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Notebook: Youngsters primed for playoffs

by Dave Burke / Detroit Red Wings
DETROIT – On the heels of beginning their 20th consecutive appearance in the Stanley Cup playoffs – a professional sports team record – lots of experience has been banked on the way the Red Wings have made those runs. But some analysts say too much has been made of it, calling into question the average age of the team.

Quietly, a youth movement has been developing with the Red Wings. Young forwards like Darren Helm and Justin Abdelkader have been thrown into bigger roles, not only killing penalties, but contributing offensively. The Defense has also gotten contributions from the likes of Jonathan Ericsson and Jakub Kindl.

“It’s great, these guys have been doing it for a long, long , long time,” a smirking Helm said, making sure veteran forward and locker mate Kris Draper could hear.

Draper was quick to respond with, “A lot of wins bud”.

Helm continued, “They know what it’s all about this time of year, they’ve seen every situation. Guys like Drapes, Homer and Nick, guys who’ve been doing it a long time. It’s good to kind of watch them and lean on them a little bit and how they respond to different situations. They all know that we’ve got a good opportunity here. You can see it by the way they act around the room and on the ice, it’s easier to go out there and not be too nervous.”

Playing the same position as your captain and future hall of famer in Nicklas Lidstrom definitely has its perks for a young player like Kindle, a rookie defenseman.

“Well, for myself, it’s my first full year with the Wings and am really looking forward to play. I just have to stay ready and wait for an opportunity,” said Kindl, who scored his first career goal in January. “This is new for me. I haven’t ever played in an NHL playoff game and I’ve been here the whole year watching these guys closely, the way they practice, workout and how they prepare for the big games. I just need to be ready and help the team win games when called on.”

Being the starting goalie is a pressure packed position to say the least, so whenever Jimmy Howard can get advice from veterans like Chris Osgood, who has won 401 career games and three Stanley Cups, he takes it.

“They’ve been there before so they know what to expect,” Howard said. “You follow in there ways because they know what it takes and you just follow the example that they leave.”

WINDING DOWN: With home-and-home games with Chicago, the Wings are in a unique position this weekend. The Blackhawks are desperate for the points, and the Wings would love to eliminate the defending Cup champions from postseason consideration.

“We want to win them,” Wings coach Mike babcock said. “We’d like to play hard and play well and win and sort out things going into the playoff.”

In the wake of Henrik Zetterberg’s absence, Babcock knows that others will see increased roles and will be given an audition of sorts.

“It’s a good opportunity for other people since Z’s not in the lineup,” Babcock said. “So someone gets an opportunity to play more minutes and see what they do with it. We’re playing against good players and it should be a lot of fun. We had a real good game with them in here last time.”

WINGING IT: With the injuries this season, Babcock hasn’t had the luxury of determining a starting lineup and acknowledged that most decisions are made right before game time.

“To tell you the truth, (goaltending coach) Jimmy Bedard and I have had all these plans all year long and every time we make a plan someone gets hurt and we never execute on the plan,” Babcock said. “So we’ve just decided to let them play the game tonight and then we’ll create a plan.”

Howard will get the start in net tonight. 

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