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Lidstrom to reach milestone in Game 5

by Lindsey Ungar / Detroit Red Wings
Lidstrom will set a Red Wings' record for most career playoff games on Friday, passing longtime captain Steve Yzerman.
DETROIT -- In recent history, Scott Stevens got it for defining playoff series with bone-crunching, sometimes concussion-inducing open ice hits. Al MacInnis got it for causing players to duck when he ripped his deadly slapshot. Chris Pronger got it for drawing suspensions for his hated, but you-wish-he-was-on-your-team antics.

But Nicklas Lidstrom doesn’t get the media attention. He’s doesn’t flock to the cameras. He just performs year after year, season after season. And arguably better than anyone in the National Hockey League.

When Lidstrom skates out on to the ice for Game 5 of the Red Wings’ Western Conference quarterfinals series against Nashville, he will break Steve Yzerman’s franchise record for most playoff games (196) played. In four more games, Lidstrom will break Hall of Famer Jari Kurri’s record for most playoff games played (200) by a European-born player.

Just a few records to break, and likely to shatter in years to come.

And somehow, he’s still flying underneath the radar. During Wednesday’s Game 4, CBC color commentator Harry Neale remarked, “The only thing flashy about Nick Lidstrom is his trophy case.”

“Well, personality-wise, he’s a quiet guy,” goalie Chris Osgood said of the Red Wings’ captain. “But that’s the way he’s always been. That doesn’t take away from the type of player he is.

“Definitely, underappreciated, but starting to get appreciated now because of all his accomplishments. But he’s the type of player, when he’s not on your team, your team is not nearly as good.”

Niklas Kronwall, in his third season on the blueline with Detroit and a fellow Swede, said as a teenager he started following Lidstrom’s career. Now, he sits in the Wings’ locker room, just two stalls away, from a guy he grew-up idolizing.

“When I got drafted for the Red Wings, that was one of the first things (I thought of),” Kronwall said, “maybe I’ll get a chance to play with him. Same thing with Yzerman. These are guys I collected hockey cards when I was a kid, played with them on video games, and all of a sudden you’re here at camp and standing next to them on the ice.”

Even now, when Kronwall plays on the same ice nightly with Lidstrom, he’s still amazed. And he’s still learning, shift-by-shift, by watching the future Hall of Famer.

“He’s always in the right spot,” Kronwall said. “He doesn’t always have to run after guys or make big hits, he’s just always there in the right position to make the right play. And he keeps it simple. That’s the big key. And that’s something I need to keep working on. Whenever there’s a play, he makes a play. If it’s not there, he’ll make the easy pass. That’s something I can do a whole lot better job of here in the future.”

Lidstrom’s legend began in 1991-92, when he joined the Wings and was runner-up to Pavel Bure for the Calder Trophy, awarded to the best NHL rookie. Along the way, he’s added individual accolades including a gold medal with Sweden, a Conn Smythe Trophy, 10 All-Star games, and five of the last six Norris Trophies awarded.

Then add in the team achievements: three Stanley Cups, eight regular-season Western Conference titles, and six Presidents’ Trophies for the best record in the NHL.

Yzerman reinvigorated Hockeytown, but Lidstrom has kept the Red Wings at the top since.

“Obviously, he’s the cornerstone of our team,” Osgood said. “He’s been our most valuable player for years and years and years now.”

Lidstrom turns 38 in a couple of weeks, but shows few signs of tiring. And teammate Chris Chelios is 46, remember? Chelios just happens to be the all-time league leader for playoff games played (250).

When it’s all said and done, will Lidstrom rank up there with Bobby Orr? Doug Harvey?

“Because of his awards, trophies, the things he’s done … you pretty much have to put him up there,” Osgood said. “Different era, but same type of an effect on the team.”
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