|The Michigan high schools that Justin Abdelkader and Danny DeKeyser attended could meet in the state's Division 2 football championship game on Nov. 28 at Ford Field.|
DETROIT – Hockey players love to talk about the rivalries that they had before they turned pro. Usually those discussions are limited to college alma maters, not the high school level.
Should DeKeyser’s Warren De La Salle and Abdelkader’s Muskegon Mona Shores win two more playoff games, their schools would meet at for the Division 2 state championship at Detroit’s Ford Field the day after Thanksgiving.
“That would be awesome,” said DeKeyser, who’s Pilots face league rival Birmingham Brother Rice on Saturday. “We’d definitely have a nice little rivalry game going on in here; maybe see if he wants to make a little bet or something.”
When it comes to playoff football, the two schools have contrasting pasts. The Pilots have qualified for the postseason eight of the past nine seasons, even reaching the Division 2 championship game in 2006 and 2008, DeKeyser’s senior year. But De La Salle lost both times to Muskegon, which is Mona Shores’ archrival.
“Ever since I left there I always try to keep track of them,” said DeKeyser, who did not play football. “When I did go to school there they made a lot of good playoff runs, including a couple times down to Ford Field. I think it’s great every time they can do good.”
Meanwhile, Abdelkader was a two-year, varsity quarterback in back to back three-win seasons for the Sailors. Last season was the first year they reached the playoffs, and two weeks ago the Sailors enjoyed their first ever postseason victory, downing Caledonia, 42-14.
So excited to see the enthusiasm surrounding the football team, Abdelkader took to social media to wish the Sailors well before their game against Midland Dow last week, writing on Twitter: “Good luck @shoressailors tonight! One game at a time! Road to Ford Field #leaveitonthefield”.
“I haven’t seen them play this year, obviously with our schedule in the fall we’re really busy,” said Abdelkader, about his alma mater, which is closer in proximity to Grand Rapids than it is Detroit. “I know they have a really good team. They have a college quarterback (recruit Tyree Jackson) that started four years for them, I think that’s big. He’s grown under the system and learned that way.
“For us at Mona Shores, we haven’t seen much success with the football team. It’s nice to have seen them win their first ever playoff football game a few weeks back and beat our cross-town rival Muskegon the week before that. It’s been fun to watch and exciting to see.”
Abdelkader, who graduated from Mona Shores in 2005, will be beside himself should the Sailors make it to Ford Field. And more than better, he said, should his alma mater face his DeKeyser’s school in the title game.
“That would be really cool,” Abdelkader said. “Unfortunately, I looked at our schedule and we’re going to be gone on Friday (at New Jersey) when they would play. But it would be something else. We’d have to have something on the line for that game for sure.”
Shots: 0 | +/-: E
But the veteran center isn’t sure if he’ll make the trip, which begins Tuesday in Columbus.
“Not sure. Not sure,” Weiss said when asked if he’s traveling with the team. “I want to play games to be honest. I’m sick of practicing, but at the same time you have to be smart about it too. I’ve only had three practices after being off for quite a long time. You want to make sure your conditioning is up to par so you’re just not out there to be out there. You’re ready to go. I think a few more practices and some extra skating afterwards will help with that and make a big difference. Then go in and play and be ready to go.”
Last month, Weiss had a setback in his recovery from a sports hernia that saw the veteran center undergo two surgeries to correct the painful problem. He missed most of last season, and while he was a healthy scratch for most of October, he’s appeared in just one game for the Red Wings this season.
Weiss was assigned to a two-game stint with the Griffins last month, but midway through the first game the groin injury resurfaced. He returned to Detroit the next day.
Now pain-free, he’s practiced every day this week with the Wings. He says he’s cleared to return to action, but first, he’ll likely need a rehabilitation assignment next weekend with the AHL Griffins who will play a home and home against the Lake Erie Monsters.
“I’m just focused on this weekend here and then I’ll talk to whoever I need to talk to and see if I’m going to Columbus or going to GR and practicing there,” Weiss said Friday morning.
“I’m going to get a few more practices in and then go and play one game there,” he added. “They play Friday and Saturday. Saturday I think is at home so one of those two.”
|Red Wings rookie Andrej Nestrasil will play in his third NHL game when the Red Wings host the Bruins Wednesday night at Joe Louis Arena. (Photo by Dave Reginek/Detroit Red Wings)|
DETROIT – It’s been a whirlwind first week filled with congratulations for Andrej Nestrasil.
