedian Robin Williams and CNN host Sr. Sanjay Gupta are a few of the prominent former high school students to pass through the prestigious halls of Detroit Country Day in suburban Oakland County.

And while politicians, actors, business executives and other athletes, like NBA stars Shane Battier, Chris Webber and JaVale McGee round-out the laundry list of Yellowjackets alums, NHL players aren’t in abundance at the century-old private school. In fact, there’s just one such player, Chicago Blackhawks center Patrick Kane, who attended the campus in Bloomfield Township.

A hockey prodigy as a young child in Buffalo, New York, Kane moved to suburban Detroit where he played for Detroit HoneyBaked. He was just 14-years-old when he was invited to live with former NHL star Pat Verbeek and his family.

It was a complete culture change for Kane, who quickly needed to assimilate to the Country Day rules and environment.

“That school is unbelievable,” he said. “Obviously one of the nicest high schools that I’ve ever been to, but really professional, classy and the only school that I had to show up to wearing nice slacks, a nice shirt and tie and the Country Day sport coat. That was a little different, but it was fun, I really enjoyed it.”

Country Day students must compete on two athletic teams each year, however, because he played junior hockey, Kane was exempt.

“I wanted to play basketball but it just didn’t work out with my schedule,” he said. “I actually tried out for the team and made the JV team but it didn’t work out to where I could play. It was the same with some of the other sports, because I would have liked to play lacrosse, but it didn’t work out.”

A year later, Kane was invited to join the U.S. National Team Development program in Ann Arbor. He transferred to Huron High School and became a University of Michigan football fan.

“It was different, more traditional, a public high school with a lot of different ethnicities,” Kane said, “but it was cool from a learning experience because I hung out with some new friends, it was a different experience but after a couple of weeks you feel comfortable anywhere.”

But raised on Buffalo sports teams like the Sabres and Bills, Kane was astonished with his first glimpse into of Michigan Stadium, nicknamed the ‘Big House’ which seats 115,000 college football fans on crisp fall Saturday afternoons.

“Oh yeah, I went to one or two (games) pretty much every year that I was there,” Kane said of Wolverines football. “My billet family had a couple of season tickets, so those were fun games to see how big that place really is. I don’t remember who they played in the first game that I went to, but I remember they blew them out. I went to an Iowa game that was pretty interesting, a really good game. And of course you want to go to the Ohio State game but I missed that one.”

Another don’t-miss game, Kane said, will be on New Year’s Eve when the Big House is turned into the world’s largest hockey stage ever built when the Wings will host the Toronto Maple Leafs in the 2012 Winter Classic.

“I know that it’s going to be really exciting for those teams with 115,000 people that you’re playing in front of when usually we’re playing in front of 18,000 to 22,000 every night,” Kane said. “That seems like a lot for us some nights and we’re entertaining a lot of people. Now you quadruple that, that’s pretty amazing and that’s definitely a game that you would want to be playing in.”

Follow Bill Roose on Twitter | @Bill_Roose



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POSTED ON Thursday, 04.05.2012 / 12:36 PM
By Bill Roose - Managing Editor | DetroitRedWings.com / The Wheel Deal

Darren Helm was back on the ice Thursday for the first time since suffering a knee injury in San Jose on March 17. (Photo by Bill Roose/Detroit Red Wings)
It came as a surprise to Darren Helm, but he was happy to learn that his rehabilitation for his strained left knee was ready to take the next step.

“Before I came in today I wasn’t even sure when I’d be on the ice,” the Red Wings center said. “They wanted me to get on there now, and it felt better than I thought. It’s still a ways a way I think, but it still helps a lot mentally.”

For the first time since his knee-to-knee collision with San Jose’s Dominic Moore at HP Pavilion, Helm was back on the ice Thursday, less than three weeks since the St. Patrick’s Day injury.

