Joel Quenneville was a big fan of retired Red Wings star Nicklas Lidstrom
BY MARK LAZERUS firstname.lastname@example.org
Hawks center Dave Bolland is unable to put the puck behind Detroit goalie Jimmy Howard in the first period of the Chicago Blackhawks-Detroit Red Wings game Sunday January 27, 2013 at the United Center. | Tom Cruze~Sun-Times
Old habits die hard. And when Joel Quenneville was asked about Detroit Red Wings defenseman Nicklas Lidstrom before Sunday’s game, the Blackhawks coach talked about him in the present tense. After two decades of game-planning against Lidstrom, it was understandable.
“He’s one guy around the league — you can talk about him every time we have our meetings about being aware of Nick out there,” Quenneville said. “You can say this and that about him, but he just continues to do what he did so well for so many years that you appreciate him as a player. He’s a special player through many years — he’s just so effortless, effective, consistent and reliable and dependable.”
Eight-year veteran Niklas Kronwell stepped into Lidstrom’s role on the Red Wings’ top defensive pairing. But while Kronwell is taking Lidstrom’s spot, he’s not replacing the future Hall of Famer. Nobody can, really.
“You don’t replace a guy like him,” Quenneville said. “But you certainly appreciate him from even an opponent’s side. He was real special.”
Lidstrom played 20 seasons, racking up 1,142 points in 1,564 games and playing lockdown defense, helping the Red Wings win the Stanley Cup four times. He won the Norris Trophy as the league’s best defenseman seven times, one shy of Bobby Orr’s record. And his 88 points in 119 meetings with the Blackhawks were the most he posted against any team.
Red Wings coach Mike Babcock called Lidstrom a “great, great player.” But the Wings, as always, are a veteran-laden team, so while Lidstrom is missed all around, his absence on the ice is felt more than his absence in the dressing room.
“Our leadership’s been real strong,” Babcock said. “We’re trying to be a work in progress and get better each game, and help our ‘D’ be better. We’re going to miss Nick. He’s a generational type of player. He’s a first-ballot Hall of Famer. I think he was the greatest D-man since I’ve been in the league, for sure. You don’t replace those people.”
No signs of fatigue
Sunday’s game was the Hawks’ sixth in nine days (in five cities) since opening the season in Los Angeles on Saturday. But Quenneville hasn’t sensed any fatigue among his players — something he credited partially to the increased role the fourth line of Michael Frolik, Marcus Kruger and Jamal Mayers/Brandon Bollig have been playing.
“I think we’re OK,” Quenneville said. “We’ve had an interesting week. It’s been busy, but at the same time, when they’re in the course of the game, everyone wants to be out there. They don’t seem like they’re looking for rest, or there’s fatigue setting in.”
The Hawks stuck with the same lineup, keeping defenseman Sheldon Brookbank in for Michal Rozsival, and forward Mayers in for Bollig.
Meanwhile, the injury-ravaged Red Wings took another hit when Darren Helm was again sidelined by a back injury suffered just before training camp began. The third-line center missed the team’s first three games, returned Friday night against Minnesota, then suffered a setback. The Red Wings already were missing forward Mikael Samuelsson (groin) and defensemen Carlo Colaiacovo (shoulder) and Ian White (leg laceration).