Red Wings could use the break

CanWest News Service
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HOCKEY

Staggering towards the Olympic break, few teams need the respite as badly as the Detroit Red Wings.

The Wings have gone 4-6-5 in their last 15 games and they'll wrap up their pre-Olympic schedule with games at home tonight versus San Jose and Saturday against Ottawa.

Detroit -

Staggering towards the Olympic break, few teams need the respite as badly as the Detroit Red Wings.

The Wings have gone 4-6-5 in their last 15 games and they'll wrap up their pre-Olympic schedule with games at home tonight versus San Jose and Saturday against Ottawa.

"The guys going to the Olympics are so excited and so proud to represent their country but, the other guys, it's an opportunity to wind down for a bit," said centre Kris Draper, who was part of the 2006 Canadian Olympic team.

"Going on vacation, we'll be sitting back on the beach watching the games.

"We've had a lot of games, a lot of travel and we've had a lot of guys that have been injured. Hopefully with this break, (we'll) make a strong push in March."

While the compressed schedule has been tough for all NHL teams, the Wings have been really racking up frequent flyer miles since Jan. 1. They've been on the road for 14 of 19 games in that span, including two long swings to the U.S. west coast.

"Having the schedule we've had, it's going to well needed," said forward Drew Miller, who is going to Las Vegas with his wife during the Olympics. "I feel bad for the guys that have to go play and don't get that break, but they'll get to play in a great atmosphere and get to do what a lot of us dream of doing."

Detroit coach Mike Babcock, who won't get a respite being coach of the Canadian men's hockey team, said some of his players are simply gassed at this point.

Injuries have forced Babcock to overplay some guys to cover up the holes in the Detroit lineup.

"We've overtaxed a few players because we've just had to," said Babcock, who has been short as many as nine regulars at a time this season due to injuries.

"I don't care who you are, you've been in the grind because of the way the schedule is. Then when you talk about being overtaxed all the time, it can't help you. It leads to injuries. It's no good for us."

One of those that has shouldered a heavier burden than anticipated is defenceman Nick Lidstrom, who is one of seven Red Wing Olympians.

Lidstrom had one goal and 13 points in his first 37 games.

He's raised his level of play as he typically does in the season's second half with five goals and 20 points in the past 23 games.

"I don't think that (fatigue) is an issue at all," said Lidstrom of being ready for the post-Olympic push.

"We're all in good shape and we're all looking forward to playing in a big tournament too.

"Once you get back from that, you're feeling good about playing in a big event. You're ready to get going again."

The Olympic years have generally been kind to the Wings despite their sending a significant number of players to the games.

Detroit never had to worry about fighting for each point just to make the playoffs in the previous Olympic years. However, this year's team faces a different scenario when the NHL resumes action March 1.

"It's a great motivator and a great adrenalin rush to go and play at a high level, then to comeback that much more energized," Babcock said.

"Would you rather go to the Olympics than lay on the beach? Absolutely. Would you like to lay on the beach afterwards? Absolutely.

"They're not going to hold the season up for you. That's just part of being good.

"There's lots of time in your life to lay on the beach."

Organizations: Detroit Red Wings, NHL

Geographic location: Detroit, San Jose, Ottawa U.S.

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