Dads back with the Red Wings on road trip

Ted Kulfan
The Detroit News

Taylor — The Red Wings broke tradition last season and brought the mothers — instead of their dads — for their annual trip.

Detroit left wing Justin Abdelkader could return Tuesday against the Blackhawks.

Dads are back this week, as the Red Wings head to Chicago and Dallas, so players and coaches know what to expect.

“It was a lot quieter last year than it has been before,” said captain Henrik Zetterberg, whose father Goran is a veteran of these trips. “So, we’re probably back to a loud(ness) level being a little higher.”

The dads (or brothers, in-laws, mentors, etc.) were all around Taylor Sportsplex Monday afternoon as the Red Wings prepared for these next two road games.

It’s always a fun trip for both dads and players/coaches, who have an opportunity to show what life is in the NHL.

“It’s a great opportunity for my dad and all the other dads to be able to experience what our day to day lives are like,” said coach Jeff Blashill, whose dad Jim is on hand. “Certainly from a coaching perspective, you get real busy and you don’t get a chance to spend as much time as you’d want during the year, so it’s a great time to spend time with them.”

Dads will get to sit through all the meetings, go to the morning skates and Wednesday’s practice, and share a room with their sons.

“Since I told him about it three weeks ago he’s been preparing,” said Anthony Mantha, whose dad Daniel is making his first dad’s trip. “He’s just anxious to see how we fly out and how it is around the rink, how we prepare for games.”

Mantha takes a regular 90-minute nap before games, so father and son will have to adjust.

“He’s probably going to be walking around the hotel for a long time,” Mantha said.

Then there’s Andreas Athanasiou’s dad Stan, a commercial pilot for Air Canada, who enjoys the hockey part of the trip but also has other plans.

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“He wants to see the cockpit. He’s pretty excited about meeting the pilots,” Athanasiou said. “He’s telling me to get him up there into the jumpseat.”

Help on the way

Judging from Monday’s practice, the Red Wings will get forward Justin Abdelkader and defenseman Mike Green back in the lineup Tuesday in Chicago.

Abdelkader sprained his knee against Florida Dec. 1, but has been skating and increasing his load in practice for over a week.

Abdelkader has four goals and four assists in 22 games this season, but it’s his 6-foot-2, 218-pound frame and net presence the Red Wings have desperately missed.

“He’s a guy who has shown he can score in this league,” Blashill said. “He’s a big body who goes to the net hard, is good defensively, and he’s been an important piece (to the team’s success).

“It’s not a rarity, but a commodity, when you have that kind of skill and size package and that’s why he was picked for Team USA (for the World Cup). Having Justin Abdelkader in the lineup makes us better.”

Green suffered an upper body injury against Anaheim Dec. 17, just as he was playing some of his best hockey as a Red Wing. Green has 18 points (seven goals) in 32 games, while averaging 24 minutes, 25 seconds of ice time.

“There’s no question Green was playing at a high level when he got hurt,” Blashill said. “He looked like a real number one defenseman in the NHL. When he gets back going, it’ll be big for us he’s playing at that level again.”

Original Six rivalry

The Red Wings and Blackhawks only play twice per season since the Red Wings were moved back to the Eastern Conference.

Of all the positives moving back to the East, not seeing Chicago more on the schedule might be the biggest casualty.

“The rivalry we had with those guys, fans really miss it too,” Abdelkader said. “It’s the unfortunate part (of the move to the East). We live in different time zones, so it makes sense, but it’s always fun when we play those guys and they’ve been real good for a long time now.

“It’s a great rivalry.”

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Red Wings at Blackhawks

Faceoff: 8:30 p.m., United Center

TV/radio: Fox Sports Detroit, 97.1

Outlook: Chicago (26-12-5, 57 points) has the best record in the West and has won three consecutive games … RW Patrick Kane (44 points) and D Duncan Keith (28 assists) are part of a three-time Stanley Cup-winning nucleus.