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Red Wings afternoon news: preparing for a lockout and Abdelkader/Colaiacovo contract talk

Updated 5x at 6:31 PM: It's definitely a strange day for the Red Wings' players. Carlo Colaiacovo made his first visit to Detroit to sign his contract, Justin Abdelkader was signed to a contract extension, and then the Wings' palyers engaged in their last practice at Joe Louis Arena before packing up their ice, watching or at least hearing the ice disappear and then packing up their gear, with 60% of the team likely to start skating in Troy tomorrow or Monday.

I'm not sure who's going to be doing their laundry, sharpening their skates, lugging their gear or attending to their bumps or bruises, but Jimmy Howard told the Detroit News's Ted Kulfan that it bizarrely felt like the last day of school before the semester really begins as he stuffed his Vaughn gear into bags today...

"I feel like I should be going to my exit interview with Kenny (general manager Ken Holland)," goalie Jimmy Howard said.

But, instead, Howard and the rest of the Wings are preparing for time without hockey.

"It'll be weird," Howard said. "I don't know if I've wrapped my head around it. It's just one of those things you have to take day by day.

And Howard and Zetterberg were sounding NHLPA party lines regarding the fight that is to come:

"Everyone is on the same page," Howard said.

The Wings were frustrated with commissioner Gary Bettman's stance and the possibility of a second extended lockout (the one in 2004-05 wiped out the entire season), and third in the Bettman regime.

Said Henrik Zetterberg: "We did enough last time in 2004. We gave them basically everything they wanted so we didn't want to be in that situation (again), but here we are again. We're ready to have a fight here."

Zetterberg continued while speaking to the Free Press's Helene St. James...

And those comments stood in stark contrast to the comments Justin Abdelkader made regarding the Red Wings' owners, management and coaches commitment to him as he signed his 4-year deal, via RedWingsTV...

 


And Colaiacovo had his Wings "mugshot" taken before gushing about joining the team in conversations with DetroitRedWings.com's Bill Roose...

“I’m just anxious to get going,” Coliaicovo said. “It’s so special, honestly, the fact that it’s close to home too, and being a part of the Winter Classic this year, which is a spectacle that every player wishes to be a part of. … Since the time it’s happened there’s been nothing but excitement coming out of my voice.”

...

“Certainly we’re aware that he’s a guy that plays 60 to 65 games because he’s had some injury issues,” Wings general manager Ken Holland said. “But he’s 29 years of age and he gives us depth and he gives us the ability to move the puck and certainly our defense is an area that we need to continually look for ways to upgrade.”

Despite his injuries, Holland believes Colaiacovo can give the Wings’ defense that kind of boost. Despite missing 18 games with the Blues last season, he did garner 19-minutes of even strength ice-time per game.

“As I look at our defense we think there’s going to be good competition,” Holland said. “Somebody’s going to be a top four and somebody’s going to have to play on the penalty-kill, somebody’s going to have to play on the power play, and he’s an established NHL defenseman. He’s played on the power play and there’s an opportunity here for him to grow his game and grow his role.”

While Colaiacovo said his discussions with the Wings’ front office haven’t outlined specific expectations there is a chance for him to capitalize on some openings.

“I think the main thing that they stressed was that there’s opportunity for me to play big minutes, there’s opportunity for me to play in different situations,” he said. “And at the end of the day as a player that’s what you want to hear. You want to play, you want to play in every situation, and you want to play in situations to help the team win. Looking at the roster, they have a compliment of guys that I see myself fitting in very nicely with. Together as a unit, I believe we can make it hard for other teams to play against us.”

Getting to know some of his new teammates shouldn’t be much of a problem since he already claims some as friends already, among them Ian White, Kyle Quincey, Niklas Kronwall and Jordin Tootoo.

