Detroit — The NBA has a large slate of games on national television on Christmas Day, one of the league’s most important dates of the year.
The NFL keeps on going with practices, and college football teams are deep in preparation for bowl games.
But the NHL shuts down for three days.
After Tuesday’s games through Friday, the NHL has gone home. The schedule resumes Saturday.
Players, coaches, front office people and everyone around the arenas has gone home.
And they’re pretty happy about it.
“There has to be some time where you say family is more important than dollars or anything else,” coach Jeff Blashill said. “I hope we never get to a day where we don’t have a break like this, never get to the day where we’re playing on Christmas, it would be awful.”
Under the terms of the collective bargaining agreement, teams are unable to hold practices and obviously there are no games.
So players travel back home, or bring family members here for several days of being together and unwinding.
Considering what other leagues do, NHL players are deeply appreciative.
“It’s nice to unwind for sure,” defenseman Brendan Smith said. “It’s good for everybody. The biggest thing is you can actually see family, they’re just not coming in for the game and you kind of see them after the game for a little bit. You can actually talk to your family and see what is going on with them. It’s kind of a cool experience and I’m going to enjoy it for sure.”
Smith and his girlfriend are hosting parents and siblings this week.
“My parents usually do it and do it well, so we have a lot to live up to,” Smith said.
The important thing for the Red Wings is enjoying the break but being ready for a difficult three-game in four-day road trip that begins Saturday in Nashville.
Every team is the same situation, so that helps. But everyone kinows it’s important to be ready once the bell rings for the season again.
“It’s nice and all the guys with families, they can settle down and spend some quality time with them,” forward Riley Sheahan said. “Some of us are fortunate enough to be able to go home. It’s definitely nice to have a little break.
“But we can’t take the time for granted. We have to stay in it, keep our minds in it, and come back on the 26th ready to play.”
Dylan Larkin appeared to be a marked man Tuesday by the Devils, who appeared to take every opportunity to be physical with the 19-year-old.
Devils defenseman John Moore drove Larkin into the boards in the second period after Larkin lost his balance near the corner.
It’s up to the referees, said Blashill, to realize when some of the NHL's young stars are being targeted by other teams.
“Referees throughout the league have to know that young stars in the league, when they’re targeted, they’ve got to make sure they do a good job of calling penalties, even if they’re close,” Blashill said. “We don’t want our young stars in the league getting targeted and we don’t want lots of fighting anymore, so we better make sure we look after them a little bit that way.”
Back to Grand Rapids
Defenseman Xavier Ouellet was assigned back to minor league affiliate Grand Rapids.
Ouellet was brought up to the Red Wings last weekend as insurance with injuries and a busy schedule beginning to put a dent in the Red Wings' depth.