The original diagnosis for Helm was 4-6 weeks, which would mean that at the very least he would be sidelined through the first few games of the opening playoff series. So the next few hours will be a big indicator for Helm’s recovery, but if there’s no setback, he could return to the Wings’ lineup sooner than first anticipated.

“Previously they told me probably not Game 1,” Helm said. “So I’m not going to be super angry if it’s not Game 1. Obviously, I want to be back. We have to play it as safe as possible right now. If I re-hurt it, it could be the rest of the year; but at the same time I don’t want to milk it too much. It’s a pretty exciting time and I want to get out there.”

And coach Mike Babcock certain would like for his speedy center back to anchor his aggressive third line.

“We could really use Helmer,” Babcock said. “As everyone knows just in watching us play, we’re not near as good a team without him. We have way less depth, and we don’t come at you near as hard. He can really help our team, and the sooner he’s back the better for us. … It was great to see him out there tooling around.” 

Fitted with a metal brace, Helm skated for nearly an hour without much limitation.

“I think the biggest thing is tomorrow, to see how it feels after this skate,” said Helm, who had nine goals and 17 assists. “If it feels good, we can keep pushing it more each day and I can go out and skate with the team. These last two days I think it made a pretty big jump.”

Follow Bill Roose on Twitter | @Bill_Roose


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POSTED ON Monday, 04.02.2012 / 2:58 PM
By Bill Roose - Managing Editor | DetroitRedWings.com / The Wheel Deal

Red Wings defenseman Ian White visited his White's Warriors guests - Donald and Rose Fritz of Traverse City, Mich. - during Sunday's game at Joe Louis Arena. (Photo by Alexa Hinds)
Ian White wasn’t much of a history buff while growing up in Steinbach, Manitoba. But by the time he was in his late teens the Red Wings’ defenseman began absorbing stories told by family members of his grandfather’s involve in World War II.

“He was actually pretty quiet about the whole experience, I guess a lot of them are,” White said of his grandpa, who was part of the D-Day invasion on the shores of Normandy with the Royal Winnipeg Rifles. “But once you’re old enough to start remembering stuff you hear things for sure.”

It’s those memories that made Sunday’s meet-and-greet with Corporal Donald Fritz even more special.

See for White, who has given a pair of tickets to U.S. and Canadian military personnel for each Wings regular-season home game this season, Sunday’s guest brought home particular thoughts of his grandpa’s war stories.

Like White’s grandpa, Cpl. Fritz – albeit with the U.S. Army’s 306th Military Police Escort Guard – was also in Normandy fighting the atrocities committed by Nazi Germany.

Originally assigned to guard Japanese prisoners taken from the Aleutians to Camp McCoy in Wisconsin, Fritz was later ordered to England, where he landed on Utah Beach on June 8, 1944. Once in France, Fritz’s guard unit oversaw the first POW camp of German prisoners taken from the cliffs of Pointe du Hoc, which had been established by the First Ranger Battalion.

In all, Fritz, who will celebrate his 90th birthday next month, participated in three European campaigns in Normandy, Northern France, and Rhineland. His duties included collecting prisoners and establishing camps, where he was responsible for guarding up to 5,000 German prisoners.

Luckily for Donald Fritz and Rose, his wife of 69-years, the two lifelong Wings’ fans didn’t have to wait long before they meet their host. White, who was healthy scratch for Sunday’s game against Florida, surprised the Fritzes with an unscheduled visit to their lower bowl seats during the game.

“He’s obviously a great story and it was great to see him come down here,” White said.

It’s hard to know who enjoyed Sunday’s visit the most, but being the grandson of a WWII veteran is a huge sense of pride for White, who has enjoyed meeting each and every veteran this season.

“Without question, yes, especially when you have a family member who is fighting for the life that we’re allowed to live today is pretty special,” he said. “Pretty much each and every one of their experiences is amazing to hear, whether it was World War II or more recently Afghanistan and Iraq. It’s really hard to imagine what they go through on a daily basis.