“Ian and I played together in Toronto and I played with him in the World Juniors, and we’ve been very good friend ever since our time in Toronto,” Colaiacovo said. “I’m more than excited to be joining him as a teammate again. Obviously when you know people there it makes the transition easier. And the few people that I’ve talked to so far they’ve had nothing but great things to say about the city of Detroit and the team and the organization. It makes me feel really good about the decision and I really feel good about coming over right away.”
 

And the Detroit News's Kulfan:

"It's obviously a great feeling, and it puts me in a peace of mind," Colaiacovo said. "It's a great place where I've wanted to be. It's Hockeytown, the Detroit Red Wings, a place in Joe Louis Arena where I've always loved playing. I'm just glad to be part of it."

An offensive defenseman who is also effective on the power play, Colaiacovo rounds out a Red Wings defense that was looking for one more proven NHL veteran.

"You can never have enough depth on the back end," coach Mike Babcock said. "He's a second- or third-pair guy who has found a way to play in the league. You get better as you get older and he's one of those guys. Let's be honest, there's a lot of room to win jobs on the back end, so come in and do what you do and if you do it well, you get to play a lot."

Abdelkader, a restricted free agent, signed a four-year contract worth $7.2 million, taking two years of his unrestricted free agency (under the current CBA). Abdelkader, 25, had eight goals and 14 assists in 81 games with the Wings last season.

"We're happy to have him signed for our team and organization," general manager Ken Holland said. "It was important to get Abby signed up and bought two years of unrestricted free agency."

Also of Red Wings-related note as we wait for MLive's Ansar Khan, the Free Press's Helene St. James and the Macomb Daily's Chuck Pleiness to file their practice day stories...

-->> NHL.com's Matt Cubeta's take on NHL.com's staff writers' picks in a fantasy hockey draft seems...kind of patronizing...

-->> The Toronto Star's Rick Westhead reports that the PA's attempts to engage in exhibition games against the KHL won't be easy to set up...

-->> In news regarding games that will actually take place, from Sudbury Northern Life...

The Sudbury Wolves will take their 2-0 record back on home ice tonight when they  host the Soo Greyhounds at 7:30 p.m.

The Greyhounds will be looking to avenge their 4-3 loss to the Wolves on Sept.6 in the Lock City. In that game, Wolves' rookie rearguard Zach McFadden scored his first OHL goal while rookie forwards Jake Ryan and Dominik Kubalik also scored their first OHL goals for the Wolves. Nick Baptiste proved to be the hero of the game as the Ottawa native scored the shoot-out winner for the Wolves.

The Greyhounds line-up will feature a number of top players, including 19-year-old defenceman Ryan Sproul. The Detroit Red Wing draft pick is one of the top-rated defencemen in the OHL.  Seventeen-year-old rearguard Darnell Nurse was the captain of the Team Canada U-18 team that captured gold at the Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tournament in Czech Republic. NHL-drafted forwards Nick Cousins and Andrew Fritsch are also expected to make their first appearance against the Wolves on Friday night.

Tickets for Friday's game are now on sale at the Sudbury Arena ticket office.  Tickets are only $12 for all ages.

--> And a gentleman named "Artie Clear" spoke to Wings director of pro scouting Mark Howe during a hockey event in Baltimore, Maryland (thanks to my search engine monkeys for these):

 

 

 

Update #1: Here's Helene St. James' last practice day story:

The Detroit Red Wings players packed up their gear - even though it's team-purchased, they're allowed to bring it with them during the labor dispute - in anticipation of the NHL shuttering Saturday night when owners call a lockout following midnight's expiration of the collective bargaining agreement.

The league and Players Association met this week in New York, but haven't reached an accord. Players are left hoping and wondering what's next.

"We have to believe that we can find a fair deal here, and not waste another season like we did in '04," Henrik Zetterberg said. "So, that's what we're shooting for. We want to try to find a deal here so we can get back to playing."

Owners are determined to reduce the share of hockey-related revenue the players get. The last time the sides disagreed, in 2004, it ended up wiping out the '04-05 season. Asked about the prospect of losing another entire season, Zetterberg slammed commissioner Gary Bettman.

