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Commodore answers Wings' bell

Veteran defenseman returns to lineup after 17-game layoff

Friday, 12.23.2011 / 2:49 AM / News
By Bill Roose  - Managing Editor | DetroitRedWings.com
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Commodore answers Wings\' bell
Mike Commodore and Valtteri Filppula congratulate Jiri Hudler on his third-period goal Thursday in Calgary. It was Commodore's first single-game plus-rating in over a year. (Photo by Getty Images)
CALGARY, Alberta – It was a long 37 days since Mike Commodore last dressed for a game in a Red Wings’ uniform. It was an even longer stretch since he figured in a statistical category other than ice-time.

But after sitting out the last 17 games as a healthy scratch, the Wings’ 32-year-old defenseman returned to the lineup Thursday in the Wings’ final game before heading into a three-day Christmas break. He logged just over 13-minutes of ice-time with a plus-1 rating in Detroit’s 3-2 loss to the Flames at the Scotiabank Saddledome.

“It’s my first plus in a long time,” said Commodore, who also blocked two shots. “I can’t even remember the last time I was on the ice for a goal-for. As bad as that sounds, I can’t remember, but it’s been a year, for sure. But as little as that thing is, it was nice to be on the ice for a plus. Honestly, it’s about the little things for me. Any little thing that can go my way, any little positive thing helps.”

To say that the last few months have been frustrating would be an understatement. Commodore signed a one-year free agency deal with the Wings in the offseason, and he was expected to battle Jakub Kindl for a spot on the Wings’ third defensive pairing. But Commodore suffered a sprained knee in preseason and quickly he fell out of the leading for the final defensive roster spot.

Since then, Commodore has tried to avoid going stir-crazy by being a good teammate and staying prepared to play as needed.

“It hasn’t been easy,” he said. “I’ve run every set of stairs in the Western Conference, it seems like in the arenas. But a game is a game and until you’ve played some games and put some games together I can run up and down to the top of those stairs until the cows come home, I’m still going to feel gassed.”

Commodore made his Wings’ debut in early November and only played three games prior to Thursday. Kindl was a healthy scratch against the Flames.

“It’s definitely a game of mistakes, but for the way things are going for me right now, I can’t afford to make any glaring ones,” Commodore said. “Obviously, when I go out to play, I go out to play. I’m not out there thinking ‘I can’t make mistakes’. I don’t think you can play any sport like that, and you certainly can’t play hockey like that, so I went out there and tried to make the most of what I got, of the shifts that I got, and we’ll see what happens.”

Despite some rust, Commodore said he felt pretty good about his performance.

“There were some things that I could have done better, but all things considered it’s been, I don’t know, five or six weeks since I played, and I’ve played four games in the calendar year of 2011, I can’t be too hard on myself. I did all right.

“Defensively, there were a few times where I was caught in spots where I wasn’t sure, and at this level if you’re not sure for a second or two they’re making a play, so other than that I felt as the game moved on, I moved the puck better.”

Thursday's loss was the Wings' fifth in seven games away from Joe Louis Arena, and they're averaging a mere 2.39 goals in 18 road contests, compared to an NHL-best 4.19 at home. And it didn’t help matters that the Flames opened up a 3-0 lead after 40-minutes.

The Wings thwarted the Flames’ shutout bid when Jiri Hudler scored to make it 3-1 at 4:55 of the final period. Commodore was on the ice for Hudler’s eighth of the season. It was Commodore’s first plus since Dec. 13, 2010 when he was a member of the Columbus Blue Jackets.

The Wings pulled within one goal of the lead when defenseman Ian White fired a slap shot from the right point that beat Flames goalie Miikka Kiprusoff at 15:48 of the third. But for the second straight night, the Wings fell behind by three goals. Wednesday, the Vancouver Canucks built a 4-1 lead en route to a 4-2 victory over Detroit.

“It was a slow start. I mean, we needed to come out a little harder,” Commodore said. “Three in four nights of travel is tough, but regardless, we would have liked to come out a little harder and played a little better. We have to be happy with the way we played in the third, we were all over them there. They were leading in shots for the whole game and then we took over in the third period and we were probably a half an inch from tying that game up.”

Something that doesn’t show in Thursday’s box score was Commodore’s willingness to stick up for his teammates after Flames tough guy Tim Jackman took a few liberties in the first period.

“It was nothing awful. (Jackman) wasn’t doing anything wrong other than running around a little bit,” Commodore said. “He’s a physical player and I know that I need to be physical every once in a while and I don’t mind doing that. I just asked him if he was interested (in fighting) and it just didn’t happen. And that’s fine because I had enough on my plate, to be honest, I probably would have lasted about four-seconds and been exhausted.”

Follow Bill Roose on Twitter | @RooseBill

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