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Notebook: Wings set for old-time hockey

by Dave Burke / Detroit Red Wings
DETROIT – The Red Wings begin a rare home and home series against one of their Original Six rivals this weekend, traveling to Boston to take on the Bruins Friday night before heading back home for a Sunday matinee against the Bruins.

This is a rarity for the Wings since they are one of only two Original Six teams in the Western Conference. In fact, the last time Detroit played a home and home series against an Original Six foe other than Chicago, it was in January 2004 when the Bruins took both. Mired in a midseason slump, the Wings, losers of three of the last four games, can ill-afford to have history repeat itself.

However, the time when six teams made up the NHL, fans were more accustom to seeing rival players invade the home team’s barn more frequently. And it’s that old excitement that doesn’t escape some of today’s players.

“Absolutely, I think the players and the fans would love it,” said Kris Draper, when asked about Original Six rivalries. “The tradition with the Original Six is just awesome. I think it should be an automatic on the schedule, especially with more of them in the East.”

Wings center Mike Modano agreed. “Yeah, like the old days. My dad’s from Boston and we would catch a game out there and then make it home for the Wings, back in the 70s and early 80s. It’s cool for the young guys who haven’t been apart of that before.”

Back when it was only the Original Six playing, the teams traveled by train, and many times together. As tough as the league and players were back then it is hard to believe that adversaries acted civilly toward each other when on the same train. It’s also tough to imagine the present day Bruins and Montreal Canadians getting onto the train together after a 14 goal, 187 penalty-minute filled game this week.

It is an intriguing thought though.

TOUGH TIMES: The Wings are in a bit of a midseason funk. After losing to Central Division rival Nashville on Wednesday, the Wings are 2-3 and been outscored 17-11 since the All-Star break.

The players and coaches know that the pace needs to be picked up and attempted to start doing so with a spirited practice Thursday afternoon at Joe Louis Arena. 

“We earned the right to skate for a long, long time,” coach Mike Babcock said. “We had a good little brisk skate today; we only went for 30-minutes. The reason we did that is because we play (Friday), then play two days later and the wins are what it’s about. I think everyone got the message.”

When asked if this was as frustrated as he’d ever been since coming to Detroit, Babcock said that he didn’t think so.

“No, frustrated is a waste of energy, I’m disappointed,” said Babcock, who saw the Wings survive a 4-8-2 stretch in February 2008. “I think they’re way different. Were a better team than this and I’d like to think were a better coaching staff than this to have our team play like this.”  

Nicklas Lidstrom said that Thursday’s practice was a return to basics.

“Not happy about losing and coaches aren’t either,” he said. “Got a good workout in today with a lot of skating.  Today we did more skating and driving to the net, rebounding and just getting pucks to the net.”

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