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Friendly Confines has a family feel

by Lindsey Ungar / Detroit Red Wings
Kris Draper's son, Kiernan, gathers up some pucks at his dad's skates Wednesday afternoon at Wrigley Field. (Photo by Lindsey Ungar)
CHICAGO — Near the end of Wednesday’s practice, a couple extra Red Wings’ players appeared on the ice rink built at Wrigley Field.

One was about three feet tall, sporting a lime green jacket.

Six-year-old Kiernan Draper is not being recruited to fill a spot in the Wings’ lineup heading into Thursday’s Winter Classic. But his dad swung him over his shoulders and onto the ice for the final couple minutes of practice. Kiernan grabbed onto his dad’s Warrior stick, and Kris dragged him around the ice. Eight-year-old Kennedi, dressed head-to-toe in pink cold-weather gear also ran after her father.

All three had big smiles.

“I think for the kids that are here this is a great situation for them, it’s an experience that they’ll never forget,” Red Wings forward Kirk Maltby said. “I think they’ve been very fortunate, very lucky. They get to come down to the Joe, into the dressing room, but this is just a special case where this may never happen again for their dad.”

Maltby didn’t bring his kids, Ella (4) and twins Landen and Leighton (five months) because of the 20-degree Chicago weather.

Chris Chelios’ kids, who are much older and possess more advanced hockey skill, weaved through center ice and fought dad for the puck.

The rest of the Red Wings’ family and friends took the ice for a 45-minute skate later in the afternoon. Broadcasters Ken Kal and Ken Daniels joined in on the action, as well as former coach and current Chicago Blackhawks senior advisor Scotty Bowman.

CLASSIC STYLE: On Wednesday, the ice was lit with pockets of sunshine for both team practices.

Many players sported eye-black to help cut down on glare. But the Hawks players mixed up the traditional football look a bit, sporting their hometown area code in white marker across each black strip.

“If you need a smart aleck idea, you go to (forward Adam) Burish,” rookie Kris Versteeg said, who sported the area code 403 for Lethbridge, Alberta. “He had the area code idea.”

Thursday’s forecast calls for cloudy conditions with changes of late afternoon snow showers.

INJURY UPDATE: Lifelong Cubs’ fan Chris Chelios will dress for Thursday’s game.

“I think Chelios is an important part of our team,” Wings coach Mike Babcock. “We try to make the decisions the best to help us win, and that’s what we’re going to do again tomorrow.”

There hasn’t been a confirmation on whether Nicklas Lidstrom (ankle) will play in the Classic, but didn’t seem to have any problems skating Wednesday.

“The ankle is doing a lot better,” Lidstrom said. “They’ve been fixing my skate a little bit to relieve some of the pressure that was on that point. But it feels a lot better. I’m hoping I can play tomorrow.”

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