When asked by a reporter Tuesday night whether Nick Lidstrom would be healthy enough to play in the Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic 2009, Red Wings coach Mike Babcock answered with a joke.
"We're just going to just sit him out, because you don't change things when you're winning," he said.
When the laughter subsided, Babcock's usually stern demeanor returned, and he paid his Swedish defender one very hefty compliment.
"Obviously, any time you win without Nick it's a big deal," he said. "He's our best player and, I think, he's the best player in the League. But we really felt we got good efforts out of our guys on the back end tonight."
Lidstrom injured his ankle blocking a shot against Nashville on Dec. 26. He was held out of Tuesday's game, and his status for Thursday is uncertain. If it's close, however, Babcock said he expects to have his captain in the lineup.
"You don't miss games like this," Babcock said.-- Brad Holland
CHICAGO -- If the Chicago Blackhawks needed any more motivation to bring their "A" game to Thursday's Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic 2009 (1 p.m. ET, NBC, CBC, RDS, NHL Radio, XM Radio), then Ty Conklin and the Detroit Red Wings gave it to them Tuesday night in the form of a dominant 4-0 victory at Joe Louis Arena.
Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews said it wasn't going to take long for his team to move beyond Tuesday's loss and focus squarely on Thursday's New Year's Day extravaganza.
"In a way, we can be maybe a little bit embarrassed or ashamed we didn't give a better effort than that," Toews said. "We got a little frustrated and we maybe gave up a little bit midway through the game when they started coming at us. All we can do is be hungrier for the next game on Thursday."
The Wings' victory was their third straight against the Hawks this season; the first two games went to a shootout.
At the halfway point of the first period, the Hawks were outshooting the Wings 12-3, but hadn't scored. From then on, though, the Wings put on a clinic, showing the young Blackhawks the sort of domination that produced the Stanley Cup last June.
The final shot total was 39-36 for Detroit, meaning the Wings outshot the Hawks 36-24, and outscored them, 4-0, over the final 2 1/2 periods. The impact of the lesson was not lost on Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville, who saw something from the Wings he would like to see in his own team.
"They're a top team for the right reasons -- they respond in important games," Quenneville said. "And we can learn from that."
It was a test the Blackhawks look forward to taking again.
"I wouldn't say it's a good thing we lost tonight," Toews said.
"We're ticked off, we're not happy about it. I think a game like that against that team, it's a game that's going to bring us right back down to earth, start over in a way, and start rebuilding that momentum. Get back to basics and start building again. It wasn't our best game, but we'll be a lot better on Thursday."
Hawks forward Dustin Byfuglien echoed Toews' thoughts.
"They're a good team over there, but we didn't come ready to play," he said of Tuesday's effort. "We think we're capable of beating these guys and we just have to come ready, be focused right off the hop and set the tone early."
Beyond the pomp and circumstances surrounding Thursday's game, the two points up for grabs are vital. Allowing a Detroit sweep of the home-and-home set would drop the Hawks eight points behind the Wings in the Central Division race -- points that could take weeks to make up.
Having the game played at historic Wrigley Field, and having the eyes of the hockey world squarely focused on them, should give the Blackhawks -- as well as the Red Wings -- all the motivation they need.
"The guys are really going to come out flying," Byfuglien said. "It's always fun to play these guys. They're a good team and we have to bring our best every time we play them."
The importance of that quick-start mentality is shared by Red Wings coach Mike Babcock. He knows the Hawks are going to come out flying, and he expects the same sort of jump from his team.
"We're going to come out with a lot of energy," Babcock said. "You're going to have a lot of fun, you're going to enjoy (Thursday), our families are going to be around, but when the puck is dropped, I mean, when was the last time you got to play outdoors? It's a dream come true. You want to play well and I think it's going to be a heck of a game."
Author: Brad Holland | NHL.com Staff Writer