Named to replace Steve Yzerman as captain of the Red Wings in September, Nick Lidstrom is in his 15th NHL season. The four-time Norris Trophy winner leads all NHL defensemen with 48 points on 10n goals and 38 assists. His next goal will be the 200th of his NHL career, and his 854 career points placed him 12th all-time among defenseman. A first team All-Star in seven of the past eight seasons, Lidstrom leads the NHL with a plus/minus rating of plus-36 and ranks third in the league in average ice time playing 27 minutes and 29 seconds per game.Playing his whole career in Detroit, Lidstrom is the fourth Red Wings player to play 1,000 games for the club, joining Steve Yzerman, Gordie Howe and Alex Delvecchio. With a record of 35-15-6, Detroit trails Nashville by three points in the Central Division. They host Calgary on Sunday before a road trip that has them in Philadelphia, Dallas and Phoenix next week.
Thanks to Nick joining us.
Q. Can you tell us how it's been replacing Steve Yzerman as captain of the Wings this year now that two-thirds of the season is gone and maybe the added pressure and how you go about being the captain and what you say and what you don't say from a day-to-day basis.
Lidstrom: Well, it's been real enjoyable being the captain, especially after such a great player as Steve Yzerman. It hasn't been that tough of a transition for me. I was an assistant captain for seven or eight years, and I've been watching Stevie up close for the past 15 years. So I think it's been somewhat of an easy transition for me. I think more of the work has been the communication with the coaches, more of the link between the players and the coaching staff. Also different areas, our scheduling, our system, or the way we're playing. So it's been a lot more talks with the coaches. I think it helps being on the Red Wings with a bunch of veteran players like Chris Chelios, (Robert) Lang, (Mathieu) Schneider, guys that have been captains on other teams. If you're a first-year captain on a young team I think it's a little bit tougher. But I've got a lot of help from the veteran players on my team, so it hasn't been that big of a transition for me.I think I've been more vocal in the room than I've been in the past maybe trying to help out and especially the younger guys, help them out and be a little bit more vocal. Otherwise it hasn't been that big of a transition for me.
Q. There's been a lot of talk that maybe your team is interested in a Swedish colleague of yours, Peter Forsberg. I'm wondering how close you guys are and what kind of fit you think that might be?
Lidstrom: Peter and I aren't really close. I'm a few years older than he is, and we only played together on the national teams. So we haven't really played together in the Swedish League before I turned pro. I think adding a player of Peter's caliber would help any team.I think a lot teams are looking at him if he wants to move, and I think we're one of the teams if we can get him it would be huge for our team. Like I said, he's a world-class player.
Q. You have had control of the Central Division for a few years. Nashville is in front now. Looking at the schedule, you've got Nashville once at the end the month and four times in March. Is that a make-or-break situation for you guys? How much are you looking forward taking on Nashville head-to-head?
Lidstrom: I think the games coming up against Nashville are the key to winning the division. I think they're playing really well and have been all year. As a team, they've been getting better all year. We played them in the playoffs before the lockout, and they're a good team with a lot of speed and they've just gotten better and better. I think it's going to be a race down to the last few games, but those games especially will be key to gain some points on them.
Q. Plus-36 is just a most recent example. You read games so well at the back end. Does that come naturally to you, or were you taught that? Can you teach that? For a young defenseman out there, what do you tell them about reading the game?
Lidstrom: I think some of it comes naturally; some it of comes from experience, too, I think, from playing a lot of years in the league. I think one of the key things to reading the game is playing your position right, and that's something that Dave Lewis taught me my first year with the Wings. He was the assistant coach and he was running the defense. He told me, if you play your position well that's going to help you a lot. You don't have to scramble as much or be a step behind.It's something that I really listened to and I think took in at an early age. I think that's been one of the keys I've been focusing on my whole career. Especially with the new rules changes where you can't use your stick as much as you were allowed to before. If you're a step behind you have to skate to catch them again, so I think playing my position has been key to part of my success.
