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Warm weather cuts short Wings outdoor practice

Ted Kulfan
The Detroit News
Pavel Datsyuk, left; Andreas Athanasiou and Gustav Nyquist of the Detroit Red Wings skate during a practice session on Friday. The session was limited to 20 minutes due to soft ice.

Denver — A lot of Red Wings had circled Saturday’s game on the regular season schedule.

Outdoors at Coors Field, against the Colorado Avalanche, beautiful setting, crisp air.

“It’s not hard to get up for these kinds of games,” defenseman Brendan Smith said. “They’re exciting and fun and obviously the rivalry between the Red Wings and Avalanche.

“It’s really easy to get up for these games.”

Now, let’s all hope the game will take place as scheduled Saturday evening.

Both the Red Wings and Avalanche had difficulties during Friday’s practice sessions, although it was almost to be expected given the 60-degree temperatures and bright sun.

Passing the puck, or skating, all proved to be difficult.

The Red Wings cut their practice session to approximately 30 minutes under a blazing sun.

“If it gets any worse than that, there’s no way we can play,” forward Darren Helm said. “It was pretty tough to do anything. Skate, pass, pucks bouncing. You pass and it would be bouncing 10 times before it got to someone’s stick.

“Hopefully it was just the sun that was cooking too much.”

Temperatures will fall from highs near 70 degrees during the day Saturday to ideal lows of 30-35 once the sun goes down.

“It cools off at night, so it’ll be a lot better conditions,” Helm said. “But it was definitely tough to just practice out there.”

If the game Saturday were to be postponed, the makeup date would be Sunday evening — but no one expects that to happen.

“It should be fine. It cools down to game time and no one will be on the ice (during the day Saturday) either, so it’ll be much better,” captain Henrik Zetterberg said. “If we can’t pass the puck, we don’t really care. But if it’s bad so we could end up injured, that’s when we have to have discussion what what to do.

“(But) I’m pretty confident that the ice will be good. I have no plans or thoughts about a postponement or moving it, or anything like that.”

Coach Jeff Blashill knew Friday’s practice would be difficult being it was mid-afternoon.

“We knew today was an impossible situation with the sun,” Blashill said. “They wouldn’t have scheduled a game during the day for that reason. We had to try to get a practice in and be able to walk on the ice, (but) we knew it was going to be impossible.

“We knew that when the sun is up and it’s 70 degrees, it was going to be hard to manage, but we fully expect 100 percent the ice to be good (Saturday).”

Crucial points

For all the hoopla surrounding Saturday’s game, the bottom line is both teams need the two points in the standings.

Players are attempting to treat the game as normally as they can.

“There is two points, and they are big points,” Zetterberg said. “Both teams know that and both teams want it. For us, we have to approach it as a normal game.

“Obviously it’s a little extra with everything around it but it’s just two points that we want to get.”

Blashill wants his players to enjoy the event but remember the importance of what’s at hand.

“There’s a balance,” Blashill said. “Enjoy the process but focus on the attention to detail. It’s important to keep the game simple.”

Outdoor veterans

Counting NCAA outdoor events, this will be Luke Glendening’s sixth outdoor game, and fifth for Brad Richards in the NHL, more than any other player.

“You don’t take anything for granted,” Richards said. “Any time you’re part of the league, the NHL, let alone getting to do these things, it’s just great memories for me I’ll be able to have the rest of my life.

“To be able to do these things and have the audience and the attention on it, it’s not a regular game in an 82-game schedule.”

Ice chips

Blashill said Petr Mrazek will get the start in net but didn’t announce any other lineup decisions, although defenseman Jonathan Ericsson (lower body) will return after missing the last six games.

... Helm (ill) returned to practice and will play.

... Whether Tomas Jurco or Teemu Pulkkinen is the last forward in the lineup remains to be seen.