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Camp opens for eager Wings

by Bill Roose / Detroit Red Wings
Defenseman Jakub Kindl made an impression with the coaches on the first day of pro camp in Traverse City.
– The first day of training camp is in the books.

The Red Wings wrapped-up the first day with a scrimmage that resulted in a 3-1 win for the White team Friday afternoon at Centre ICE Arena.

Coach Mike Babcock was happy with what he saw, especially from some of the younger players, like defenseman Jakub Kindl.

“Offensively, he wants the puck,” Babcock said. “Not too many guys at 19-years-old want the puck when they come to pro camp. He wants the puck and he made a great stretch pass today to (Jiri) Hudler to send him in. He has that vision. Now he has to work on getting stronger and solid defensively. When you’re an offensive guy on our team, you’re competing with (Brian) Rafalski, (Nicklas) Lidstrom and (Niklas) Kronwall.”

Kindl, the Red Wings’ first-round draft pick in 2005, split last season between Kitchner in the Ontario Hockey League and the Grand Rapids Griffins, the Wings’ American Hockey League affiliate. The offensive-minded defenseman played 54 games for the Rangers, scoring 11 goals with 44 assists. He played in seven AHL playoff games with two assists.

Kindl, who turned 20 in February, was partnered with Rafalski on the Red team on Friday.

Rafalski was a free agent acquisition by the Red Wings in July. Yet, while he fills a roster spots
Rafalski: The Red Wings' newest defenseman
created by the departure of Mathieu Schneider, Babcock sees Rafalski quite differently.

“I don’t think he has to worry about replacing anyone,” Babcock said. “He’s won three Cups and he was with a great organization in New Jersey with Lou Lamoriello running the show. Yet he’s a guy who wanted to play for the Red Wings. He’s a really good puck mover, he’s real intelligent and plays very good defensively.”

In seven NHL seasons – all with the Devils – Rafalski has compiled 44 goals with 267 assists in 541games. And while he’s only played a handful of pro games at Joe Louis Arena, Rafalski is certainly no stranger to Detroit.

A former resident of Dearborn, a western suburb of Detroit, he graduated from Southfield Christian High School.

“There’s obviously a lot of tradition and winning is of the utmost importance,” Rafalski said. “It’s the same way where I came from in New Jersey, so it’s a pretty easy transition that way. You can’t win it all on this first day, but it’s building up toward the first preseason game and we’ll go from there.”

With New Jersey and now Detroit, Rafalski has had the privilege to play besides four future hall-of-famers – Scott Stevens and Scott Niedermayer with the Devils,and Lidstrom and Chris Chelios now with the Wings. Stevens is among the field of four formers players – along with Mark Messier, Ron Francis and Al MacInnis – headed to enshrinement during a ceremony scheduled for November 12.

“There’s four hall-of-famers, who are great to play with on defense,” Rafalski said. “You try to learn something from them while you define your game as well.”

Former Wings center and longtime Michigan head coach Red Berenson is in Traverse City as a consultant to Coach Babcock
The first day of training camp also had its share of familiar faces in the building, like legendary hockey icon Gordie Howe, who was at the arena with his son, Mark, and grandson, Travis.
Another Red Wings alum – and current University of Michigan coach Red Berenson -- was on the ice during drills as an advisor to the coaching staff.

“Yes, that was Red. It’s nice to have him here. He’s a guest coach here for a couple of days. It’s nice to have Gordie and Ted and Scotty around. He’s another alumni and obviously a very good hockey man. He’s here to evaluate the coaches.

“I live in Northville and Red lives down the road. We talk quite a bit and I get out to see him quite a bit. Hockey people find hockey people. And if you like to talk about hockey, we have a lot of things in common. I have a lot of respect for him and he’s a good, good man. Being an alumni, being a former captain and being on the wall in our dressing room . . . you can never have too much Gordie, Ted (Lindsay), Scotty (Bowman) and Red around. I know him well enough that if I’m out of line, he’ll tell me.”

The Red Wings will break camp on Tuesday before heading to Minnesota for a game against the Wild on Tuesday night. The Wings will hold a practice at Grand Rapids’ Van Andel Arena on Wednesday before heading back to Detroit.

Detroit will open the 2007-08 regular-season against the defending Stanley Cup champion Anaheim Ducks on October 3 at Joe Louis Arena. For tickets to the season-opener and other home games, click here.
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