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Yzerman loves The Joe but admits it's time for new arena

Ted Kulfan
The Detroit News
Steve Yzerman

Taylor – Joe Louis Arena was a hockey home for the 1997 Red Wings, filled with glorious memories.

But the predominate opinion during their 20th anniversary reunion Tuesday was it’s time for a new home, which is what Little Caesars Arena will be beginning next season.

“It’s been a fantastic building,” former captain Steve Yzerman said. “It’s a great building to play in, if you watch as a fan, the atmosphere is fantastic.

“But I think it’s time. Everything I’ve seen of the new building, it’s going to be great for the organization and with everything going around the new building, it’s going to be fantastic for the city.”

For some of the players off the 1997 roster, Tuesday’s game against Buffalo may've been their final opportunity to soak in the memories, emotion and atmosphere of Joe Louis Arena one final time.

“I love Detroit, and the Joe here,” Tomas Holmstrom said. “It was my home for 18 years. But it will be nice to see the new building.”

Said Brendan Shanahan: “It’ll be a beautiful new building, I’ve seen drawings of it. It’ll be great for the team and the city.

“(But) you always feel a little bit bad when buildings close.”

Coach Scotty Bowman, his assistants Dave Lewis and Barry Smith, and players off the 1997 roster were taken to the new arena earlier Tuesday.

Bowman was impressed with the new facility. He said updating Joe Louis Arena likely wouldn’t have been profitable.

“We saw the suites that are going to be up and running,” Bowman said. “It’s pretty hard to duplicate that unless you build a new building.”

Road trip

While the players on the 1997 roster were heading back home, the present-day Red Wings were at Taylor Sportsplex practicing Wednesday and traveling afterward to Ottawa.

It’s the start of a crucial seven-game road trip that well could determine the outcome of this season.

The Red Wings entered Wednesday in last place in the Atlantic Division – yet, only six points from third place and an automatic playoff berth.

There’s also the fact the Red Wings have been a better road team (8-6-1) than at home (7-10-3).

“You can say it’s good timing,” captain Henrik Zetterberg said. “Going on the road and playing some road hockey, and grind out some ugly wins, it would be good for this team.

“We’ll spend a lot of time together, off the ice, so I don’t think it’s a bad thing to go on the road.”

The Red Wings don’t appear to play as tight on the road.

“A little bit looser, we can’t worry about matchups so just go out and play,” Zetterberg said. “We put out the line we think we should have out there and then the other team has to match up against us. We get momentum going and all four lines are going from the hop.”

Honoring Alfie

The Red Wings will be on hand Thursday to witness former teammate Daniel Alfredsson’s No. 11 being retired by the Senators.

Alfredsson played one season with the Red Wings, after a brilliant 1,178 game career in Ottawa where he scored 444 goals and 1,157 points.

The statistics and milestones were gaudy, but Alfredsson's classy leadership and presence were top-notch.

“So humble, and just a true professional who did everything right,” Niklas Kronwall said. “He’s one of those guys you tried to learn as much a possible from.”

Ice chips

Blashill wouldn’t commit to a lineup, but it wouldn’t be surprising to see goaltender Jared Coreau get the start in Ottawa after Petr Mrazek’s substandard game against Buffalo.

For Coreau, it would be a night to remember. Coreau grew up in Perth, Ontario, approximately 40 minutes from the Senators’ home arena.

…The Red Wings sent forward Tyler Bertuzzi and defenseman Brian Lashoff back to minor league affiliate Grand Rapids.

Bertuzzi has been out since November 26 when he suffered a high ankle sprain.

Lashoff has missed the last four games, the last two after taking a puck to his mouth during a morning skate in Carolina.

RED WINGS at SENATORS

Faceoff: Thursday, 8 p.m., Canadian Tire Center.

TV/radio: Fox Sports Detroit, 97.1 The Ticket.

Outlook: Note the 8 p.m. start, which was pushed back for the pregame ceremony retiring Daniel Alfredsson’s number…The Senators (20-12-3, 45 points) have been a mild surprise, with stronger team defense and the skills of D Erik Karlsson (25 assists, 32 points).