Red Wings aim at ‘mental freshness’ with 8-day break

Ted Kulfan
The Detroit News

New York — Reporters hovered around Brad Richards after Monday’s game, delaying his postgame routine and intended plans.

Then, someone asked about the upcoming lengthy All-Star break.

Richards’ mind was already in vacation mode after the impressive Red Wings victory.

“I”d be in the showers already if you guys weren’t here,” Richards said.

Except for Dylan Larkin — who is headed to Nashville for this weekend’s All-Star festivities — the Red Wings received a nice gift from the NHL schedule makers.

With no games Tuesday or Wednesday, while many other teams are on the schedule, the Red Wings have eight days between games. They’re not playing again until Feb. 3 in Tampa Bay.

By rules of the collective bargaining agreement, the Red Wings and rest of the NHL return to practice Feb. 1.

It’s rare indeed for a team to receive that many consecutive days off, and particularly this late in the season.

“Everybody gets a break, we get a little longer one,” coach Jeff Blashill said. “It’s good to refresh. Mental freshness is probably the biggest part of this. Physically, everybody is fine. The mental freshness is big. We’re bumped and bruised a little bit, and hopefully it gives (Niklas) Kronwall a chance to get healthy.

“Hopefully, guys have a lot of fun and they’re real safe.”

For the older players, it will definitely be refreshing to be away from the rink for multiple days and get away temporarily from hockey.

“The older you get, you enjoy the time off,” said Richards, who was part of Chicago’s Stanley Cup run that extended into June. “You put more work into it as you get older. This team does a lot of work off the ice, there are a lot of practices, so it’s a good time to kind of recharge the batteries.”

And with the meat of the schedule approaching, and so many teams within the playoff picture, a lengthy break is needed.

“Rest is huge coming down the backstretch,” Richards said. “This will be good for guys to get rid of some bumps and bruises.”

Many players will head to warmer climates and mimic what Danny DeKeyser has planned.

“I’ll be in the Bahamas for a few days, laying on the beach,” DeKeyer said. “Soaking up some sun. We have a little bit of a longer break, so it’s nice. It’ll be nice to enjoy some time off.”

Not everyone, though, is headed to the beach.

There are people like Blashill, whose plans are much more centrally located.

Like, suburban Detroit. Or, more specifically, suburban Detroit ice rinks.

“My 9-year-old’s districts (playoffs),” Blashill said.

Up and down

The Red Wings made a personnel move Tuesday, recalling forward Joakim Andersson and sending forward Eric Tangradi and defenseman Nick Jensen back to Grand Rapids.

This, after they reversed the moves two days before, as the Red Wings wanted to see Tangradi in the lineup Monday against the Islanders and Jensen providing insurance on defense.

Tangradi had almost seven minutes of ice time Monday and was credited with one hit.

Ice chips

When the Red Wings return next week, they’ll host a mothers trip when they visit Tampa Bay and Florida on consecutive nights.

That’s right — mothers trip. Players decided it was time to take the mothers, after 10 years of it being a fathers trip.

… Goaltender Petr Mrazek headed into the break with his seventh consecutive road win Monday in Brooklyn.

Tomas Tatar said it earlier this year, Petr is the same whether it’s the Stanley Cup playoffs or if he’s playing summer hockey,” Blashill said. “He seems to have the same approach all the time. It doesn’t bother him.

“The last month, he’s been real good. It takes elite goaltending to win in this league, and we’re going to have to continue to get elite goaltending as we go through the rest of the season.”