"That would not be fun," Zetterberg said. "But if that's what it takes, that's what it's going to take. I think we did enough last time, in '04. Basically, we gave them everything they wanted, and one of the reasons we did that was that we didn't want to be in this situation again, and here we are again.

"It's the third lockout in I don't know how many years now. Ever since Bettman came into the league offices, that's been his way to handle the stuff. That's not a fun thing, but that's how he approached this. We've been ready. We're ready to have a fight here."

Update #2: MLive's Brendan Savage is subbing for Khan today, and he spoke to Colaiacovo about joining the Wings:

"It's obviously a great feeling," Colaiacovo said Friday in a conference call with reporters. "It puts me at a peace of mind and it's in a place where, from Day 1, I wanted to be. It's Hockeytown, the Detroit Red Wings, Joe Louis Arena, a place I absolutely love playing in, first-class organization, it's a roster full with world-class players. I'm just glad to be a part of it.' "It was a long summer of uncertainty. I've had a lot of talks with Detroit and numerous other teams. Obviously, Detroit was one of the teams very high on my list and a team that I really wanted to push hard to be on. Obviously, it's the best situation for me and the best fit as well. It's too early to tell what's going to happen in the next couple of days (with a possible lockout). It doesn't look well. It's a great feeling knowing you have everything figured out and you can put yourself in a mindset where you know where you're going to be and you know what to prepare for when everything decides to settle itself out and you get yourself ready and play hockey.''

Colaiacovo gives the Red Wings a full stable of defenseman after they lost captain Nicklas Lidstrom to retirement and Brad Stuart signed with the San Jose Sharks. While he's excited to be joining the Red Wings, the 6-foot-1, 200-pound Colaiacovo has no intention of trying to replace Lidstrom, a seven-time Norris Trophy winner.

"I'm no Nick Lidstrom but I think I'm a good complement to what they have there," he said." Nick Lidstrom is a Hall of Famer and I don't think anybody can replace him. I don't want to put that pressure on myself. I just want to be the guy that can come in and help in any way possible, be a good complement to what they have there and help us win hockey games. I've played a lot against those players the last couple of years. I know their style of play, the way they can play and for myself, being a puck-moving defenseman and a guy who can play in different situations, I think I'm a great complement to what they have there."

Who Colaiacovo plays with defensively remains to be seen as coach Mike Babcock declined to comment on possible pairings. But one thing is certain: Colaiacovo won't be a stranger when he walks into the Red Wings dressing room for the first time. He's familiar with many of his new teammates.

Colaiacovo is good friends with Ian White, he played with fellow newcomer Jordin Tootoo in the World Junior Championships, knows Niklas Kronwall from playing with Kronwall's brother Staffan when both were in the Maple Leafs' organization, and he also knows Kyle Quincey.

"Detroit is full of world-class players," he said. "I feel grateful to be a complement to that. As you grow older and get to know more of the league and the players, it becomes an easier transition. It also becomes an easier transition when you're making the change from the start of the year instead of midseason. In midseason when you're traded, everything happens so fast, with family and moving and getting settled in, it's really hard to find a good fit right away. In this situation, everything's up in the air with hockey, but at least it gives me some time to come in and get settled and meet everybody. I'm pretty familiar with most of the roster there but there's a couple of guys I know real well that'll help, that I've already talked to, that will make my transition easier. At the end of the day, I'm there to play hockey and I want to win hockey games. Detroit's a team that every year competes for the Stanley Cup. There's no better feeling as a player to join an organization that has that mentality from the get-go. All I'm going to do is help in any way possible to get us there.''

Update #3: From the Free Press's Helene St. James, we receive the following about Shane Doan...

 

The Windsor Star's Bob Duff offers two practice-related observations...

 

WXYZ's Brad Galli posted a teaser...

And MLive's Ansar Khan posted a packing-up picture...

