|Jiri Hudler receives the Carhartt Hardest Working Player of the Month for February. (Photo by Dave Reginek) |
– The rocky start to Jiri Hudler
’s season now seems like a distant memory as the Red Wings forward is set to receive Carhartt’s Hardest Working Player of the Month award. Hudler will accept the trophy before the Wings host the Los Angeles Kings Wednesday night, marking the first time Hudler has received the award in its three-year history.
After spending the 2009-10 season playing for the KHL’s Moscow Dynamo — where he averaged a point a game — Hudler had trouble getting it going at the beginning of his first season back on NHL ice. Through his first 30 games, Hudler managed only six points and posted a minus-8 rating.
But as of Dec. 27, Hudler has dramatically turned his game around, tallying 26 points and a plus-7 rating in a span of 31 games. In February, Hudler’s award-winning month, he pulled off a six-game point streak as well as a clutch shootout-clinching goal against Buffalo.
Obviously, Hudler’s turnaround is warmly welcomed in the Detroit locker room, and it raises the question of what exactly was going on in those first couple months of the season. Fellow Wings forward Justin Abdelkader
pinpoints Hudler’s time in the KHL as an underlying factor.
“Just the adjustment of coming over from the KHL last year,” Abdelkader said. “It’s just an adjustment coming over here and playing on the NHL ice, coming from the Olympic-sized ice. It’s tough when you come back and it’s totally different styles of play.”
The Carhartt award truly gets at the heart of Hudler’s remarkable one-eighty.
“I think for him it’s just about working really hard and he’s been training really hard off the ice,” Abdelkader said. ROYAL TREATMENT:
Detroit looks to correct some recent breakdowns as they prepare to host the Kings Wednesday night.
The Wings are coming off a less-than-stellar five-game road trip in which they went 2-1-2, notably blowing a three-goal lead during the third period in a shoot-out loss to the Coyotes.
According to coach Mike Babcock, Detroit needs to play smarter to avoid further late-game collapses.
“Anytime we’re turning over pucks or getting cute or dreaming things up that aren’t there, it ends up hurting us,” he said. “The last couple games on the road we were like that and we’re like that too much at home. The harder you play in the offensive zone, the more time you spend there, the more skill plays you get to make as the game goes on. You have to take what’s given.”
The Wings played Los Angeles just nine days ago. Detroit dominated early, going up 7-1, but lost steam in the third and ceded three quick goals. That third-period breakdown is still fresh in Babcock’s memory.
“We’re playing a grind-cycle team today,” he said after Wednesday’s morning skate. “If we want to spend time turning over pucks in our zone, it’s going to be a long night for us.”WINGS NOTES:
Babcock is on the brink of breaking into an ultra-exclusive coaching club. He is only four victories shy of winning 300 games within a six-year span. Only two coaches before him — Scotty Bowman (321) with Montreal and Glenn Sather (307) with Edmonton — have reached that milestone. With 16 games remaining in the season, it seems very likely that Babcock will join their esteemed ranks by season’s end. …
Chris Osgood, who participated in a majority of Wednesday’s morning skate, is eyeing a return. Ozzie has been out since he had surgery for a sports hernia on Jan. 11. The veteran goalie said he hopes to be back in the crease as soon as this Saturday in St. Louis, but there is still no definite return date.