Q. Did the new rules help your game even more? It's hard to believe, because you won all the Norris trophies in the old rules?
Lidstrom: You have to play a little bit differently as a defenseman. You were taught at a young age in the NHL before to use your stick to your advantage. And especially guys trying to go around you, you could do that. Nowadays you have to be skating. If you're not skating with a guy, you are going to get beaten. It's been a transition for me, too. Even though I'm trying to be in the right spot and play my position, it's been somewhat of a transition to get used to the new rule changes.
Q. Dominik Hasek, how good is he now versus the first go-around with the Wings?
Lidstrom: I think he's just as good as when we saw him back in '01-02. I think everybody knows he's really competitive. That comes out in practice and every day working at the rink. And I can see that he's still got that fire within him that he wants to win. He looks just as good as he did back then.
Q. I wonder about his hunger level. You say it's as good as ever?
Lidstrom: Yeah. You can still see the fire within him. He still hates to let goals in even in practice. It's great to see that competitiveness in practice.
Q. Detroit has allowed the fewest shots against them per game in the NHL this season. What's the team's ability to win at the number of shots teams are taking?
Lidstrom: I think it comes down to our system. We have forwards that back-check real hard. They come back and help the defense out and try to push the players to the outside. We try to have five players back in the middle all the time, so we try pushing the puck-carrier out against the boards on the outside, and that takes away a lot of shots. I think when you have that pressure from the back end, it's tough for the teams to get some good shots and get some good scoring chances. I think the system that we're playing is a big part of that.
Q. You're one of two teams in the Western Conference in the Eastern Time Zone. What are your thoughts on the NHL's current schedule of playing division teams eight times each and possible revision to that in years to come?
Lidstrom: I'd like to see us play each team twice, at home and on the road. If they can find a format that works into that, I'd like it. One example, we played Toronto in our division for a lot of years and had some great rivalries. We're missing that to play against those teams. So I'd like to get a chance to play everyone twice. Even for the fans, too. They don't get a chance to watch some of the great players in the league because of the schedule that we have.
Q. Chris Chelios, who's still playing at 45. You're 36. How many more years do you see yourself playing?
Lidstrom: I've got one more year after this and we'll see how I feel. It's just an inspiration to us all seeing Cheli out there seeing how hard he works in practice.We have a day off today. I'm sure he was down at the rink riding the bike today. It's a great inspiration to us all, but we'll see if I can play that long. I doubt it. But Cheli is a really special person.
Q. I seem to remember, and maybe I'm dreaming this up, but there was a time a few years back that you were publicly contemplating going back to Sweden for family reasons. I'm just wondering what happened to change at the time and if you're happy to come back here?
Lidstrom: Yeah. That was back in '99. Our oldest boy was just about to start school. We were debating if we were going to move back and have him start school in Sweden or do it here.We were talking to some friends in Sweden that used to live here in Detroit. They moved back to Sweden, and they had kids older than ours. After talking with them and having them explain that their kids didn't have any problems getting used to things in Sweden, we decided to stay here. We're happy with the decision that we made.
Q. And do you head back to Sweden in the off-season then?
Lidstrom:Lidstrom: Yeah. We go back to Sweden every summer.
Q. People are very familiar with you and Mathieu Schneider, Chris Chelios, Danny Markov. But three of the younger defensemen have been really important to the team this year: Nick Kronwall, Andreas Lilja, Brett Lebda. Can you talk about their contributions and how they're keeping Detroit competitive?
Lidstrom: I think they add a lot to the Detroit team, and they add little different style, all three of them. Lilja is a great defensive defenseman. He's out there blocking a lot of shots. He's key to us in defensive situation. Lebda is just getting better and better. He's a really strong skater, and he's been carrying the puck up the ice for us a lot and rushing the puck. That's something that we need. He adds that to our team.Kronwall I think is a really good overall player. Strong skating, good hitter, and I think he's just going to get better and better. Those three have helped us in the back end adding speed.