Red Wings' road trip finally winds down

Ted Kulfan
The Detroit News

St. Louis — The Red Wings are coming home ... finally.

Detroit ended a six-game trip that went from Western Canada (Vancouver, Edmonton and Calgary) to the Eastern seaboard (Washington D.C. and Buffalo) and the Midwest (St. Louis).

"We've been home for a little bit (a day off between Western Canada and Washington and one after returning from Washington), but it's definitely not a 9-to-4 job," Red Wings defenseman Niklas Kronwall said.

Things on the road can get a bit crazy, considering unusual practice times because of time changes.

"You sleep in (after arriving in the middle of the night), you go have a late breakfast, then after practice you're eating lunch at 4:30 and go back to the hotel," Kronwall said.

Proud alumnus

Red Wings center Stephen Weiss played junior hockey with the Plymouth Whalers in the late 1990s, so the news the franchise is being sold and moved to Flint next season was a surprise.

"I have a soft spot for that area," Weiss said. "It's such a great area for young guys who move away from homes and go to great host families. It's a great place to be.

"(Compuware Arena is) awesome. It's a great spot for a junior team to be. It's too bad."

Attendance was a major problem for the Whalers, who spent 25 years in Plymouth.

"Unless you're in London (Ontario) or those types of places, it's tough to sell out buildings," Weiss said of junior hockey.

"When I was there the playoffs was always decent (for attendance), and we'd have a good crowd on the odd night when a certain team would come in.

"But across the board in junior hockey it's tough to get a lot of people to come watch. It's not quite the pros yet."

Solid pairing

The defensive pairing of Brendan Smith and Xavier Ouellet has become dependable for Red Wings coach Mike Babcock.

"When they're on the ice, I'm not concerned," Babcock said. "You don't have worry ... you just play them.

"(Ouellet) moves the puck real good and he plays good on the offensive blue line. Smitty is an ultra competitive kid who skates real well and has good skills."