Red Wings don't get rattled by change in travel schedule

Ted Kulfan
The Detroit News
Niklas Kronwall

Kanata, Ontario — Not planes, trains and automobiles, but close.

Planes and buses. And it was going to take a long time.

The Detroit Red Wings’ evening Thursday in Ottawa grew a little complicated when snow in the area – along with a snow emergency in the New York area – prevented the Wings from flying into New Jersey ahead of Saturday's game against the Devils.

So the Wings stayed the extra night in Ottawa, had a light practice at the Canadian Tire Center Friday, then were to head out for New Jersey.

The tentative plan was to fly from Ottawa to Albany and clear customs there, then fly to White Plains. From there, the Wings were busing to Newark, and expected to be there in time for dinner.

The Wings lost to Ottawa on Thursday night, and Saturday's game is scheduled for a 1 p.m. start.

It wasn't an ideal travel schedule, but during a hockey season, it can happen.

“When you travel lots, you’re going to have weather issues,” coach Jeff Blashill said. “Last night we had a real unknown as to what time we’d be able to get into the gate (in New Jersey), maybe 4 a.m., and that doesn’t do well with sleep.

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“We’ll absolutely be ready to play a hockey game. This will not have an impact, whatsoever, on playing good hockey tomorrow. It’s a bothersome, that’s all it is, that you have to grind through a day of travel. People do this all the time. It will not negate us from playing great hockey.”

The Wings weren’t going to have a long and detailed practice in New Jersey Friday, anyway, so that made it easier to stay in Ottawa, where approximately half the team went on the ice for a light skate and the other half did off-ice weight room work.

“Just figure out a way to get there,” said defenseman Niklas Kronwall, who like most players wasn't especially bothered by the change in travel schedule. “It is what it is. It’s a new experience for most of us, so let’s enjoy it.

“In a perfect world you would like to have a morning skate (Saturday), but it is what it is, and you don’t always dictate those things. We’ll be ready to go once the game gets going.”

Rookie dinner

This trip, coincidentally, also involves the team rookie dinner, which will take place Saturday.

The break in the schedule — the Wings don’t play again until Wednesday — allowed for a good time for the team to have its dinner Saturday night in the New York area.

It involved one extra night on the road, but the team felt it was worth it to have a bonding experience within the team.

“The way the schedule is, an opportunity doesn’t present itself until later in the year, and at that point the year is over and what’s the point,” Blashill said. “It’s way better to do it earlier, and we don’t play until until Wednesday, so it gave us a good opportunity.”

The Wings' veterans weren't planning on running up an exorbitant tab on the rookies.

“Those days are somewhat over,” Kronwall said. “Back in the day you had expensive bottles of wine. Nowadays it’s a little bit of whenever you get the chance to just get together and have a great meal — but it won’t be anything extraordinary.

“Anytime you have a gathering of the whole team, the guys come together, you get to know each other a little more and it’s always a good time with 20 guys in the same room.”

Ice chips

Blashill said forward Jacob de la Rose (upper body) is a possibility to play Saturday, but not definite. Otherwise, it’ll be the same lineup from Ottawa. It’s expected goaltender Jonathan Bernier will start.

… The Red Wings defeated New Jersey 4-3 on Nov. 1 in Detroit, but everyone is expecting a different Devils team, especially at home.

“If you ask the guys in New Jersey, they didn’t have their best game in our building, they felt like they weren’t skating in that game,” Blashill said. “We played very good. We’re going to get New Jersey at what is its best, hounding the puck, being on top of you, so we’re going to have to play a real good hockey game.”

Red Wings at Devils

Faceoff: 1 p.m. Saturday, Prudential Center, Newark, N.J.

TV/radio: FSD/97.1

Outlook: The Devils (8-8-1, 17 points) are coming off a 3-0 shutout victory Thursday in Philadelphia. … Goalie Keith Kinkaid stopped 23 shots to earn the shutout. … RW Kyle Palmieri leads offensively with 11 goals, while reigning NHL MVP LW Taylor Hall has 14 assists.

Twitter: @tkulfan