Wings prepare for Western standoff
Draper shows off his American spirit at morning skate
The Kings currently sit in seventh place with 59 points, while the Wings are holding on to eighth place at 58 points. The top eight teams from each conference advance to the Stanley Cup playoffs. This is the third of four meetings between these clubs, with the Wings posting victories in the first two games.
“It’s a big game for both teams, obviously we were both trying to climb in the standings and secure ourselves playoff position,” Wings coach Mike Babcock said. “There’s going to be lots of big games in the West between now and the end of the year.”
The last time these two teams met -- on Jan. 7 at StaplesCenter -- forward Darren Helm scored the game-winner with 17.7 seconds left in regulation to give the Wings a 2-1 victory.
Despite securing the victory, LA was the team controlling play, barraging Wings goalie Jimmy Howard with 52 shots. That was the most shots a Wings’ goaltender has faced in a single game since Greg Stefan with 53 shots in 1989.
Although the Kings dominated their offensive zone during that game, Wings captain Nicklas Lidstrom was happy with the way his team played.
“Even though in that game they had a lot of chances, I thought we did a good job playing solid defensively,” Lidstrom said.
LIGHTENING THE MOOD: During Saturday’s morning skate, veteran winger Kris Draper strayed from the team’s usual practice jersey colors of red, white and black. Instead, Draper sported a blue Team USA sweater.
Which doesn’t seem to be a big deal, except Draper is a proud Canadian.
Draper and American-born defenseman Brett Lebda made a friendly bet on the World Junior Championship game that took place on Jan. 6 between the US and Canada. The US scored a thrilling overtime win.
“Brett Lebda and myself, we had a nice little wager on the World Juniors, and obviously one of the things was whoever lost had to wear the other countryman’s jersey,” Draper laughed.
But Lebda was prepared for any hesitation on Draper’s part to sport the jersey.
“I never said anything about it to him, and I think he thought I forgot about it,” Lebda said. “I was rallying some troops just in case when it came in that he was going to put up a hard time.”
Draper joked that he hoped Lebda had forgotten about the bet, but when the time came to pay up, he was a good sport — even commenting on the quality of the jersey.
“(Lebda) did a great job, very nice, very classy on his part, and you know, it’s just a bet we had, and I had to live up to my end,” Draper said.
“It turned out to be a lot of fun,” Lebda said. “It loosened the mood a little bit today.”