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Babcock is back to Wings' business

Wednesday, 02.26.2014 / 6:31 PM ET / News
The Canadian Press
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Babcock is back to Wings\' business

MONTREAL - Mike Babcock loved the Olympics, but now he has another tough task — trying to get the Red Wings into the NHL playoffs.

"It's about the Red Wings now — that's all over with," said the coach who led Canada to a second straight hockey gold medal at the Sochi Olympics. "We're in a real battle to get into the playoffs. We take real pride in the Red Wings being in the playoffs every year. We've had a struggle this year with so many injuries. There's no excuses. We have to find way to get in."

Babcock was on his first visit to Canada since Sunday's gold medal game.

The Red Wings, clinging to the eighth and final Eastern Conference playoff spot, faced the Montreal Canadiens on Wednesday night before taking on the Senators in Ottawa on Thursday.

As he usually does on trips to Montreal, Babcock spent Tuesday evening at McGill University, where he captained the Redmen in the 1980s. He dropped off his annual donation, gave pep talks to the men's and women's teams at their practices and had dinner with old friends.

"I sat in the middle of the table so no-one could get to me," he said. "I haven't talked to anybody, really.

"But Canadians are proud, as they should be. Quebec is very passionate about hockey. My province, Saskatchewan, is too and I'll get back there this summer. But don't get me wrong. I'm absolutely so thrilled and proud. We did a great job. But that's over."

He planned to wear a McGill tie behind the bench at the Bell Centre, but not the same one he wore for the gold medal game.

"I spilled a little beer on it and rammed it in a bag," he said.

Babcock was widely praised for getting a collection of star NHL players to execute a thorough, defensive game plan in Sochi, where his team ousted the United States 1-0 in the semifinals and beat Sweden 3-0 in the final.

But he was not so popular in Montreal earlier in the tournament for making a healthy scratch of the Canadiens' free-wheeling defenceman P.K. Subban, the 2013 Norris Trophy winner who played only one of Canada's six games.

There was a suspicion that Babcock didn't trust Subban's sometimes risky style, but the coach had only good things to say about him, calling him a "great kid."

"Tons of energy. Real positive. Going to continue to grow into a great, great pro," said Babcock. "To me, he's committed to being good and being better. It's always hard as a high-end athlete any time someone tells you that you can't play. He was a great teammate and I think he learned a lot. I enjoyed him and his family a lot. He was a big part of our team."

At the 2010 Vancouver Olympics, there was a huge amount of pressure on Babcock and the Canadian team to win gold. They did it on Sidney Crosby's overtime goal in the final against the Americans.

This time, there were doubts about Canada's chances, although they are always expected to win gold.

Babcock is used to pressure. And he made sure to get more from the Games than his daily trips to the arena.

"I enjoy being in the NHL — I enjoy the grind and the work and the preparation," he said. "But the Olympics was a fantastic experience.

"Being part of a bigger team. Hanging around with the other athletes. Going to other events. Getting to know them good. Getting your picture taken with them. Having a few pops with them. Those are all great experiences and things you'll remember forever."

He did not have any Red Wings on his Olympic squad, but Canada played against some, including a handful of Swedes. Now, he'll have to go up against his Olympic players at several stops on the schedule.

"You have a bond with those guys for the rest of your life," he said. "Any time you win together you always do. But I know who pays me."

SCHEDULE

HOME
AWAY
PROMOTIONAL

STANDINGS

EASTERN CONFERENCE
  TEAM GP W L OT GF GA PTS
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

STATS

2015-2016 REGULAR SEASON
SKATERS: GP G A +/- Pts
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
 
GOALIES: W L OT Sv% GAA
P. Mrazek 27 16 6 .921 2.33
J. Howard 14 14 5 .906 2.80