When the captain says something is wrong, you fix it.
That's the tact Detroit Red Wings coach Mike Babcock has taken with 41-year old captain and top defenseman Nicklas Lidstrom, who made it known after last season that he didn't really like having his ice time reduced.
Lidstrom still led the Wings in ice time last year, with an average of 23:28 per game, but he didn't play much on the penalty kill and Babcock also tried to back off his usually heavy workload through the regular season.
However, Lidstrom wasn't a big fan of sitting more.
"Last year we backed him off a little bit and he told me in the spring he didn't like it, so we just fixed it," Babcock said following the Red Wings' morning skate at Joe Louis Arena. "He says he plays better when he's playing. Last year, we didn't penalty kill him near as much. This year we are. We've got a little different rotation, so this year we are. He's been excellent."
He's also leading the Wings in ice time yet again through the first four games, logging an average of 24:01 per game thus far. That could change a little because of the schedule. Only playing four games to this point has allowed the players to get plenty of rest, but also will require some taxing back-to-back games ahead.
"When you play night in and night out and you travel like we do in the West here, especially with the three-hour time change, that might be different as time goes on," Babcock said of Lidstrom leading in ice time. "Right now it hasn't been an issue."
"I still take a lot of pride in playing a lot of minutes and playing against the top lines and still being on specialty teams as well," said Lidstrom, who will play in his 1,500th NHL game Saturday against the Washington Capitals. "That's something we talked about in the offseason, to get the minutes up a little bit more. (Babcock) asked if I was ready for it and could still do it, and I said, 'Oh yeah. I'm more than willing to play more minutes.' When you're used to it, I think it's harder to play less and stay in a good rhythm."