DETROIT – Unaware of when he last received a vaccination for mumps, Jimmy Howard planned to give his mother a call Monday afternoon.
“I’m gonna have to get an update here on the old shot list,” the Red Wings’ goalie said.
The Red Wings and the other 29 NHL clubs, are taking necessary steps to prevent the outbreak of mumps, a virus has made national news lately for reigning havoc among players and on-ice officials in the National Hockey League.
“What do I know about mumps? Absolutely nothing,” Howard said. “I thought I got vaccinated when I was a kid, so hopefully I don’t get it.”
Usually thought of as a childhood virus, mumps is spread by droplets of saliva or mucus from the mouth, nose or throat of an infected individual. It usually occurs when the person coughs, sneezes or even talks.
Since 1967, the year a vaccination program was introduced on a wide-spread basis in the United States, the outbreak of mumps has been extremely rare in this country.
“I’m trying to stay away from any kind of sickness,” center Riley Sheahan said. “I know a lot of guys are getting it so we just have to be extra cautious.”
So far, 15 reported cases have swept the league, invading locker rooms in Anaheim, New Jersey, New York, Minnesota and Pittsburgh. And players aren’t the only ones contracting the potentially severe and viral infection.
A story in the New York Times published on Dec. 7 claims that referee Eric Furlatt and linesman Steve Miller were bedridden with mumps. However, three days after the report, Miller worked the Detroit-Toronto game at Joe Louis Arena.
Notable players who have been diagnosed with the virus include Sidney Crosby, Corey Perry and Ryan Suter. The outbreak appears to have begun in early November when Ducks defenseman Francois Beauchemin noticed swelling in his jaw.
Beginning Tuesday, team doctors will make vaccinations available to Red Wings’ players, coaches and staff at Joe Louis Arena.
“I remember when I was in high school everyone getting it,” coach Mike Babcock said. “I assume I’ve been vaccinated. I understand a lot of the European players wouldn’t have so it’s important to provide the opportunity for them and that’s what we’re going to do. We’re going to provide it to everybody and get it looked after. In the meantime we’re encouraging everyone to do what they can for their immune system. We do that here anyway. Sleeping and not getting run down, that’s easy to say when you travel like you do, we just got (done) playing five games in eight days. The reason your immune system gets run down is because you do that stuff.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, since the pre-vaccine era, there as been a more than 99 percent decrease in mumps cases in the U.S. Last year, 438 people from 39 states were reported to have mumps. This year, however, an increase of 146 percent – 1,078 cases – was reported from January through November.
For the most part, the Wings’ players know little, if anything, about the virus.
“Can’t do much about it,” center Luke Glendening said. “Just got to keep going and if we get it, we’ll deal with it … I know I got vaccinated when I was a kid. I’ve heard about it because of that.”
Forwards Tomas Tatar and Johan Franzen were not at Monday’s practice at University Liggett School in suburban Grosse Pointe Woods. Babcock said both players were sick and taking precautions so they can be in Tuesday’s lineup when the Wings host the Columbus Blue Jackets.
“I assume they’re both playing,” Babcock said. “I talked to Tats, I didn’t talk to Mule. Tats, all we did today was say, ‘What’s going to make you best for tomorrow? Is a day off going to make you best or skating make you best?’ So that’s the decision we made today.
“They’re just sick, run down.”
Forward Justin Abdelkader (shoulder) and defenseman Danny DeKeyser (upper body) participated without limited at Monday’s practice. Both are expected to play Tuesday, Babcock said.
Forward Stephen Weiss, who suffered a left shoulder injury in Friday’s game against Florida, did not practice Monday. He remains day to day.
AGAINST THE JACKETS: In their past 10 meetings with Columbus, the Red Wings have posted a 3-6-1 record against the Blue Jackets, who are currently riding a Eastern Conference-best six-game win streak.
“They’ve got a good team,” Babcock said. “They were really injured. It should be a good game. A lot of fun. We need a bounce back game ourselves. Our energy level should be back.”
MORE ICE IN OT:
Defense - DET
Goals: 1 | Assists: 1 | Pts: 2
Shots: 17 | +/-: 3
This season the American Hockey League is using a 3-on-3 overtime format and seeing excellent results, and many believe that the NHL is leaning in the same direction.
“A lot of space. It's 2-on-1 after 3-on-1 after 2-on-0 after breakaway,” defenseman Xavier Ouellet said. “It goes really, really fast and there's a lot of opportunities and impressive plays – flips and saucer passes, stuff like that are really impressive for fans to watch. Big saves, too. I kind of like it.”
Through 25 games, the Wings’ AHL affiliate in Grand Rapids has had 1-of-6 overtime games decided by the shootout this season. That’s a sharp contrast to the 2013-14 season when the Griffins were involved in 10 shootouts.
The object of 3-on-3 is offense and finishing a game before heading to the shootout, an idea that was originally suggested to the NHL board of governors by Red Wings general manager Ken Holland.
The only downfall with the format, Ouellet says, is that it’s tough on defensemen.
“When we did it in Grand Rapids, they were up the whole four minutes we played,” he said. “We would go on offense and we would be super excited about the offense going and then stay up because it was a 2-on-1 on the defensive side and cheer for the goalie. It was screaming after screaming after screaming, which was really cool for us to play.”
But anything is better than the shootout, right?
“I think so,” Ouellet said. “It's so hard to lose in a shootout. It's not a hockey game, it's a skills competition, it's 1-on-1. It's not a team sport anymore. It's tough.”