Last Thursday the rookie forward made his playing debut with the Red Wings. And that was followed up by his Svátek day back home.
Svátek is sort of a Hallmark holiday that everyone in the Czech Republic receives well wishes for prosperity and good health on their annual feast day. Kind of low-level birthday party, the feast day recognizes a different given name each day of the year in the central European country.
Nestrasil’s Svátek day falls each year on Oct. 11.
“It’s a Czech thing,” Nestrasil said. “There is a name on the calendar each day and whoever’s name is that day you send them wishes for good luck.”
Leading up to his debut last week, Nestrasil estimates he received more than a hundred text messages and calls from family and friends back home congratulating him on making it to the NHL.
“It’s settling down now,” he said. “I think the first game, the two days before the game, and after was crazy, especially with my phone.”
But just when he thought it was safe to pick up his cell phone again, it was Svátek for Andrej.
“When I actually thought I was going to have a day off from my phone, that day was my name, so everybody was texting me again to offer congrats,” Nestrasil said. “I woke up and I was like, ‘There will be no messages’ and I looked and I was like, ‘Oh, my God.’ ”
Nestrasil will be in tonight’s lineup when the Red Wings host the Bruins for the second time in a week. For someone with little experience at this level, he sees perhaps a slight advantage to playing the Bruins again so quickly.
“Maybe with some little details, so I can know what to expect from their Ds when I’m down low,” he said. “I had a little trouble controlling the puck down low when they were really heavy and they were doing certain things which got into my head. Now I know that I can expect it tonight, so that might help a little bit.”
Nestrasil isn’t sure where he’ll be next week. A lot hinges on the health of center Pavel Datsyuk, still recovering from a separated right shoulder.
A guy who wasn’t given much of hope of making it to the league, Nestrasil is just happy to be here, even though that means living the hotel life for the last month.
“But I’ve been living like this for the last three years,” Nestrasil said. “I mean, I didn’t get permission to get my own place my first year in Grand Rapids, my second year in Grand Rapids. Actually, last year I had my own apartment in Grand Rapids, but the first two years I was just going from Toledo to Grand Rapid to Toledo and I was living out of my suitcase. And I’m just doing it again, but I’d do it for 20 years if I have to. I wouldn’t mind it.”
|Red Kelly is featured on a new Canadian stamp honoring great defensemen of the Original Six era. He played 13 seasons with the Red Wings. (Courtesy of Post Canada)|
DETROIT – It’s an unarguable fact that Nicklas Lidstrom is the best defenseman in Red Wings’ history.
But the Perfect Human – as he’s known to his former teammates – has some work to do now that he’s been passed up by Leonard ‘Red’ Kelly in the postage stamp category.
Kelly, who played 13 seasons for the Wings, between 1947-48 and 1959-60, is among six former NHL stars with their own stamp that will be released by Canada Post this Friday.
It is the second time in 12 years that Kelly has been featured on a Post Canada stamp. He was the subject of a 2002 series: NHL All-Stars that included Glenn Hall, Tim Horton, Howie Mirenz, Guy Lafleur and Phil Esposito.
The latest series pays homage to great defensemen of the Original Six era, featuring Boston’s Bobby Orr, Toronto’s Horton, Montreal’s Doug Harvey, Chicago’s Pierre Pilote and the New York Rangers’ Harry Howell.
The new stamps feature an image of the player in uniform with his jersey number enlarged in the background
Kelly was a member of eight Stanley Cup winning clubs. Only seven players in NHL history have won eight or more championships.
A member of eight Stanley Cup-winning teams, Leonard Patrick 'Red' Kelly played junior hockey with the St. Michael's Majors. In 1947, he became a member of the Detroit Red Wings. Though he was a defenseman, Kelly won the Lady Byng Trophy – awarded to the player best combining skill and sportsmanship – four times and played in 13 All-Star Games. In 1960, he was traded to Toronto, where he claimed his last four Cup titles.
Kelly finished his career as coach with Los Angeles, Pittsburgh, and Toronto.
Lidstrom, who leads the franchise in at least 11 all-time offensive categories, was depicted on a postage stamp in Sweden last year.
|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.”