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Notes: Past and present Wings ready to celebrate Little Caesars Arena

Current players and alumni will walk the red carpet before the first regular season game against the Wild

by Dana Wakiji @Dwakiji /

DETROIT - There have been concerts and preseason hockey and basketball games here but now it is time for the Red Wings' regular season to kick off at Little Caesars Arena.

"I think we'll all be excited," Wings coach Jeff Blashill said. "The one message I always have to guys when you play in events like this, and this is more than just a game, you got to focus on what your job is 100 percent, but let's enjoy the moment as well. For me, life's about moments, let's make sure we enjoy it and then focus on our job."

The players were all happy they had a chance to get acclimated to the new building during the preseason.

"We've been here two weeks basically after Traverse City," captain Henrik Zetterberg said. "You get more and more used to it. I think first couple mornings you're probably halfway to the Joe before you turned. But now it's our home and it's beautiful."

When the Wings were designing Little Caesars Arena, they tried to take the best from all the different venues they visited, including Montreal's Bell Centre, known for the fans being more on top of the ice.

"It's going to be amazing," Riley Sheahan said. "I think they did a good job engineering the building in terms of putting the fans right on top of the ice, giving them a good experience. I know we're going to have a full crowd tonight. It's going to be fun to get things started."

Dylan Larkin grew up in metro Detroit and has been looking forward to this night as he watched the building take shape the last couple of years.

"You want to win in your home opener," Larkin said. "The biggest thing is just playing well, playing hard, competing. It's a long season. We're playing against a really good team tonight. These guys, they're Stanley Cup contenders, it's a great test for us. We just got to play hard. It's a long season, we're going to win games but we want to win for our fans tonight. We want to ride this energy that we have in this building. You think about it, it's 82 games, not every game is going to go in your favor. We got to come out and make sure we do what we got to do, play hard."

ALUMNI IN TOWN: Part of the opening night festivities includes the red carpet walk with current players and alumni.

A couple of those alumni, former captain Nick Lidstrom and Tomas Holmstrom, were at the morning skate to take a look around.

"I saw them just before we went out for the morning skate," Zetterberg said. "Those two definitely deserved this arena, I think, even though they enjoyed themselves at the Joe., too. But it's good to see them here and I'm looking forward to spending some time with them."

Detroit native David Booth never played with them but has played against them.

"I did talk to them," Booth said. "Seeing those greats, it's just cool that they're coming back here, showing their support. They're part of so many good years here in Detroit. Those guys are well-respected around here, icons around here. Very cool seeing them."

Zetterberg was asked whether he had tried to coax them out of retirement.

"Nick looks in good shape," Zetterberg said. "So that's the probably the one that we would go after."

KRONWALL OUT: Defenseman Niklas Kronwall participated fully in the morning skate, including on the power play, but is not ready to play in the opener.

Kronwall is dealing with a sore groin that limited him to just one preseason game a week ago against the Chicago Blackhawks.

Blashill said that Xavier Ouellet would draw into the lineup but did not say whether he would take Kronwall's spot alongside Mike Green.

Of course, with Lidstrom in town for the opening night ceremonies, reporters had to ask if Blashill had inquired about his availability.

"I know he can still play," Blashill said. "When I watched him in Colorado in the alumni game I thought he could be one of the top five defensemen in the league still. He looks great."

WILD IN TOWN: The Minnesota Wild are in town as the inaugural opponent for the first regular season game.

"I'd compare their lineup to that Nashville lineup that went to the Finals in the sense that in the league, some teams are really heavy at forward, some teams are really heavy on D, they've got a good balance of real good forwards and real good D," Blashill said. "They might not have the flash of elite forwards but they've got a real good, strong forward group, similar to what Nashville was. Then on the D side, they're one of the better D corps in the league.

"Then obviously (Devan) Dubnyk's had an excellent run there. So they play fast, they scored lots of goals last year. The two games that we played them I thought were good games. The game in there, we just totally lost the specialty teams battle but I actually thought we played a good game. The game in here we played good so it'll be a good challenge but it'll be a good first test for us."

Dubnyk will be looking for his 100th career victory as a member of the Wild and 170th overall.

Detroit goaltender Jimmy Howard is seeking his 200th career victory.

SHEAHAN TURNS PAGE: Sheahan knows there is an elephant in the room - a big old, smelly thing that reads two goals, 11 assists, 13 total points and a minus-29.

It's Sheahan's statistics from the 80 games he played last season for the Wings. It's a number so confounding, most observers are willing to give the 6-foot-3, 214-pound Sheahan a mulligan on his worst season as a pro.   

"I don't know what happened," Sheahan said. "I can't put a finger on it, I've tried to just sort of push through, gut through and luckily, I had a few goals there the last game (at Joe Louis Arena). I just kind of build off that and put everything behind me and move on."

But is it that easy to put last season behind him?

"Yes and no," he said. "It's something you dwell on a bit, but it's a whole new year, a fresh start, that's what I keep convincing myself, so I'm just excited to get out here tonight, kind of start fresh and prove I can get back on track."

Until last season, Sheahan was considered a legitimate third line center who would contribute double digits in goals and assists.    

He modified his training a bit this offseason and he is hoping his work will pay off.

"I tried to slim down a bit and lose some weight, get a little faster," Sheahan said. "Everyone is so fast in today's game, I felt like I was carrying around a little too much weight last year. I worked on the same things, worked on my hands, worked on my speed and that sort of stuff and not get too worked up about it."

Sheahan is on a line with Booth and Luke Glendening. He is also on Detroit's second power play unit, using his big frame in front of the net.

"We're going to be great," Sheahan said about his line. "They both work really, really hard. Boother brings a lot of skill out there and can make plays and Glennie obviously is tenacious he's hard to play against he gets in on the forecheck, we can complement each other."

As much as he believes in his line, he is well aware that the success of the Wings' power play will determine how Detroit fares in the competitive Eastern Conference.

"For sure it's going to be huge, especially with the new rules and all that, power plays are going to be huge," Sheahan said. "We've been doing a lot of work on it, we've got the skill to put pucks in the net, we've just got to do it in the game."

FRK CAN BREAK GLASS: If there was a common theme which emerged from Detroit's preseason, it was that Martin Frk has one of the hardest shots in all of hockey.

Teammates are more than willing to give him a lane when he is shooting during practice and the Wings goalies would rather not have to face his booming cannon.

When Frk was told many believe he'll be the first player to break the glass at Little Caesars Arena, he was amused.

"Actually, this summer I broke two of them in one week," Frk said. "It was fun, it was special, but I put the people that take care of rink to work to change it."

Frk's errant shots which broke the glass were during the summer when he was training back home in the Czech Republic.

He really does enjoy seeing his shots demolish a piece of glass, but there is a drawback.

"You don't want to hit the boards because that means you're missing the net," Frk reasoned. "I want to make sure I hit the net, too. If it does (break the glass), it feels good for sure."

He thinks the quality of the glass at Little Caesars Arena will withstand the force of his shot.

"I'll bet those glasses are pretty good, they are very strong," Frk said. "Hopefully we won't have to deal with that, but it is fun (to shatter glass)." Frk turns 24 today.   

LINES AND DEFENSE PAIRS: Here are the Wings' lines from the morning skate:

Tomas Tatar-Zetterberg-Gustav Nyquist

Anthony Mantha-Larkin-Frk

Justin Abdelkader-Frans Nielsen-Darren Helm


On defense, Danny DeKeyser is with Trevor Daley. But with Kronwall out, Blashill could elect to put Jonathan Ericsson, Ouellet or Nick Jensen with Green.

Ericsson has been paired with Jensen in practice.

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