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Notebook: Penance Day

by Michael Caples / Detroit Red Wings
DETROIT – Eminem's music was blaring in the Red Wings’ locker room following Thursday’s afternoon practice.

It was a fitting blend of anger and frustration for a team that endured its worst home loss – a 10-3 drubbing by the St. Louis Blues Wednesday at Joe Louis Arena – since 1988.

Players were on the ice well before the noon practice, already preparing for a hard skate, which is exactly what they got.

Practice drills were punishing with plenty of skating up and down the ice. And to top things off, coach Mike Babcock had his team finish by skating lines. The players were noticeably fatigued.

“It’s a concern that we didn’t work harder than we did last night,” captain Nicklas Lidstrom said. “We deserved a hard skate today, the way we played last night. We know we have to have the effort there, you have to play within your system and play your structure, but you have to work hard too, and we didn’t do that last night.”

From a historic perspective, it was only the fifth time in franchise history that an opponent scored 10 or more goals on the Red Wings' home ice. The Toronto Maple Leafs were the very first road team to score 10-plus in Detroit, doing so in an 11-7 decision on March 17, 1946 at Olympia Stadium.

Babcock said that Thursday’s practice was a time for both the coaches and the players to make up for a lackluster performance.

“Work. Compete and work. That’s all it was,” Babcock said. “Penance Day, basically. The coaches and the players, we didn’t do our jobs last night. It’s simple. We flushed last night’s game here today, and we’ll move on with our life.”
Injured goalie Jimmy Howard, forced to watch the loss from the sidelines, said that the Wings are working on improving their defensive zone communication to ensure that they are ready for the Stanley Cup playoffs, which begin in two weeks.

“We need to stop the carousal rides in our own zone,” Howard said. “It seems like teams get wound up and just start circling the bandwagons. We need to just stay in spots, talk it out a little more in the defensive zone, communication will eliminate a lot of guys doubling up on coverages and a lot of things like that.”

Howard said it was frustrating to watch from the sidelines as the Wings gave up 10 goals for the first time since 1993.

“You don’t like to see your teammates go through that whatsoever. It’s tough when you’re watching and you can’t do anything about it, you want to help out the best you can, but we’ve got a veteran team here, and I’m pretty sure that the guys just hit the reset button.”

Defenseman Niklas Kronwall said that his team is aware that the playoffs are only five games away, and that the Wings have a 1-2-2 record over their last five games.

“Basically we have to wake up,” Kronwall said. “The games are winding down; the playoffs are coming around the corner. The way we’re playing right now, we’re not going to win a lot of games. If we keep playing like this, it will be a short run for us in the playoffs.”

DRAPER ON McCARTY/LEMIEUX: When Kris Draper was asked about the upcoming autograph signing at Gibraltar Trade Center North in suburban Mt. Clemens, featuring Darren McCarty and arch-nemesis Claude Lemieux, the Wings’ assistant captain said that he hopes his old teammate is, “Making a lot of money off it”.

In a recent newspaper report, Lemieux said that he is not remorseful for the hit during the 1996 Western Conference finals that left Draper with multiple facial fractures and a concussion. The incident sparked arguably the biggest rivalry in sports during the 1990s.

Draper said he’s pushed beyond the horrid event, which left his jaw wired for more than a month.

“It’s a long time ago, trust me,” he said. “I’ve moved on.”

While Lemieux never offered an apology, he likely won’t anytime soon, which is fine with Draper.
“There’s been no contact between the two of us,” Draper said. “And it’s probably going to stay that way. Do I think about it? No. It happened a long time ago, and that’s the past. It defined that rivalry, I thought the team rallied around it, and it brought upon it back-to-back Stanley Cup years, so I kind of look at it like that.”

LINE-UP CHANGES: Mike Modano was the lone Wings’ player that did not practice on Thursday. Babcock said that the veteran center had the day off, and his participation in Saturday’s game in Nashville will be decided later.

The offensive lines and defensive pairings during Thursday’s practice were:

Datsyuk – Franzen – Holmstrom
Zetterberg – Cleary – Bertuzzi
Filppula – Hudler – Abdelkader
Helm – Miller – Draper – Eaves (rotating)

Lidstrom – Stuart
Kronwall – Ericsson
Rafalski – Salei – Kindl (rotating)

HOWARD RETURNS: Howard, Chris Osgood, and Joey MacDonald all practiced Thursday. Howard, who suffered a shoulder sprain in last Saturday’s win over Toronto, will return for Saturday’s game in Nashville.

“It feels good now,” Howard said. “I felt good out there today in practice, the stiffness is pretty much all gone, and I’m looking forward to getting back out there.”

DATSYUK QUESTIONABLE: Babcock said that the Wings’ medical staff will evaluate Datsyuk again on Friday, and a decision on the center’s status after the morning skate on Saturday.

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