Jiri Hudler has 12 points, three goals, nine assists his last 10 games. (David Guralnick/The Detroit News)
This late in the season, Jiri Hudler thought it was a dead issue.
But recently, a reporter began to utter the word … Russia.
But before it was even out of his mouth, Hudler playfully went into shock.
"Are we still talking about that?" Hudler asked.
Actually, not much. Especially not after the way Hudler has been playing the past few weeks — 12 points, three goals, nine assists his last 10 games.
"It's nice to see the puck go in the net, nice to get some breaks," said Hudler, in his first season back with the Red Wings after a year in Russia's Kontinental League.
It's also nice to be playing on a line with Pavel Datsyuk and Danny Cleary.
"When you can play with guys who can create space like they do, it makes it a lot easier," Hudler said.
Said Red Wings coach Mike Babcock: "Hudler has a mind that can think like Datsyuk and make plays. They're a good line for us right now."
Hudler has gone to great lengths to show the season in Russia didn't have any negative effect on him.
His season started slowly, which in his opinion was just a cold streak gone extra bad.
But Hudler appears to be skating better, his intensity is greater, and the smile he seemed to have plastered on his face regularly before heading to Russia is back.
But …"I feel like I can still play better," Hudler said.
Still not quitting
When he was with Dallas last season, Mike Modano had an opportunity to be one of those rentals, players picked up at the trade deadline to help a contending team.
The Bruins and Capitals were interested in Modano, who was headed to unrestricted free agency during the offseason and was uncertain of his future with the Stars.
But the Stars were on the playoff bubble. In fact, they were playing well enough to hang around.
"I figured, 'There's still a chance here, an opportunity,' " Modano said. "If we were out of the picture, I may have thought of doing something like that. But I figured, 'I don't want to quit on this thing yet.' "Funny what a difference a year makes.
After missing three months with a lacerated right wrist, Modano returned to the Red Wings lineup Monday against the Kings — feeling like a rental.
"That's been mentioned a few times," Modano said. "It feels like they've made a trade for somebody, and hopefully it pays off."
Carrying the torch
Forty-somethings everywhere should be pulling for Nicklas Lidstrom .
If Lidstrom wins his seventh Norris Trophy (best defenseman) — and it looks now like it would be an upset if he doesn't — he would become the only player in history to win a major individual award in a season where he was at least 40 years old the entire year.
By the numbers
2 Red Wings victories vs. Southeast Division (2-1-0)
3 Red Wings victories vs. Atlantic Division (3-2-1)
5 Red Wings victories vs. Northeast Division (5-0-0)
Heading into Monday's game against the Kings, the Red Wings were 7-4-0 (14 points) in February. How that compares with previous months:
Some individual milestones reached by Red Wings this season:
Points Pavel Datsyuk, 600 (Oct. 28 vs. Phoenix) Henrik Zetterberg, 500 (Dec. 3 vs. Anaheim)
Assists Todd Bertuzzi, 400 (Oct. 14 vs. Dallas)
Games Todd Bertuzzi, 1,000 (Feb. 20 vs. Minnesota) Tomas Holmstrom, 900 (Nov. 28 vs. Columbus)
"I'm sure they'll be all over me when I get back to the hotel."
Jimmy Howard, Red Wings goaltender, after signing a two-year contract extension worth $4.5 million and the likelihood he'll be buying dinners for his teammates during this trip