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May's fighting spirit energizes Wings

by Bill Roose / Detroit Red Wings
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DETROIT – Brad May will never be mistaken for a goal-scorer. With only four goals in the last 55 months, the 18-year veteran enforcer has earned a living with his pugilistic skills.

Still that doesn’t diminish the odd occurrence when one of his shots does find the back of the net. So Wednesday, when May’s third-period backhand shot from the right slot sneaked between Dallas goalie Alex Auld’s left skate and the post, the Red Wings’ forward had reason to celebrate.

“It was fun to do that and be involved,” May said. “I just want to contribute that way. I’ve only scored (127) of them in my career. It seems like I’ve scored more, but not lately.”
And not Wednesday, either. That’s because referee Dennis LaRue ruled that the whistle had blown by the time May’s shot crossed the goal line. Had the goal counted, the Wings would have tied the Stars at 2-2. Dallas eventually defeated the Wings, 3-1.
“It was a joke of a call, but what are you going to do?” questioned May. “I get it when it’s not conclusive, when it’s under his pad and you don’t see the puck. You can assume that it’s in the net, but you don’t know and the referee’s call on the ice stands, because it’s inconclusive.

“But this was conclusive; you have video replay and conclusive evidence. It was a shot. I don’t know how quickly it went in from when it left my stick, but (LaRue) wasn’t going to blow the whistle when the puck was about to be shot. I don’t understand it.”

What is clearly understood is May’s importance to the Red Wings since signing a two-way, one-year contract in October.

“He’s done a real nice job of keeping the flies off,” Wings coach Mike Babcock said. “He scored a goal last night, but they didn’t count it. He’s played well for us, he’s played physical.”

Some of May’s physicality was questioned as he rode out the remainder of last season in Toronto. The man who has accumulated more than 2,200 NHL penalty minutes, dropped the glove only twice after the January All-Star break. He said with his 1,000th career game looming on the horizon that he didn’t want jeopardize the milestone.

“My time is finite. I recognize that,” he said. “I got traded in January and had 36 or 37 games to play (to 1,000) and to have to play in 37 of the 39 games left I wasn’t going to jeopardize that by breaking my hand or something.”

He played in his 1,000th game on April 8 against the Buffalo Sabres, the team that made him a first-round draft pick in 1990.

“I never had to play the game with any filters and I think I did a little bit at the tail end of last season because I didn’t want to put myself in any positions,” May said. “I kind of feel that that might have hurt me a little bit at the end of the season. I think people thought, ‘Well, Brad’s not willing to do this anymore.’ That had nothing to do with it; I wanted to play in 1,000 games.”

In 12 games this season, May has engaged in six fights, including Wednesday’s second-period scrap that ended with him one-punching the helmet off of Stars forward Krystofer Barch.

After a good-natured conversation during pregame warm-ups, it was evident to those who witnessed it at Joe Louis Arena that the pair would tangle at some point of the game.

“I don’t know him, but we’ve fought a number of times,” May said. “There’s no question, I know who’s playing. When I say that, I know he’s in the lineup, he knows that I’m in the lineup. We did talk in the warm-up, but it’s happened like that every time.

“I don’t want to say that it’s intimidation, but you have to be ready. Once you put yourself out there like that, you have to be ready yourself, and that’s a motivating factor for a lot of us. … You can’t run your mouth without backing it up.”

While the on-ice fisticuffs does bring fans to their feet, it also pumps up the rest of the team.

“I feel a big boost, like he’s stepping up for the whole team,” Wings defenseman Jonathan Ericsson said. “That’s part of his job and he’s doing it really well.

“Guys are going to end up in fights; it’s going to happen. He’s a veteran fighter and he knows what he is doing out there. And he’s very strong, so I’m not surprised that he’s knocking some helmets off out there. But it’s nice to see.”

Babcock doesn’t mind seeing the 37-year-old doing his thing.

“He doesn’t need to fight that much,” Babcock said, “and yet I don’t mind the entertainment and it looks like he doesn’t either.”

MALTY, OSGOOD RETURN: After Thursday’s practice, Babcock said that goalie Chris Osgood and forward Kirk Maltby will return to the lineup when the Wings host the Florida Panthers Friday night. Both veterans have been out with the flu.

Maltby will replace May on the fourth line.

“May has done a real good job and it has nothing to do with how he’s played,” Babcock said. “It’s just the lineup that (Florida) has and it sets it up that we can roll four lines. We’re playing three games in four nights. It’s important to have four lines rolling out of the gate.”

LILJA UPDATE: Defenseman Andreas Lilja is in Vancouver to meet with Donald Grant, the same chiropractor and professional applied kinesiologist that he met with during the Wings’ trip to British Columbia last month.

Lilja has been sidelined with concussion-like symptoms ever since his fight with Nashville’s Shea Weber last February.
“When he went out there last time he felt great afterward,” Babcock said. “He’s trying to get back to playing.”

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