As well as an article about Justin Abdelkader's re-signing:

“I'm so blessed to have this opportunity to play in the NHL and play for the team I always dreamed of playing for,'' Abdelkader, who was born and raised in Muskegon, said. “It's like a dream come true, to be rooting for the Red Wings growing up and to play for them. It's awesome coming out here each day putting the Red Wings sweater on. There's not one day I take it for granted. I thank Mr. and Mrs. Ilitch (owners Mike and Marian) for giving me the opportunity, and obviously (general manager) Ken Holland, (assistant GM) Jim Nill and the management staff for believing in me.''

Abdelkader, 25, sacrificed two years of unrestricted free agency, which would have started at age 27 under the current collective bargaining agreement, for the security of a long-term pact. Both sides were anxious to get a deal done before the CBA expires Saturday at midnight. Abdelkader has a salary-cap hit of $1.8 million.

For now, anyway...

“He's an important guy to our team,'' Holland said. “He's a big, strong guy, can play left wing, can play center. Through his career in the AHL and Michigan State he was a real good penalty killer, good defensive forward. His role and importance to our team is going to be on penalty killing, checking, physicality, versatility.''

...

At 6-foot-1 and 219 pounds, Abdelkader is an agitator whose role is to forecheck and be hard to play against. He skates well and has some offensive ability, but it remains to be seen whether he can develop in that area.

“I've tried to take a step each year, improve my game,'' he said. “It was big for me to go over to Europe and play in the World Championship (for Team USA), after the disappointing finish for us (losing to Nashville in the first round of the playoffs). Just keep improving. I think I've only just scratched the surface. I think I got a lot of room to grow.''

And now he may go over to Europe for a different reason:

“If we start missing consecutive weeks, you start thinking about options of what you want to do if there's going to be a lockout over a long period of time,'' Abdelkader said. “You want to go somewhere, but you want it to be the right spot. Hopefully, we can get something worked out in the meantime.''

Update #4: The Macomb Daily's Chuck Pleiness also spoke to the Wings' players about leaving the Joe, and Mike Babcock regarding his state of limbo as well:

“That’s what I was telling Abby on the ice, this could be our last time at the Joe for a while,” Drew Miller said. “It’s definitely weird. It’s disappointing because everyone is ready for hockey to start. Everyone’s got that edge going. It’s tough from that standpoint, but from a business standpoint, as a union, we can’t be pushed around. We’ve got to fight for what’s ours, what we’re entitled to. It’s something that’s fair and good for the growth of our sport.”

“It’s kind of weird, sort of feels like you’re packing up and going away for the summer,” Jimmy Howard said. “It’s just the feeling around here, the sense of the unknown. We’ll be skating and training together and try to stick together and lean on each other for support.”

“It’s starting to sink in,” Justin Abdelkader said. “Once we miss training camp … once we start missing preseason games or regular games, and now we won’t be able to skate at the Joe, it’s going to feel a little different not coming here every day. I think it’ll start setting in once next week comes along.”

“It feels like the end, like the team picture just ended, except we haven’t had a season,” Danny Cleary said. “We still have time. The season doesn’t start until October, so we’ll see how it goes. My guess would be we’re not going to start the season on time.”

“I’m in here to say goodbye to everybody and wish them luck,” Wings coach Mike Babcock said. “We’re over ready as coaches. I’m going to watch my kids and watch hockey as much as I can and go places where hopefully I can get better.”

The Windsor Star's Bob Duff spoke to Henrik Zetterberg and several other players about their takes on the situation...

“Financially, the preparation started last year,” Zetterberg said. “You have to prepare that we will lose games, so you’ve got to save up a little bit.”

...

“It’s starting to sink in,” Abdelkader said. “Now we won’t be able to skate at the Joe. It’s going to feel a little different not coming here every day. Once we miss training camp, once we start missing preseason games or regular games, I think it’ll start settling in.”
As he tried on a new pair of goal skates that he might not use in a game for months, Howard admitted it felt more like the end of a season than what should be the hopeful beginning to a new campaign.

