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Spotlight shines on coaches as puck drops on Wings season

Ted Kulfan
The Detroit News

Detroit — Tonight's Red Wings regular season opener is as much about the coaches, though both of them deflected attention to that after their team's Friday morning skates.

New Red Wings coach Jeff Blashill and Toronto's Mike Babcock — who coached the Red Wings the last 10 seasons including 2008 Stanley Cup championship team —will enjoy the moment the best they can, although they believe it's about the teams and players involved than it is about them.

For Blashill, specifically, coaching in his first NHL regular season game, he'll take a brief moment to reflect.

"When I step on the bench I'll take a second and say this is a real neat thing," said Blashill, a Sault Ste. Marie native who was promoted after coaching the Wings' American Hockey League-affiliate Grand Rapids Griffins.. "I get an opportunity to coach in my home state with the hometown team. This is pretty cool, there's no doubt about it. I won't hideaway from it."

But Blashill isn't going to dwell on it.

"From a coach's perspective, it's have we done a good enough job preparing our guys and putting them into position to execute," Blashill said. "We'll approach it the same way we approach every game, business as usual."

Blashill and Babcock met briefly Thursday night — Babcock stopped off at Blashill's house — and is happy for his former assistant coach.

"We had a real good relationship and he helped me and I think I helped him," Babcock said. "I wish him well except the nights when they play the Leafs.

"I know he's enjoying being the Red Wings coach and he should be the Red Wings coach, he's a Michigan guy. He's done a lot to get to this opportunity and he has a good team and he'll have fun with that and I'll have fun coaching the Leafs."

Babcock and the Maple Leafs played an exhibition game at Joe Louis Arena one week ago.

The time in Detroit was special, said Babcock, but he's jumped full force into coaching the Maple Leafs and the challenge that represents.

"I'm going to enjoy being here, I enjoyed my time here, I've said it a number of times," Babcock said. "But I'm enjoying being coach of the Maple Leafs, too, it's energizing. It's way different and it's fun."