Of the Broncos' chances in the Super Bowl, Wings forward Tomas Tatar said, 'I just feel Peyton Manning won't let that (losing) happen.' (David Guralnick / Detroit News)
Detroit – There’s a hockey game to be played first, in Washington, D.C.
But, yes, the Red Wings should be back in town in just enough time to catch the kickoff of the Super Bowl.
And once they’re watching, not many expect anything less than a Denver Broncos victory.
A sampling around the locker room the last couple of days indicates Denver is a clear favorite to defeat the Seattle Seahawks.
In almost every case, the reason being quarterback Peyton Manning.
“I just feel Peyton Manning won’t let that (losing) happen,” Tomas Tatar said.
As much as for his character and approach, as for his playing ability, Manning has a lot of respect in the Red Wings room.
“It’s hard not to cheer for him and the Broncos,” forward Riley Sheahan said.
“Denver is playing well, but I wouldn’t mind seeing Peyton win, either,” Justin Abdelkader said.
Henrik Zetterberg is a bit of Pittsburgh Steelers fan, so he doesn’t have much of a horse to cheer for in this race.
But Zetterberg, too, wouldn’t mind seeing Manning accomplish a unique feat.
“I’m kind of rooting for him to win another championship with a different team,” said Zetterberg, who believes the Broncos will win because, “Manning is obviously playing well.”
One person who is a bit torn is coach Mike Babcock.
A former resident of the Pacific Northwest, Babcock is a good friend of former NFL quarterback Mark Rypien and used to go to Seahawks games when Rypien would come to town.
But even Babcock is leaning toward the Broncos.
“I got to pick Peyton Manning,” said Babcock, who has plenty of respect for the quarterback. “He’s ultra competitive, a working machine. Him and (Tom) Brady to me are incredible because they are so intelligent and execute so good, and they’ve done it over and over again.
“I just think it’s impressive.”
Only Brendan Smith and Jimmy Howard are leaning toward the Seahawks.
Said Howard: “I like the way they play defense. They get into (receivers’) faces.”
Less than 48 hours after defeating the Capitals 4-3 in a shootout Friday, the Red Wings see Washington again, this time on the road (12:30 p.m./NBC and The Ticket).
The old-fashioned back-to-back, weekend series is enjoyable for many players.
“It kind of brings you back to the college days,” said Abdelkader, remembering his Michigan State career in the old CCHA. “We played some home-and-home and back-to-back games. It’ll be fun for both teams. Obviously we know each other from the night before and it’s a big game for both teams.”
Babcock and the coaching staff had an opportunity to go over special teams work during Saturday’s practice.
“I like it,” said Babcock of the quick turnaround. “They’re good a team, they have a lot of weapons and they’re dangerous. We have to play against them. We did (Friday) and we still had to win in a shootout.”
Pavel Datsyuk (lower body) skated briefly but will not play against the Capitals.
Datsyuk hasn’t played since the Winter Classic Jan. 1. With the Winter Olympics in his native Russia only a little more than a week away, whether Datsyuk will be ready to play is becoming a relevant question.
“I don’t know,” said Babcock as to whether Datsyuk will return this week. “I don’t know. I’m just like you, I keep asking.”
Friday’s victory was Babcock’s 400th with the Red Wings.
But Babcock admitted the pace of those victories the last couple of seasons hasn’t been the same as it was earlier in his Red Wings career.
“My 400th with Detroit means I’ve been here a long time and coached good teams,” Babcock said. “Let’s be honest, I haven’t exactly been mowing them down (lately). It’s been more of a grind lately.”
Zetterberg and Howard reported no problems Saturday after returning to the lineup the night before.
Zetterberg didn’t skate Saturday but that’s been the rule rather than exception lately, resting the back problem that caused him to miss two games.
“It felt good (Friday),” Zetterberg said. “It was fun to be playing again. I felt better than I have the last couple of days.”
Said Howard: “I feel good. It’s kind of nice.”