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Notes: Red Wings embark on annual Fathers and Mentors trip

Ehn looking forward to seeing former Frolunda teammate, Buffalo's Dahlin

by Dana Wakiji @Dwakiji / DetroitRedWings.com

DETROIT -- Not everyone is bringing his dad but everyone is looking forward to the annual Fathers and Mentors trip.

The Red Wings normally take the dads and mentors on a two-game trip, usually involving at least one city that is warmer than Detroit.

This time, they'll get to experience back-to-back afternoon games in Buffalo and Chicago Saturday and Sunday before heading to Nashville for a Tuesday night contest.

"It's unique and it certainly breaks up the monotony and I think the guys really enjoy it and I know the fathers and mentors really enjoy it," Wings coach Jeff Blashill said. "It becomes a great event. I know this is one of the first things my dad asks me every year when it is and I'm sure a lot of these fathers are the same. I think it's great. Anytime you can have Mr. Larkin (Dylan's father, Kevin) on a trip, it just brings life to the whole thing, so I think it's awesome."

Tweet from @DetroitRedWings: Jeff Blashill post-practice: pic.twitter.com/zcSK2E3f8o

This year, Blashill is bringing his brother, Tim, instead of his father, Jim.

"My dad lost the battle with my brother," Blashill said. "My brother's a high school hockey coach in Big Rapids, Michigan. He's not going to make this part of the trip, he's going to join us in Chicago. He'll be at the Chicago game and the Nashville game. So it's great. He generally would be playing this weekend but the way the schedule worked out, he wasn't playing. We decided that was the best route. So he's really looking forward to it and I think it'll be awesome for us to spend time together."

For rookie defenseman Dennis Cholowski, the whole experience will be new to both him and his dad, John.

"I've only ever heard good things from the other guys about it so I'm super excited just to be able to hang out with him and to watch a few games, just really going out to dinner and hanging out and having him watch me play is really special for me," Cholowski said. "He's asking questions all the time and we're kind of just going to go with the flow and have fun."

Rookie forward Christoffer Ehn's dad, Lars, won't be able to make the trip but he has been in town and got to hang out with some of the dads at Thursday's home game against Vegas.

"It's always fun to see him. It's been a while," Ehn said. "The game last night was the first he saw since opening night. He was pumped. Unfortunately, we lost but it was fun to have him here.

"I know he talked to some of the Swedish dads yesterday, like de la Rose's father. I think they met each other before at the world juniors. It's fun for him."

Jacob de la Rose's father, Anders, flew in from Sweden for the occasion as he never had the opportunity when his son was with the Montreal Canadiens.

"For sure he's excited," de la Rose said. "First time he gets to see how it is for me over here and get to experience that, so I think he's super-pumped to go on the trip."

For defenseman Jonathan Ericsson and his dad, Sven, this trip is old hat. His dad didn't even remember how many of these trips he's gone on but Ericsson said it has to be eight or nine.

"I remember after the first one he was at, he landed back in Sweden and before he ever got home, he called me and he's like, 'Just so you know, I'm available for next year,'" Ericsson said. " A little bit sad to him that Goran, Zetterberg's dad is not around. They'd gotten pretty close but obviously there's a lot of the other dads that have been out there a lot, like Howie's (Jimmy Howard's) and DK's (Danny DeKeyser's). There's a bunch of players that he's seen a lot. And they always get along so well. They do some things together when were sleeping or taking a nap between games, whatever. I'm not afraid that he's going be bored at all."

Jonathan Bernier's father, Alain, is excited to meet a new group of dads. He's been on similar trips when Bernier was on other teams.

"They have a blast, just seeing the routine we go through every day and seeing how hard it is to prepare yourself for each and every game," Bernier said. "The fun part about going on the plane, having great meals, nice hotels, that's the perks, but I think it's good for them to see the other side. They deserve it with all the hard work they put in when we were young, bringing us to the rink in the morning and things like that. It's a nice reward for them."

Bernier said his dad's English is not great so he'll be spending a lot of time with fellow Quebec resident Daniel Pronovost, Anthony Mantha's father.

Many of the dads will be rooming with their sons but not Bernier's.

"No, I got him his own room," Bernier said. "He snores a lot."

Perhaps in time, rookies like Cholowski can learn from Bernier. Cholowski will be in the same room as his dad.

Tweet from @DetroitRedWings: "Just going out to dinner, hanging out and having him watch me play is really special for me."Cholowski on his dad coming along for the Fathers/ Mentors trip: pic.twitter.com/O1tCKpMNks

"While I'm taking a nap, he'll be rustling around, making a lot of noise," Cholowski said, laughing. "He always does that."