“It’s hard to hear what guys are going through every day and how they’re fighting over there and basically sacrificing their lives for our freedoms and our values. It’s tough to say that I could do it, but it’s amazing what they do.”

Follow Bill Roose on Twitter | @Bill_Roose


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POSTED ON Monday, 03.26.2012 / 7:00 PM
By Bill Roose - Managing Editor | DetroitRedWings.com / The Wheel Deal

Jimmy Howard suffered a broken right index finger in early February. He hopes to return from a groin injury this week. (Photo by Getty Images)
Finally!

The Red Wings may likely see three more key players come off of the injury list this week with goalie Jimmy Howard, defenseman Jonathan Ericsson and forward Johan Franzen returning to the lineup, hopefully, by Friday.

Ericsson and Franzen both said Monday that they haven’t ruled out Wednesday’s game at Columbus, though Friday’s home game against Nashville is more likely for all three players.

After Monday’s morning skate, coach Mike Babcock was surprised to learn that Ericsson, who has missed 13 games with a fractured left wrist, wasn’t ready to return tonight.

“He was shooting the puck through the end of the rink today,” Babcock said. “But they (team medical staff) keep telling me he's not, so I don't know.”

If the Wings’ injured trio returns no later than Friday it would give them five tune-up games to prepare for the Stanley Cup playoffs, which begin April 11.

Howard said that his strained groin is feeling better and a return Friday against the Predators is “on the right track.”

“I’ve been working here pretty hard, doing a lot of treatment,” Howard said. “Felt like I can do everything. Now let's see if it holds up. Now continue to keep practicing for a couple of days and we'll see.”

The third piece to the injury puzzle is Franzen, who has had back spasms since he left practice early on March 16.

Franzen had an MRI that was negative, or as he said, “Just looked like an old hockey player's back. Yeah, a 32-year-old hockey player's back.”

Injuries have been a mounting problem for the Wings in the last month with 12 different players missing a total of 85 games due to injury or illness since Feb. 21.



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POSTED ON Tuesday, 03.20.2012 / 2:11 PM
By Bill Roose - Managing Editor | DetroitRedWings.com / The Wheel Deal

Former Notre Dame forward Riley Sheahan signed an entry-level contract with the Red Wings on Tuesday and will report to Grand Rapids this week. (Photo by Bill Roose/Detroit Red Wings)
The Red Wings signed Riley Sheahan to an amateur tryout Tuesday afternoon.

The Wings’ former first-round draft pick in 2010 finished his junior season at the University of Notre Dame last week when the Fighting Irish were eliminated in the CCHA playoffs.

“He’s a big, strong power forward and very responsible with the puck, good two-way defensively and still has good offensive skills,” Wings assistant general manager Jim Nill said.

In three seasons with the Irish, Sheahan collected 20 goals and 44 assists in 114 collegiate games.

The 6-foot-2, 212-pound native of St. Catharine’s, Ontario will finish out the season with the Grand Rapids Griffins, the Wings’ top minor-league affiliate in the American Hockey League.

“It’s obviously very exciting just to be in the organization and around all of these great players and I’ll just have to work my way up, and in a few years maybe get a chance to play in the big league," said Sheahan, who was studying sociology in South Bend. “Leaving Notre Dame was a tough decision. I made a lot of close friends there, met a lot of really nice people, but I think it was time to move on. My focus is on being a hockey player and I think the better atmosphere for that he being here.”

Though he averaged 21-points per season at the college level, Sheahan was a dynamite offensive weapon in the Greater Ontario Junior Hockey League where he had 49 goals and 85 assists in two seasons.
 
“That’s a little bit with the style of the team that he played on, college hockey is very tight, defensively and that’s kind of the style that you see down there,” Nill said. “He’s had a history of being a scorer ever since he was in Tier II.”

Follow Bill Roose on Twitter | @RooseBill


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