Justin Abdelkader is heading for Cabo San Lucas during the Olympic break. (David Guralnick / Detroit News)
Detroit — Almost half of the Red Wings roster boarded planes bound for Sochi on Sunday, and the start of the Olympic hockey tournament this week.
The other half are largely either already, or will be soon, in warm, tropical destinations for a few days.
People are free to debate who’ll have it better.
While the likes of Pavel Datsyuk (Russia), Henrik Zetterberg (Sweden) and Jimmy Howard (United States) attempt to secure a medal for their countries in an elite tournament, others will be resting injuries, getting healthy,and getting a mental and physical break from the grind of the NHL regular-season schedule.
There are pros and cons for both.
“The guys who go to the Olympics will be energized because of the opportunity,” said coach Mike Babcock, who headed to Sochi and the chance to win consecutive gold medals coaching Canada. “For those guys it’s a once in a lifetime opportunity.”
But it’s a unique opportunity for the remainder of the roster, too, in the middle of a long season.
“Especiallly at the start, make sure the fun meter is on high, get a lot of fun and get refreshed and recharged,” Babcock said. “(But) make sure to get to the gym enough so when we get started, you’re ready to go.
“Sounds like a good opportunity to me, as well.”
The Red Wings and the rest of the NHL don’t play again until Feb. 26 (the Red Wings are in Montreal).
Per the collective bargaining agreement, players aren’t allowed to get back on ice until 2 p.m. on Feb. 19.
“It’s definitely rare,” Drew Miller said of the extended break in the NHL schedule. “It may not happen again with the possibility of not having the Olympics with NHL players (in 2018).
“We’ll definitely make the most of it, enjoy the time with my wife, and enjoy the warm weather.”
That allows for a needed respite for the Red Wings, who’ve played 19 games (11 on the road) since Christmas.
“We’ve had so many games in a short period of time, guys have some bumps and bruises and it’ll be a chance to let those heal,” said Justin Abdelkader, who is headed to Cabo San Lucas.
“It’s very important, especially the way things are going with a few guys who are injured, or not 100 percent, guys can use this time to get back to full recovery,” said Darren Helm, who is headed to Hawaii, with his girlfriend. “It’s going to be good to get some sun, and nice positive, refreshing time off.
“The guys at the Olympics are going to stay in game mode, which is good, too.”
Most players will stay off the ice and out of the gym for most of the first week.
A full-fledged vacation, as it were.
“The first little bit you take a few days off,” Brian Lashoff said. “It’s been a lot of games in a short period of time, like last season, so I’ll take a few days off to rest the body and slowly get back into it.
“It’ll be good to get a few days off and there’s plenty of time to get back into it.”
Lashoff, incidentally, plans on returning home to Albany, N.Y., and see his family and girlfriend.
“I’m going to stick with the cold,” Lashoff said. “The only place in the country with more snow than Detroit right now.”
Grand Rapids bound
Forwards Riley Sheahan and Luke Glendening will return to Grand Rapids and play for the minor league affiliate Griffins during the break.
Sheahan will get a few days off before returning to Grand Rapids Thursday, and play this weekend.
Glendening, having played more games (33), can’t report until Feb. 19 and won’t play for the Griffins until a few days later.
“At this point in my career, just playing is good,” Sheahan said.