Detroit — He wishes he was in South Korea competing, like many of his NHL brethren, but Tomas Tatar was beaming, regardless, of what was happening in the Winter Olympics.
Tatar, a native of Slovakia, had a huge smile on his face Wednesday after watching his nation defeat powerhouse Russia, 3-2, in an Olympic opening game.
“It was pretty cool,” Tatar said. “It’s a huge tournament. Good for them, it’s a good start for us for sure.”
Back home in Slovakia, the win captivated the hockey-mad country, coming as it did against such a hockey power, and the supposed gold-medal favorites.
“It’s huge,” Tatar said. “From what I saw on social media, it was all over the place. It’s a big win for sure. Memorable. And it shows it’s going to be a real open tournament, interesting to see who is going to win.”
Slovakia’s upset win mirrored Slovenia’s overtime victory over the United States, with former Red Wings forward Jan Mursak scoring a late tying goal, and scoring the winner in overtime. Mursak, 30, was a 2006 sixth-round pick of Detroit, which played 46 games over five seasons with the Red Wings, and won the 2013 Calder Cup in Grand Rapids with current Red Wings coach Jeff Blashill as his coach.
Mursak, who lives in Saginaw in the off-season, now plays professionally in Europe.
“I love Jan, he’s a great guy,” Blashill said. “He was great for me in Grand Rapids and I also had him here in Detroit when I was an assistant coach. He plays hard and it doesn’t surprise me he’s having success.
“It’s great. You can debate what you prefer (NHL players in the Olympics or not), and I get that, but today is a moment for Jan Mursak, who might not have gotten that moment, and it’s an awesome thing.”
This weekend is the annual Fathers Trip, where the Red Wings’ dads accompany their sons on this trip through Tampa and Nashville. The dads are on the team plane, sit through the meetings, go to the morning skate, essentially live the life of an NHL player .
If not their father, players can invite their brother, father in-law, former coach, mentor or a friend.
It’s obviously a road trip everyone looks forward to every season.
“My dad is here, it’s his second one, and he’s excited,” forward Andreas Athanasiou said. “He’ll have a lot of fun. It’s always nice to see everyone. Your dad, he got you to this point. It’s nice to share it with him.”
Blashill has his father with him on this trip, too, and is looking forward to it.
“My dad, he’s not getting any younger,” Blashill said “He’s still spry, I guess, so to be able to share these kind of moments is real special. Most of our guys understand, they get it, certainly, as you get older and your parents get older and the kids get older, you gain a better appreciation.
“It’s a great thing. Some guys have their dads, other guys have mentors and friends, and to be able to share what is the NHL experience with other people is an awesome thing.”
Henrik Zetterberg sat out Wednesday’s practice, but Blashill said it was only a “maintenance day” and Zetterberg will be available for the Tampa game.
… The Lightning have defeated the Red Wings 10 straight games, including playoffs, and 17 of the last 20 games.
“The results have been bad from the win-loss standpoint,” Blashill said. “We’ve played well against them but we have to find a way to win. Take the things we’ve done well and eliminate the areas where they’ve exploited us.”
RED WINGS AT LIGHTNING
Faceoff: 7:30 Thursday, Amalie Arena, Tampa, Fla.
Outlook: The Lightning (38-16-3, 79 points) lead the Eastern Conference, but only by one point over fast-charging Boston. ... Tampa is 6-4-0 over its last 10 games and has lost its last two games. ... RW Nikita Kucherov leads the NHL with 72 points and G Andrei Vasilevskiy in wins (33) and shutouts (7).