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Babcock says adversity will pay off

Thursday, 04.12.2007 / 12:00 AM ET / News
Detroit Red Wings
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Babcock says adversity will pay off
By Bill Roose

-- Statistics can often be very good storytellers.

That's not the case for the Western Conference champion Red Wings and the adversity that they collectively experienced this season.

As a team, the Red Wings lost 239 man-games to injuries and illness. But it didn't slow them from winning at least 50 games for the second straight season. Even without goal scoring leader Henrik Zetterberg (back), who missed the final 19 games, the Wings managed to fend-off Nashville and Anaheim for the top-seed in the Western Conference playoffs.

Zetterberg, who scored 33 goals in the regular-season, has been skated with the team in practices and plans to be in the line-up for Thursday's Game 1.

"In the time I've been here all we've done is win," said Wings coach Mike Babcock, during a Thursday morning press conference. "It's been unbelievable. Last year we couldn't get on a bad streak. This year, we flat-out were no good at the start of the year, then five times we had lulls where we couldn't win."

Besides the injury to Zetterberg, the Wings were force to fill other significant holes with the losses of defenseman Niklas Kronwall, and forwards Tomas Kopecky and Mikael Samuelsson. Coupled by the loss of defenseman Jiri Fischer last season and forward Greg Johnson during training camp, the Wings had major issues.

Fortunately, the Red Wings have had a surplus of depth that continues to play roles in maintaining the team's edge. "We lost good players, and if you go through our stats for chucks of time, real good players, and so we had to play people all over," Babcock said. "Since I've been here we lost the Fischer kid; he'd be a stud for us. Then this year at training camp, Johnson, who's a captain of another team, who's going to be a great match-up guy for you, and he doesn't play.

"Suddenly, Val Filppula is supposed to play the whole year in the minors, is on your team, and Jiri Hudler, who would never have gotten a stiff, because Johnson would be playing, is on your team. Well, it turns out that those are real good players for us. So our depth here, obviously through scouting and development, but through accident as well, has allow us to be a better team."

New Appreciation: Babcock has always appreciated the talents of his star center Pavel Datsyuk. But he's gained a much great admiration since taking the Wings' coaching gig in the summer of 2005.

"When I first arrived in Detroit, we used to preserve him as an offensive ?wow' guy who was on the highlights some times when the game was on the line," Babcock said. "That's not what I see every day now. He's been matched up against the best people all year since (Zetterberg's injury). He's been as good a two-way player that there is in the league, for sure."

Datsyuk, who signed a seven-year contract extension last week, finished the regular-season with 27 goals and 60 assists. He missed only three games this season with a groin injury in early January.

Still, Datsyuk has his detractors, primarily because of his past poor performances in the playoffs. Babcock, however, believes that Datsyuk will surprise those critics.

"He's a dominant, elite player in the league, who gets checked every night and still finds a way to be great," Babcock said. "Now he just needs an opportunity, and health was a big part of the opportunity last year and that's not a question this year. You're going to see him dance."

Bertuzzi Update: Todd Bertuzzi returned to the ice for the Wings' morning skate on Thursday prior to Game 1 of the Red Wings playoff series with Calgary. Bertuzzi has been bothered by a concussion received when he collided with Wings goalie Chris Osgood in the first period the Wings' game at Chicago on April 7. "He had a battery of tests, I guess is how you would describe it" Babcock said. "He skated today, he exercised and did all of the things that you do in a walk-through to get ready. We'll look at him again tonight, or talk to him again tonight. Then he'll do his testing again tomorrow, and we're optimistic that he goes on Sunday."

OT Thriller: Following the opening night of the 2007 Stanley Cup Playoffs - where two games were decided in overtime - there must have been some sleepy eyes around the office this morning.

In the longest game, Vancouver's Henrik Sedin scored at 18:06 of the fourth overtime period, lifting the Canucks to a 5-4 win at home over Dallas.

Asked if he prefers deciding the outcome of games with overtime or by shootouts, Babcock said he would pick OT every time. "I think it's an exhilarating experience," he said. "When I was in Anaheim we won against Dallas in the fifth overtime. It was as good of an experience that I ever had. Now, to me that's what it's about. It's about competing. That's what this time of year is about.

"You spend all year waiting for your chance to compete. I think we lost eight of those shootouts this year. That leaves you with an awful feeling. For me, I don't like it. So I like for the teams to compete. I don't care what time they finish. Now I couldn't stay up, I got to tell you. I wore out last night, but I did my best. But that's exciting. What a way to start the playoffs for the National Hockey League. To me, you get teams going to overtime, whether it's in Nashville, or whether it be in Vancouver, that's exciting stuff."




1 p - NYR 82 53 22 7 248 187 113
2 y - MTL 82 50 22 10 214 184 110
3 x - TBL 82 50 24 8 259 206 108
4 x - WSH 82 45 26 11 237 199 101
5 x - NYI 82 47 28 7 245 224 101
6 x - DET 82 43 25 14 231 211 100
7 x - OTT 82 43 26 13 232 208 99
8 x - PIT 82 43 27 12 217 204 98
9 BOS 82 41 27 14 209 201 96
10 FLA 82 38 29 15 198 213 91
11 CBJ 82 42 35 5 227 248 89
12 PHI 82 33 31 18 212 223 84
13 NJD 82 32 36 14 176 209 78
14 CAR 82 30 41 11 183 219 71
15 TOR 82 30 44 8 206 257 68
16 BUF 82 23 51 8 153 269 54


H. Zetterberg 77 17 49 -6 66
P. Datsyuk 63 26 39 12 65
T. Tatar 82 29 27 6 56
G. Nyquist 82 27 27 -11 54
J. Abdelkader 71 23 21 3 44
N. Kronwall 80 9 35 -4 44
R. Sheahan 79 13 23 -3 36
D. Helm 75 15 18 7 33
D. DeKeyser 80 2 29 11 31
S. Weiss 52 9 16 -2 25
J. Howard 23 13 11 .910 2.44
P. Mrazek 16 9 2 .918 2.38 is the official Web site of the Detroit Red Wings. Detroit Red Wings and are trademarks of the Detroit Red Wings. NHL, the NHL Shield and the word mark NHL Winter Classic are registered trademarks and Original Six is a trademark of the National Hockey League. All NHL logos and marks and NHL team logos and marks as well as all other proprietary materials depicted herein are the property of the NHL and the respective NHL teams and may not be reproduced without the prior written consent of NHL Enterprises, L.P. Copyright © 1999-2015 Detroit Red Wings and the National Hockey League. All Rights Reserved.
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