Red Wings Notebook: 'Old man' Chelios remains a scratch
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DETROIT -- With a chance to clinch the Stanley Cup and no guarantee of more games this postseason, Red Wings coach Mike Babcock opted not to dress defenseman Chris Chelios.
Chelios, the graybeard of the NHL, has not played since Game 5 of the six-game Western Conference final against Dallas. He sat out Game 6 of that series with what was announced as a leg injury, but it seems more likely that he was a healthy scratch.
There had been some sentiment to insert him in the lineup against the Penguins for Game 5 last night in place of Andreas Lilja. Chelios, 46, broke into the NHL in 1983-84. He is eligible for unrestricted free agency this summer.
He appeared in 14 playoff games, with no points and a plus-minus rating of plus-2. In his career, he has played in 1,616 regular-season and 260 NHL playoff games and is a three-time Norris Trophy winner as the league's top defenseman.
Babcock chafed at the implication that he perhaps should have considered playing Chelios. The coach was asked if he wrestled with the decision since Game 4.
"No, I haven't," Babcock said after the morning skate. "We're just going to do everything we can to win. And as much as from [some people's] perception ... that Chelios is not included or something, that's not the case at all. He's a big part of our team every day in our preparation and what's going on."
You can call the Red Wings a lot of things.
Experienced. Disciplined. Efficient at both ends. Babcock can come up with another word. Global. That's one way he would describe not only his team, but the NHL and hockey in general.
With seven Swedes, two Czechs, one Russian and one Finn -- plus eight Canadians and three Americans -- among their top 22 players, the Red Wings are quite an international collection.
The fact that Detroit plays such a strong defensive and physical game all over the ice that involves all positions would seem to negate the notion that European players are most likely to play positional hockey with slick passing and an aversion to the physical aspect.
"To me, it's a global game, and they're good players, and the stereotype that we have of players is, to me, it's old," Babcock said. "I think you really dispel it when you win."
Two of Detroit's Swedes, Henrik Zetterberg and Nicklas Lidstrom, were asked to compare their run to the gold medal at the 2006 Olympics in Turin with a march toward the Stanley Cup.
It was pretty obvious the NHL trophy trumps the national-team prize.
"It's a little bit different going to play in the Olympic tournament or playing in the Stanley Cup playoffs," Lidstrom said. "You've been with the [NHL] team throughout the whole season. You've been through almost two months of playoff hockey. And going to the Olympics you play -- I think we played eight games in 12 nights -- so it's a pretty short tournament, and it goes by quick."
Zetterberg also prefers the long haul of the Stanley Cup tournament.
"You spend such a long time, so much time with the players," he said. "And it's fun to go far in the playoffs. I think it's a little different for the Olympics. If you're on a roll, you can make something good happen. But, here in playoffs, it's minimal games, and you have to be better throughout a longer period."
Zach Smith, a 19-year-old Red Wings fan from Cleveland, bragged to the Detroit Free Press about getting away with throwing an octopus on the Mellon Arena ice after the National Anthem in Game 4 and still being able to watch the game.
Smith was ejected from the arena on the threat of being arrested if he re-entered, but he had bought an extra ticket from a scalper. He told the paper he changed from a plain T-shirt to a Red Wings jersey and used the extra ticket.
First Published June 3, 2008 1:27 am