-- More than 24 hours after Jeremy Roenick
went on a Chicago radio station and made charges that Detroit Red Wings
defenseman Chris Chelios
was not playing because he's American, the steam was still coming out of coach Mike Babcock's ears.
"Yeah, it bothered me," Babcock said, "because it's a blatant lie. But the problem we have here is that we're talking about something that isn't current in hockey right now. We should be talking about the Red Wings and Chicago and Carolina and Pittsburgh, should we not? The attention might be going in the wrong spot here."
Once again, both Babcock and Chelios denied any friction between the two at the United Center Friday morning.
In fact …
"I was sitting over at the pancake place this morning with the coaches, and Cheli walked over and said, 'I think I should bring you an apple,'" Babcock joked. "The first thing I did was I phoned my kids, because I've got a couple of American kids, and I tried to give them a hug over the phone. You wouldn't want to think that your dad didn't like you."
Chelios, 47, has not played in the Western Conference Finals against the Blackhawks and will not be in the lineup for Game 3 on Friday night. He did appear in four games in Round 2 against the Anaheim Ducks
, recording two penalty minutes.
"J.R. is J.R. … the NHL would be boring without J.R.," Chelios said. "Nothing to it. I know you guys are trying to make something, but it's nothing. What are you going to do?
"I'm very happy here in Detroit … I always have been. J.R. says stuff. He called me and said he's sorry. You always say stuff that you don't realize. It got blown up to this, but it's really nothing."
Chelios was asked to describe his relationship with Babcock, who became Detroit's coach in 2005. The Wings have not won fewer than 50 games in a season since Babcock's arrival and are gunning for their second straight Stanley Cup championship.
"It's all business … I've never had a problem with him in the four years we've been here," Chelios said. "It's been a great relationship here. No complaints."
Same goes for Babcock, who has been able to rely on Chelios to help bring along Detroit's younger defenseman such as Jonathan Ericsson
, who found himself paired with Nicklas Lidstrom
for the majority of the second round against the Anaheim Ducks
due to an injury to Brian Rafalski
"Cheli's a hockey player who has won a Norris Trophy, who is a Stanley Cup champion, who puts his teammates first, who has carried the trophy, who has led for the U.S., who is a great teammate, who helps our young players," Babcock gushed. "That's not what this is about, though."
Contact Brian Compton at: firstname.lastname@example.org.