DETROIT – There was a renewed excitement in the Red Wings dressing room Tuesday morning, the day after the team added two new faces at the trade deadline.
“It’s kind of like opening day of the season,” coach Mike Babcock said. “Everybody thinks they have a shot so it’s the same right now.”
By obtaining defenseman Marek Zidlicky and forward Erik Cole, without losing high-end assets, the Red Wings believe they have as good a chance as anyone at contending for the Stanley Cup this spring.
“We’re excited have both guys. I think both can be prominent players for us,” Babcock said. “It’s going to take them sometime to adjust but I think they’ll be a factor.”
Zidlicky and Cole practiced with their new teammates for the first time Tuesday at Joe Louis Arena. Both could be in the lineup when the Red Wings host the New York Rangers Wednesday night.
“Definitely a good tempo to the practice and the guys told me it was actually a lighter one to come into,” said Cole, who was acquired in Sunday’s trade with the Dallas Stars. “But the system I was playing in Dallas has a lot of similarities just explained a little differently and more attention to detail. I think it’s something I should be comfortable in and good to get here and get my legs going again after not being on the ice for two days.”
Before the team hit the ice, Babcock invited the newest Wings into his office to get acquainted with the veterans and let them know what the team’s expectations are moving forward.
“I sat down with the two of them and I said exactly this, ‘Picture who you are in your mind’s eye and the player you are and just do that. That’s why we acquired you,’” Babcock said. “Then I said, ‘Here’s our structure. Now you have to find a way to do the two together.’ I don’t want them thinking when they get on the ice I want them playing. It’ll show over time. We didn’t get them here to change them. We got them here so they could do what they do and we’ll figure out a way to make it work for them.
“That’s going to be work in progress. I’m excited about the guys. As long as they’re competitive everything will work out fine.”
Once on the ice, Cole was excited to find himself on a line with center Henrik Zetterberg and forward Justin Abdelkader.
“There’s definitely worse places to end up,” Cole said. “Pretty fortunate to have the opportunity and hopefully I can do some good things out there and make the best of it.”
With Cole up on Zetterberg’s line, Gustav Nyquist was moved down to the third line with center Riley Sheahan and Stephen Weiss. Hoping to get Tomas Jurco going offensively, he’s been elevated to the team’s top line with Pavel Datsyuk and Tomas Tatar. The fourth line remained intact with center Joakim Andersson and forwards Drew Miller and Luke Glendening.
Cole has had a decent season, registering 18 goals and 33 points with the Stars. He hopes he can continue to produce with his new team.
“I want to do the things that make me a good player and allow me to open up ice for my teammates and for my linemates, make them better and make our team more successful,” said Cole, 36. “Using my speed and try to be a big body out there, get to the front of the net, get to the traffic areas, get on the forecheck and create loose pucks. Anything I can do, really, but just play hard and try to play an up-and-down game, and get to the net. I’m going to try and do those things and hopefully we’ll find a good fit here for me and we’ll be able to continue the success that the guys have been having.”
Meanwhile, Zidlicky was partnered at practice with Brendan Smith giving the Wings a coveted righty-lefty defensive pairing, behind Jonathan Ericsson and Niklas Kronwall, and Danny DeKeyser and Kyle Quincey.
A decision on Zetterberg (concussion) and Quincey (ankle) will be made after Wednesday's morning skate, Babcock said. The coach also indicated that goalie Jimmy Howard will start against the Rangers.
The 38-year-old Zidlicky was happy to waive his no-trade clause to get to a contending team with such a commitment to excellence as the Red Wings.
“Detroit is big city, big hockey town,” he said. “I played a lot of times here and I really enjoyed the games here. It was pretty tough. Detroit is top of the teams. That’s why I’m here.”
Both new players are expected to get special-teams time on the league’s leading power play. In Tuesday’s practice, Cole, Weiss and Zetterberg played in the middle while Kronwall was on the point and Abdelkader was net front. Zidlicky was on the point on the second unit with Nyquist, Datsyuk and Tatar in the middle and Sheahan at the net front.
Because Cole and Zidlicky are veteran players who have played more than 10 NHL seasons, Babcock isn’t concerned about them assimilating to their new hockey surroundings.
“These are two veteran guys that have done it a lot of times so I’m not too worried about them,” Babcock said. “The number one thing for me is finding out about their family situation and trying to make them as comfortable as we can. We want it going good, get them in with the guys and get a game under their belt.”