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Wings react to NHL's realignment

Players, Board of Governors agree on three-year plan

Thursday, 03.14.2013 / 5:45 PM ET / News
By Bill Roose  - Managing Editor | DetroitRedWings.com
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Wings react to NHL\'s realignment

SHERWOOD PARK, Alberta – Thursday’s announcement that the NHL’s Board of Governors approved realignment and a new playoff format for the next three seasons came as no surprise to the Red Wings’ players.

“I think it's a great time for our fans,” defenseman Niklas Kronwall said. “We're not going to be heading out west as much. They'll be able to watch our games in prime time a lot more than they have in the past. And of course playing Montreal, Toronto, Boston more often, I'm hoping it's going to spark that (enthusiasm from fans) even more. I know it will for us, for sure.”

It’s a win-win for fans, especially those who follow the Red Wings. Detroit fans will no longer have to stay up until 1 a.m. to watch televised road games from the West Coast. With a new set of opponents, including Original Six rivals like the Canadiens, Maple Leafs and Bruins, and a schedule consisting primarily of 7-7:30 p.m. starts, there will be a new buzz that reenergizes the fan base in Hockeytown.

Besides the three Original Six foes, the Red Wings will be lumped into a division with Buffalo, Florida, Ottawa and Tampa Bay. While rivalries with Colorado and San Jose will fade with time, new rivalries – just like the old ones – will eventually be created by future playoff series.

The plan creates to two eight-team divisions in the Eastern Conference and two seven-team divisions in the Western Conference.

“That’s great news,” forward Daniel Cleary said. “Everyone should be happy, especially in Detroit. … In a couple of years we’ll see how it goes, see how the playoff situation unfolds and how the teams respond to that.”

The NHL also approved a new division-based format for the Stanley Cup playoffs, which like realignment, will begin with the 2013-14 season. The new postseason format is a welcome change for the Red Wings. Since 1994, the Wings have played 28 of the last 40 playoffs series against Western teams from at least two time zones away.

Playoff qualification will be primarily division-based, with the top three finishers in each division qualifying for the first six spots in each conference. The two additional playoff spots in each conference will be awarded to the seventh and eighth highest-placed finishers based on regular-season points and regardless of division.

Travel considerations, especially in the playoffs, has been an issue in the past for the Red Wings, who in this new plan won’t have to make four annual transcontinental trips to California and western Canada. The new plan ensures that all 30 teams play in all 30 arenas at least once a season.

“You talk to a lot of the guys about the travel out West and it’s tough,” rookie defenseman Brian Lashoff said. “Now you get yourself in a situation where the travel isn’t as bad and that’s always a good thing.”

Lashoff made his first cross-country trip with the Red Wings last month.

“It was tough. I’ve never had to do that,” Lashoff said. “Getting your sleep patterns back together is tough and tougher when you’re coming back and playing right away, but at the same time it’s all about getting your rest. As long as you’re not doing it too much during the season, it’s fine.”

Rookie defenseman Brendan Smith, who is from suburban Toronto and still has family and friends in the area, is thrilled to be moving to the East Conference for more than one reason.

“To get to play Toronto more, because it’s back home, that’s pretty cool,” Smith said. “Some people think after you watch the game and turn off the TV (that) you’re done. Maybe we have an eight hour trip home. There is a lot of wear and tear on the body.”

Follow Bill Roose on Twitter | @Bill_Roose

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STANDINGS

EASTERN CONFERENCE
  TEAM GP W L OT GF GA PTS
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

STATS

2014-2015 REGULAR SEASON
SKATERS: GP G A +/- Pts
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
 
GOALIES: W L OT Sv% GAA
J. Howard 23 13 11 .910 2.44
P. Mrazek 16 9 2 .918 2.38

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