Cholowski and the other Wings will need their rest because while it is a fun trip, it's also about business and playing to win games.

"We gotta focus," Niklas Kronwall said. "That's the main thing here. We have to keep our focus on what we need to do on the ice. And hopefully, you add a little bit of pressure from the dads' presence. You want to try to make them proud by playing hard each and every time. It's going to be fun. We'll see what the results say. Maybe there's a mothers' trip next year. You never know."

Tweet from @DetroitRedWings: Niklas Kronwall talks the Fathers/ Mentors trip and looks ahead to this weekend's back-to-back with Buffalo & Chicago. #LGRW pic.twitter.com/EpkS0F1SDt

INJURY UPDATES: Defenseman Trevor Daley fully participated in practice at the Belfor Training Center Friday.

"I've been getting better every day, feeling a little better," Daley said. "Still not where I would like to be but every day there's some progress. I'm just going to listen to my body and when I'm ready, I'll be good to go."

Although Daley will make the trip, Blashill has already ruled him out for Saturday's game in Buffalo.

"I don't see him playing in Chicago," Blashill said. "So we'll see. We'll see if he's ready for the game on Tuesday."

Daley suffered a broken foot blocking a shot in the morning skate on Dec. 31.

Tyler Bertuzzi, who has not played since the team returned from the All-Star break and bye due to an upper-body injury, is also going on the trip.

"I think Bert's headed in the right direction," Blashill said. "When you get to these spots, I don't want to comment on whether guys are ready for games, it's too far in advance so we'll see. I know he won't play on the weekend. I don't think he'll play on the trip but we'll take it day by day."

DAHLIN AND THE SABRES: If there's someone on the Wings who's an expert on Buffalo rookie defenseman Rasmus Dahlin, it would be Ehn.

Ehn played with Dahlin on Frolunda of the Swedish League.

"We played together for three years and we grew up kind of on the same street back home," Ehn said. "I've known him since he was a kid so it's so fun to see him doing so well."

The Sabres earned a 3-2 shootout victory over the Wings at Little Caesars Arena on Nov. 24. Dahlin assisted on Buffalo's second goal in that game.

Last year's No. 1 pick in the 2019 NHL Entry Draft, Dahlin is the only rookie among the defense scoring leaders, currently 23rd with 29 points.

"He has been really good," Ehn said. "Especially a lot of people doubted his defense and I think he has showed with his skating and size, just how he moves and the poise he has, that he's able to play the two sides of the puck and it's only going to get better because he's going to get stronger and he's going to get more experience, too. He's a special player."

Kronwall knows a few things about being a rookie offensive defenseman in the NHL and he appreciates Dahlin's talent.

"When we played them I thought he was pretty impressive," Kronwall said. "To have that poise at that age, it's pretty impressive. It'll be exciting to keep watching him. He's had a really good year so far. And I think we're just scratching the surface when it comes to his potential."

Dahlin will get some votes in the Calder Trophy race but one of his fellow Swedes, Vancouver's Elias Pettersson, is the frontrunner.

Pettersson is first among rookies in scoring with 25 goals and 48 points. He is tied with Dahlin for most rookie assists with 23.

Dahlin's 29 points rank second, just ahead of another Swede, Toronto's Andreas Johnsson, who has 27 points.

"That's crazy," Ericsson said of Pettersson. "Guy is like 170 pounds and he just knows how to stay away from trouble. Unbelievable player. I'm very impressed with him. I just keep being impressed. He doesn't just have one night when he scores a couple of goals. He just keeps doing it. That's been very impressive, I think."

Ehn said he's pleased to see his fellow countrymen succeeding at the highest level of hockey.

"It's so fun to see them doing so well," Ehn said. "It really shows, too, that the Swedish League holds a high quality. This year, there are some guys coming straight in to teams and doing well. Players like Dahlin, it's just good for Swedish hockey, I think in general, to see that it's possible to make that fast transition even though it's a different style of game and everything."

The Sabres are currently fifth in the Atlantic Division with 59 points in 53 games and are 15-7-4 at home.

"Buff is a team that had a real good go for a while," Blashill said. "They're trying to grind their way back into a playoff picture. They got some great talent, especially up front. I've had a chance to coach Jack Eichel, he's a premier talent in the league for sure. (Jeff) Skinner with him, he's been one of the better goal scorers. They got some good, young D. So like every night in this league, I think it'll be a heck of a challenge."

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