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Holland, Lidstrom receive keys to Traverse City

by Christy Hammond / Detroit Red Wings
TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. – The Red Team easily defeated the White Team, 3-0, in the Red Wings' annual Red and White Game to close out the three-day training camp at Center I.C.E. Arena. The shot totals were also in favor of the Red squad, 21-15.

Tomas Tatar, Jakub Kindl and Jan Mursak posted goals for the Red Team on Tuesday evening, including two tallies within 56-seconds of each other. Forward Pavel Datsyuk also had a strong game, assisting on two of the three goals and almost converting on a breakaway opportunity.

Red Wings general manager Ken Holland and captain Nicklas Lidstrom were each given a key to the city in a ceremony before the game. All-in-all, this week’s training camp was deemed a success.

“I think it was fantastic,” Holland said. “We love the facility – you’ve got two ice rinks. (Coach) Mike Babcock can do some coaching and practicing in one rink and then go over to a fresh sheet of ice and start all over again on a fresh sheet of ice. After 11 or 12 years here, you’d think maybe the interest would drop a little, but the building is still full and fans are waiting outside here to get autographs from their favorite Red Wings.”

SCHEDULE FOR EXHIBITION: Babcock has already decided how he’s going to divvy up playing time in the eight preseason contests in North America.

“Our veterans are going to play four games and then we’re going to play a lot of the kids a whole bunch – anyone we think who could be a Red Wing in the future or pushing for jobs,” Babcock said.

EMPHASIS ON DEFENSE AND PK: There was a common thread in the conversations between players, staff, and the media at camp – the Wings’ penalty kill and defense needs to tighten up if the team wants to help offset the loss of offensive productivity.

Lidstrom expects the Wings to play more aggressively on the penalty kill, limiting the opponent’s chances with the man-advantage.

“Our penalty kill wasn’t as good as it needed to be last year, that’s a major emphasis for us,” Babcock said. “We might have had one of the longest meetings we’ve ever had since I’ve been here. We were eight minutes in between (practice sessions) with four on the power play and four on the penalty kill.”

While there haven’t been any videos specifically catered to defense at camp, the Wings understand the importance of minimizing the numbers of goals allowed.

“If we’re not going to score as many goals, we’ve got to have a better defense,” forward Justin Abdelkader said. “I don’t think we’re too worried about the goal scoring, we’re more worried about keeping pucks out of our net.”

Jiri Fischer, the Red WIngs' director of player development, talked about two of Detroit’s 2009 draft picks, Tomas Tatar and Landon Ferraro.

“I’m really happy to see that they fit right in and they seem to have good energy,” Fischer said. “They seem to keep up with the pace of the game so that’s the main thing that we look at.”

For first year players at camp, it’s a chance for the players to train their mental toughness and adjust to the pressures of being a player in the Red Wings’ pipeline.

“There’s a lot of pressure, there’s a lot of media pressure,” Fischer said. “There’s a lot of fans waiting outside. It’s a whole different -- all of a sudden -- world basically that they’ve been introduced to.”

SPECIAL VISITORS: University of Michigan coach Red Berenson lent a hand at training camp for the third straight year after Babcock extended an invitation, saying that he has taken a lot away from this year’s camp.

“Mostly on-ice systems, work ethic, and teaching,” said Berenson, a former Red Wings center. “I learn something every year I come.”

It’s a two-way relationship between the coaches with Berenson offering up advice when asked.

“I’m a person outside the team that he can call from time-to-time,” Berenson said. “We have developed a good personal and professional relationship.”

Former Wings forward Dallas Drake, who now lives in the Traverse City area, attended the first and third day of camp, stopping by to see former teammates. He talked to about what he’s been up to since retiring in 2008.

“Both my kids play winter hockey here so I coach them,” Drake said. “I’m involved with the North American Hockey League team here, the North Stars. Just like to be around the game a little bit.”

Defensive prospect Jakub Kindl spent his summer training with Justin Abdelkader and a couple other guys at Michigan State. He said it was an exciting opportunity to see how the Spartans football players work out and even picked up some tips in the weight room. His hard work and noticeable improvement at camp grabbed Babcock’s attention.

“The guys of that younger group – (Jan) Mursak, (Cory) Emmerton, Kindl – have really taken a step and are starting to look like they might play one day so it’s real positive,” Babcock said.

Kindl signed a three-year extension with Detroit over the summer, hoping to find his way into the Detroit roster next season after he spends this season logging heavy minutes with the Grand Rapids Griffins, and getting the occasional call-up to Detroit when needed.

“You never know what’s going to happen,” Kindl said. “I’m here to battle for a spot in the NHL obviously, but if I don’t make it I’ll get sent down. I’d rather play 25 minutes in a game in Grand Rapids than barely play.”

Kindl finished his camp with a goal in the Red and White game, firing a rocket from the right faceoff circle to beat goalie prospect Tomas McCollum.

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