A few random thoughts while we countdown the days until NHL Premiere in Prague and Stockholm on Oct. 4.
Wings on the mend – Detroit Red Wings coach Mike Babcock is optimistic All-Star defenseman Nicklas Lidstrom could return to the lineup Wednesday when his team travels to Philips Arena to play the Atlanta Thrashers.
The 10-time NHL All-Star and six-time Norris Trophy-winner has practiced the last two days while recovering from a broken nose and cut above the right eye he received from a deflected puck in a 3-2 loss to the Montreal Canadiens on Sept. 24.
If Detroit’s captain does decide to give it a go, he’ll likely be wearing a protective shield. Lidstrom wore a visor as a rookie but stopped wearing it when he skated during the offseason following that 1991-92 rookie campaign.
“I’ve never seen Nick distracted,’’ Babcock told the Detroit News.
Meanwhile, center Pavel Datsyuk, who suffered a groin injury in the preseason opener and hasn’t played since, will miss Tuesday’s game in Montreal and, more than likely, Wednesday’s contest in Atlanta. Detroit will host the Toronto Maple Leafs on Friday.
“(Datsyuk) worked out (off ice), so that’s a real good sign,’’ Babcock said. “But he’s obviously not playing (Tuesday) and if you’re not playing (Tuesday), you’re probably not playing the next game either.”
Options in goal – Los Angeles Kings coach Terry Murray on Monday declared 28-year-old Jason LaBarbera the team’s starter goalie to open the season.
“In my mind, (LaBarbera) is the starter and clearly should be,’’ Murray told the Los Angeles Times. “I hope he grabs that ball and runs with it.’’
LaBarbera, who was handed the job last season and finished with a 3.00 goals-against average and .910 save percentage in 45 appearances, is coming off a seven-month layoff that included hernia surgery. He sports a 4.20 GAA and .841 save percentage in 100 minutes in two games this preseason.
"In my mind, (LaBarbera) is the starter and clearly should be. I hope he grabs that ball and runs with it." -- Kings coach Terry Murray
“It's not that I ate bad, but that I would eat too much,’’ LaBarbera said. “It’s hard not to. Coming from a family like I come from, you always had to eat what was in front of you.’’
LaBarbera will play all of Tuesday’s preseason game against the Anaheim Ducks at Staples Center, according to Murray. Goalie prospects Erik Ersberg and Jonathan Quick will likely split Wednesday’s game at Anaheim and one other contest during their competition for the backup role.
A power player – Chicago Blackhawks coach Denis Savard is determined to make certain last year’s 24th-rated power play shows vast improvement this winter.
Newly acquired defenseman Brian Campbell will certainly help that cause. Campbell, an eight-season NHL veteran, signed an eight-year contract with the Blackhawks on July 1.
The 6-foot, 190-pound defenseman scored 4 assists, including 3 with the man advantage, in a 4-3 victory against the Dallas Stars on Sunday.
Savard is hopeful that second-year players Patrick Kane (7 power-play goals in 2007-08) and Jonathan Toews (7 power-play goals) will only improve on last year’s numbers with the man advantage.
In addition to figuring out the power-play setup, Savard is also considering the pair of Campbell and Duncan Keith on defense.
“The reason I’m trying Campbell and Keith together is whoever I decide to play (Jonathan) Toews with, they’re going to play against the best line of the other team every night,’’ Savard told the Daily Herald. “So maybe by having them on defense, and they’re so active offensively and the fact that they’re quick, may be the best lines of the other teams will think they better watch out for them jumping into the play and be on their heels.’’