“It’s definitely weird,” Howard said. “It feels like I have to go do exit meetings with (Red Wings GM) Kenny (Holland) right now for summertime. I don’t think I’ve really wrapped my head around it completely – what is happening and what is going on.”

Players are paid to play. When they aren’t paid, when their time becomes their own and not subject to the rigid schedule of an 82-game hockey season, there is mystery afoot.

None of Detroit’s young players have ever spent a winter without the game. They may also spend winter without a pay stub and the key for them, according to Zetterberg, is that they don’t allow the situation to devolve into a winter of discontent.

“We’re trying to educate the younger kids to be prepared for what’s going to happen,” Zetterberg said.

Maintaining normalcy, or as close as they can get, will provide a sense of stability. Zetterberg played in Sweden during the last lockout and advised all of Detroit’s younger players to seek out a temporary hockey home.

“If you have an opportunity to go play somewhere else, you should go play somewhere else,” Zetterberg said. “For me in 2004, I think that helped.”

And finally, for now, I'm afraid that these kinds of stories are the ones we'll be reading from DetroitRedWings.com for a while to come:

A former draft pick of the Red Wings, Brett Larson, has been named head coach of the U.S. Men's Select Team that will participate in the 2012 World Junior A Challenge, Nov. 5-11, in Yarmouth, Nova Scotia.

Larson most recently led the USHL’s Sioux City to the 2012 Clark Cup Western Conference quarterfinals in his first season as a USHL head coach. He also serves as the organization’s general manager.

Prior to joining the Musketeers, he served as assistant coach for three years at his alma mater, the University of Minnesota Duluth, where he helped the Bulldogs to their first ever NCAA men's ice hockey championship in 2011. In his tenure (2008-11), UMD compiled a 70-40-15 record and also captured the 2008 Western Collegiate Hockey Association Final Five championship.

Before embarking on his coaching career, Larson, who was selected in the 11th round of the 1990 NHL entry draft by Detroit, played professionally for 12 years in various domestic and international leagues. As a four-year (1991-95) blue-liner for Minnesota Duluth, he recorded 67 points in 133 games and captained the team his senior season.

Update #5: Sign. From the Free Press's Helene St. James:

 


And MLive's Ansar Khan spoke to Zetterberg, etc. about the lockout fight:

“It’s the third lockout in I don’t know how many years (since 1994-95),'' Zetterberg said. “Ever since Bettman came into the league office, that’s been his way to handle stuff. That’s not a fun thing, but that’s how he approaches this. We are ready for it. We’ve been ready. We’re ready to have a fight.''

...

“It's starting to sink in,'' Red Wings forward Justin Abdelkader said. “Once we miss training camp … once we start missing preseason games or regular games ... and now we won't be able to skate at the Joe … it's going to feel a little different not coming here every day. I think it'll start setting in next week.''

Red Wings training camp is scheduled to start Sept. 21 in Traverse City. The league is expected to cancel camps and perhaps part of the preseason schedule next week, barring a breakthrough in negotiations.

“We’re still hoping; there is that little bit of hope left,'' Niklas Kronwall, Detroit's player representative, said. “Obviously, things don’t look that bright, but hopefully if nothing is reached by (Saturday), then by Sunday or Monday we start talking again and we’ll get it all sorted out.''

Said Drew Miller: “I know they’re saying there is a lot of distance between the two, but that can change quickly.''

Few believe that will happen. Instead, some players are preparing to go to Europe, where they will play until a new CBA is reached. Others will skate and train at a suburban rink, after taking several days to a week off.

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The Malik Report is a destination for all things Red Wings-related. I offer biased, perhaps unprofessional-at-times and verbose coverage of my favorite team, their prospects and developmental affiliates. I've joined the Kukla's Korner family with five years of blogging under my belt, and I hope you'll find almost everything you need to follow your Red Wings at a place where all opinions are created equal and we're all friends, talking about hockey and the team we love to follow.