Yzerman rued day Lightning would face Wings in playoffs

Ted Kulfan
The Detroit News
Detroit Red Wings general manager Ken Holland, left, and Tampa Bay Lightning general manager Steve Yzerman have an informal chat in the lobby of the Brandon Ice Sports Forum Wednesday in Tampa, Fla.

Brandon, Fla. — Steve Yzerman knew it would happen eventually. He was just hoping it wouldn't be so soon into his front office career.

Yzerman, the former Red Wings legend now his fifth year as general manager of the Lightning, realized looking at the standings his team was likely going to face the Red Wings.

"It's been looking that way for a couple of months," said Yzerman as both teams practiced Tuesday at a rink in suburban Tampa Bay. "I kind of saw this coming. There's probably other teams I'd rather be playing, but I knew at some point of my managerial career — if I survived — we'd face one another."

The ties to the Red Wings organization are still strong and evident.

Yzerman talked with Red Wings general manager Ken Holland briefly in the lobby, and greeted plenty of familiar faces.

"I have very close relationships with everyone in the organization and will continue to have that forever, I hope," Yzerman said. "In this series, we both want to win. Our organization wants to win. The Red Wings organization wants to win. Our fans want to win. Red Wings fans want to win. I expect it to be very good hockey.

"Our team plays a similar style to the Red Wings. They have fantastic players, extremely talented forwards. I expect it to be real good hockey, and real good hockey for the league."

Yzerman was a huge part at the beginning of this current playoff streak that has now reached 24 seasons for the Red Wings.

And looking at the current roster and prospects on the way, Yzerman feels the Red Wings are well positioned for future success.

"They've proven to be and continue to be and looks like they're set up from our viewpoint to be a strong franchise for a long time," Yzerman said. "Really, it's one of the best franchises in pro sports in the last 30 years.

"To make the playoffs, you just look at his year. The defending Stanley Cup champions (Los Angeles) missed the playoffs and they had a heckuva team. And Boston had a heckuva team with 96 points and they missed the playoffs.

"It's a real hard thing to do (make the playoffs) and the fact they keep doing it, and now you're seeing kids like (Gustav) Nyquist and (Tomas) Tatar and Danny DeKeyser and there are some kids in the minors and good prospects coming, and it looks like it's just going to continue.

"They're a special franchise."

Abdelkader waits

Red Wings forward Justin Abdelkader (hand) skated Wednesday, but his availability for Game 1 tonight will be determined after this morning's skate.

Abdelkader missed the last four games after taking a slap shot off his hand.

If Abdelkader is unavailable, coach Mike Babcock will put Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk together on a line with Darren Helm.

Ice chips

Goaltender Petr Mrazek has heard from plenty of family and friends in the Czech Republic as he gets the start tonight.

"Awesome," Mrazek said of his parents' reaction to him starting. "They were excited."

... Babcock, on the fact most analysts are picking the Lightning to win the series: "Our job is to prove them wrong."

… Babcock, on getting lost while jogging near the public rink where practice was held: "Some trucker saved my life (with directions). It's hot (close to 90 degrees) out there."