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Wings tune up for 'Classic' at Comerica

Team looks to regain structure, end losing skid at home

Wednesday, 12.18.2013 / 3:16 PM ET / News
By Bill Roose  -
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Wings tune up for \'Classic\' at Comerica
Pavel Datsyuk flashes a smile as Brendan Smith's image hovers over the ice rink at Comerica Park on Wednesday. (Photo by Bill Roose/Detroit Red Wings)

DETROIT – The Red Wings left the comfy confines of Joe Louis Arena for the chilly surroundings of Comerica Park where they used Wednesday’s practice as a precursor for the 2014 Winter Classic that will take place at Michigan Stadium in two weeks.

“I think this is the perfect thing for us to do today, come out and skate here,” forward Daniel Cleary said. “A lot of guys haven’t skated outdoors in this type of venue. … Once you get going it’s not as cold out there but it was fun. Anytime you get to play outdoors it brings back a lot of memories as a kid, even back to Chicago."

Cleary is one of four Red Wings who practiced at Comerica and played in the 2009 Winter Classic at Chicago’s Wrigley Field. The others are Pavel Datsyuk, Niklas Kronwall and Mikael Samuelsson. Captain Henrik Zetterberg (lower back) and forward Johan Franzen (concussion) played in the Wings’ 6-4 win over the Blackhawks on Jan. 1, 2009, though they did not skate Wednesday.

The Red Wings lost their fifth straight home game Tuesday with a 5-2 loss to Anaheim. Detroit is now winless in six consecutive games (0-4-2) and has the Calgary Flames coming to town on Thursday.

“After last night’s game I was going to cancel it to be honest with you because we had fans coming we didn’t,” Red Wings coach Mike Babcock said. “It’s always good not to react to those situations. It was good, we had a good practice, a good meeting, we have to get things right.”

With eight regulars out of the lineup, injuries have definitely been a major culprit in the Wings’ downward trend lately, and with an influx of youth from the club’s minor-league affiliate in Grand Rapids the roster has been altered.

“Obviously we’d like to have all (our) guys back,” Babcock said. “But once again like I say all the time it’s about the guys that are playing and the guys that are playing we can do way more with the group we have and we have to do that.”

Practicing outdoors allowed the players to get their minds off the past few weeks and concentrate on putting fun back into their daily routines.

“It was a good day for us,” Kronwall said. “I thought it was a pretty good skate, we got good pace out there and it was fun. … I think the fun is practicing outdoors and skating outdoors. I thought the skate, we try to keep the focus up and try to do the right things out there.”

The hour-long practice on an outdoor rink wasn’t new to goalie Jonas Gustavsson, who used to skate outside during his stint with the Toronto Maple Leafs.

“When I was in Toronto we had an outdoor practice maybe a couple of times a year,” the Red Wings’ backup said. “We used to go out in the community so I’ve been doing it for a few times the last few years.

“It’s fun to do it maybe a couple of times a year, but I think, overall, I prefer to be indoors but it’s a good experience, especially like this when it’s nice weather.”

Wednesday’s practice was just the second time that the Red Wings ventured outside during Babcock’s nine seasons with the club. The first time was at Clark Park on the city’s southwest side in February 2012, which defenseman Jonathan Ericsson remembers fondly.

“Last time we had the crowd really close by but just being out here in the middle of the field is spectacular,” Ericsson said. “You have the big screen going on as we’re practicing and it’s really cool to be skating at, that’s for sure.”

For the majority of the Wings, the Winter Classic against the Maple Leafs in front of an estimated 107,000 fans in Ann Arbor will be their first outdoor game experience.

“My dad would build me and my brother a rink in the backyard every winter and that’s how I started playing, how I started skating right in my backyard,” said Lashoff, who grew up in Upstate New York. “I never played a game outdoors, so I think it’s going to be pretty cool.”

While skating at Comerica gave the players some sense of what weather conditions could be like on New Year’s Day, the magnitude of playing in the Big House is immeasurable.

“I think that’s something that you’re not really going to be able to wrap your head around until you’re actually there,” Lashoff said. “Even here this place is pretty big and it’s a kind of a cool experience, so going into there will be definitely amazing.”

Follow Bill Roose on Twitter | @Bill_Roose




1 p - WSH 82 56 18 8 252 193 120
2 x - PIT 82 48 26 8 245 203 104
3 y - FLA 82 47 26 9 239 203 103
4 x - NYR 82 46 27 9 236 217 101
5 x - NYI 82 45 27 10 232 216 100
6 x - TBL 82 46 31 5 227 201 97
7 x - PHI 82 41 27 14 214 218 96
8 x - DET 82 41 30 11 211 224 93
9 BOS 82 42 31 9 240 230 93
10 CAR 82 35 31 16 198 226 86
11 OTT 82 38 35 9 236 247 85
12 NJD 82 38 36 8 184 208 84
13 MTL 82 38 38 6 221 236 82
14 BUF 82 35 36 11 201 222 81
15 CBJ 82 34 40 8 219 252 76
16 TOR 82 29 42 11 198 246 69


H. Zetterberg 82 13 37 -15 50
P. Datsyuk 66 16 33 7 49
D. Larkin 80 23 22 11 45
T. Tatar 81 21 24 4 45
G. Nyquist 82 17 26 -2 43
J. Abdelkader 82 19 23 -16 42
M. Green 74 7 28 -6 35
B. Richards 68 10 18 4 28
D. Helm 77 13 13 -2 26
N. Kronwall 64 3 23 -21 26
P. Mrazek 27 16 6 .921 2.33
J. Howard 14 14 5 .906 2.80