Wings’ Ouellet feels at home back in Montreal
Montreal — You get a huge media scrum around a Henrik Zetterberg or Jimmy Howard or Niklas Kronwall in the Red Wings’ locker room.
After Monday’s morning skate, they were about two deep at one point surrounding … defenseman Xavier Ouellet.
But given this is Montreal, Ouellet is from here, and the hockey hotbed that this area is, it’s not surprising Ouellet was the man of the hour.
“I played my junior hockey here so I’m kind of used to it (the media coverage), I know the people and the media around here, and it’s fun to see them around,” said Ouellet, who was to be in the lineup Monday for the second time in three games. “It’s a big hockey city, everyone in the league knows that. The media ttention is big here, even just playing junior hockey was pretty crazy.
“It’s just part of the culture, everyone plays hockey growing up, in the street and outside, it’s just how it is here.”
It’s been a frustrating season for Ouellet, who hasn’t been able to crack the lineup with any consistency since early December. Monday’s game was to be Ouellet’s 43rd of the season, with five points (all assists) and a minus-3 plus-minus rating.
There were rumblings the Red Wings were going to trade Ouellet at the deadline in late February to give him a fresh start, but it never materialized.
Ouellet is hoping to end this season on a high note with some good performances.
“Every time I play, I need to prove myself,” Ouellet said. “I need to show what I can do and play good. I need to to get back my timing and get back the game energy and stuff like that, and hopefully I can go on a roll and play some games.”
Red Wings coach Jeff Blashill credited Ouellet for his work ethic and approach to the game.
“‘X’ worked his tail off last summer, he stayed in Detroit and worked really hard to improve his skating,” Blashill said. “That would be one area that he’s needs to keep improving on and it’s not easy, it’s not as easy as you get older.
“It’s something that when you’re a kid, the improvements come a lot quicker. But it’s just going to be a matter of continually improving the footwork and finding ways to be as efficient a skater that he can be to be real effective.
“The other thing is, and it happens in any league but certainly in this league, is when you’re not playing lots, it’s hard to stay in rhythm.”
Ouellet had 50 family and friends the last time the Red Wings played in Montreal, and was going to be close to that Monday.
“Some friends and cousins are coming to the game, they bought their tickets at the beginning of the season,” Ouellet said. “It’s fun to be in the lineup and fun to be playing here.”
That’s what it felt like for goaltender Jared Coreau, who tried out his new gear on the ice during the morning skate, before Monday night’s start.
Normally Coreau doesn’t skate on days he plays, but he wanted to test out his new equipment.
“Pads, glove, blocker, chest protector,” Coreau said of his new equipment. “Hopefully new skates this summer. The chest protector, it’s always good to get a fresh one because it starts to hurt when it gets old and pucks hit.
“It’s exciting. It sure looks a lot better.”
Coreau gets new equipment about three to four times a year, so it’s lot like opening presents on Christmas morning.
“It is like Christmas four or five times a year, then,” said Coreau, who doesn’t need much time to break in the equipment. “With his stuff, because it’s the same, exact model I was wearing previously, one practice pretty much (out of the box).
“Not like (former teammate) Petr (Mrazek), who could throw them into a game from the box.”
Zetterberg and Kronwall were both in Monday’s lineup, after not skating Sunday.
... There were a few questions around the locker room Monday about the 10-1 loss the Red Wings had in Montreal on Dec. 2, one of the definite low points of the season.
“I went to my kid’s hockey game the next day and my son, as we’re walking in, said, ‘Dad, it’s going to be a tough day for you today,’” Blashill said. “But that’s the reality of it. I’m a big believer in being solution based and you put those kind of things behind you and learn from it and move on.”
PENGUINS AT RED WINGS
Faceoff: 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Little Caesars Arena, Detroit
Outlook: The Penguins (43-27-6, 92 points) look utterly capable of winning a third consecutive Stanley Cup. … They’re 6-2-2 over their last 10 games. C Evgeni Malkin (42 goals, 50 assists) is having an MVP-caliber season.