|Friday's Game 5 in Nashville will be playoff game No. 263 for Red Wings defenseman Nicklas Lidstrom. (Photo by Getty Images) |
With the Red Wings staring down the barrel of an elimination game Friday in Nashville, captain Nicklas Lidstrom
was asked following Thursday’s practice if he’s begun to contemplate the inevitable.
Whether the legendary defenseman – who is assured a place in Hockey’s Hall of Fame – ultimately decides to retire after this season or comes back for a 21st NHL season that decision is far off.
“I don't think like that,” said Lidstrom when asked if these are his final games. “I think I’ve learned from other years I try to push that aside and try to play a real solid game, great game and come out with a win.”
Nine days away from turning 42-years-old, Lidstrom is also four games shy of catching former defensive partner Chris Chelios for the most all-time playoff games played in NHL history. Lidstrom has collected 54 goals and 129 assists in 262 playoff games.
In that time, he’s only missed two playoff games, both during the 2009 Western Conference finals after Chicago’s Patrick Sharp accidentally speared him, causing a groin injury that required surgery and forced Lidstrom to miss the final two games of the series.
In February a deep ankle bruise forced him to miss 11 games, which has brought into question the defenseman’s durability, if not his desire to return after this season, which he quickly dismissed.
“It won't be a factor. My health is good,” Lidstrom said. “That's something I'll look back at once the season is over. Once the summer comes, you start thinking about the future. That comes into your thought process again.”
Lidstrom leads all Wings’ skaters with 24:02 of ice-time in the playoffs, despite being the team’s only defensemen not to log anytime on the penalty kill. But that’s purposely done to prevent further injury if he were to block a shot with his right ankle.
Mike Babcock has heard the same stories tying the lingering injury to Lidstrom’s future, but the Wings’ coach isn’t interested in worry about that right now.
“The way I look at it is we have to win a game, so that’s our approach,” Babcock said. “I haven’t thought much about Nick. When Nick decides to retire I’m sure it will be his wife and then his kids, then I think the community, I don’t know, then after that I’ll hear it on the news somewhere. Who knows. I’d be shock if he retires, but I’ve been shocked before.”
Lidstrom’s teammates haven’t given much consideration to life without Lidstrom, either.
“It's crossed my mind,” admitted goalie Jimmy Howard
. “You try not to think about it. It's been quite an honor to play with Nick and I hope he comes back.”Follow Bill Roose on Twitter | @Bill_Roose