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Conklin played well as outsider to rivalry

by Bill Roose / Detroit Red Wings

Manny Legace stops Mike Ricci's third-period penalty shot. The former Red Wings goalie gave up three goals in the second half of Friday's game. (Photo by Getty Images)

DENVERManny Legace and Ty Conklin weren’t the goalies most associated with the rivalry that defined the Red Wings and Colorado Avalanche of 20 years ago.

In fact, one was just a 19-year-old playing junior hockey in Green Bay, Wis., when the rivalry was ignited with Claude Lemieux shoving Kris Draper face-first into the dasher board in front of the Wings’ bench during Game 6 of the 1996 Western Conference finals.

Conklin, who played for the Red Wings in two different stints of his career – 2008-09 and 2011-12 – was honored to be the only player outside of the rivalry era invited to play in Friday’s Stadium Series alumni game in front of 43,319 fans at Coors Field.

“It was neat for sure,” said Conklin, who played the first half of the three-period exhibition. “I grew up watching a lot of these guys so to be in the same locker room with a bunch of them is pretty special for me.”

Conklin surrendered first-period goals to Valeri Kamensky and Joe Sakic in the Red Wings’ 5-2 loss to the Avalanche.

Now the goaltending development coach for the St. Louis Blues, Conklin said it was good to feel nervous again before a game.

“You don’t play regularly anymore and you don’t know what to expect from yourself or from what the game’s gonna bring too,” he said. “It felt like it was a pretty good pace, it felt fast at least.”

Friday was the fourth time Conklin has suited up for an NHL-sanctioned outdoor game. He started three in the NHL – one each with Edmonton (2003), Pittsburgh (2008) and Detroit (2009).

“It feels like it should be mandatory that everybody gets to play in one just because they’re so much fun,” Conklin said. “It’s something that teams look forward to all year. And it breaks up the normalcy of an NHL season and it’s something that’s exciting. It doesn’t matter how many you’ve played in they’re all exciting to come out to 40 thousand people tonight. It was neat.”

PHOTOS
DET-COL Alumni Game

The Wings’ goalie most associated with the Detroit-Colorado rivalry are Mike Vernon and Chris Osgood. Both engaged separate center-ice fights with Avalanche goalie Patrick Roy. But when Vernon and Osgood declined offers to play in Friday’s exhibition, Legace and Conklin were more than glad to accept.

“I was just fortunate that Ozzie didn’t want to play, so it was great that I got to be on the ice with my favorite all-time goaltender Patrick Roy,” said Legace, who played six seasons in Detroit from 1999-2006. “He was my idol since I was a little kid and to get another chance to be on the same ice with him again is just unbelievable. Our whole team is just a bunch of hall of famers so it’s just nice to be around these guys for the whole weekend.”

Roy stopped 20 of 21 shots from the Red Wings, only allowing a first-period goal to Steve Yzerman that tied the game at 1-1.

Legace relieved Conklin midway through the second period with the Red Wings trailing 2-1. But five minutes later, the Avs built a two-goal lead when Milan Hejduk scored.

After Ray Bourque made it 4-1 for the home team, Brendan Shanahan got the Red Wings to within two with a goal off a rebound in front of Avs backup goalie Craig Billington.

Stephane Yelle capped the scoring for the Avs with a late goal.

“It was a great tip by Hejduk beside the net. Even when I was in my 20s I wouldn’t have stopped that one,” Legace said. “I didn’t see the second one (Bourque’s goal), Danny Hinote, who is a great friend of mine, we played together in St. Louis for three years, he was in front of my and we were laughing as I tried to see around him and all of a sudden the puck came floating through. I want that one back, and obviously I want the 2 on 1 back when I made the save and it went right back to him. The puck should have gone the other way but it went off my blocker I guess and shot back to Stephane Yelle there. You want to make the save there just because it’s late in the game and we did a good job to make it 4-2 and that save would have given us a chance with two minutes to go. That one made me really angry.”

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