Red Wings excited about New Year's Eve game against Capitals
Detroit — The Red Wings are hoping to play an actual game.
You never know for sure these days, with the omnicron variant and its ability to strike quickly.
But the Wings and Washington Capitals are both on the end of their respective COVID-19 outbreaks — Washington played Wednesday, and defeated Nashville 5-3 — and appear healthy and ready to play Friday.
"Everybody is looking forward to playing games again," defenseman Moritz Seider said. "It was a rough stretch for us, but in all, the boys are really hungry and they'll give everything they can to get back to work."
The Wings' last game was Dec. 18, a 5-2 victory over New Jersey with a makeshift lineup because numerous players — and coach Jeff Blashill and assistant Alex Tanguay — landed on the COVID-19 protocol list.
More: Red Wings trying to restore defensive structure returning from break
The next day, the Wings were one of eight teams that were ultimately shut down early before the holiday break. The entire league schedule was paused on Dec. 22. The Wings ultimately had four games postponed.
"Eager to get back in a game," Blashill said. "It was good to watch (Wednesday's games) and you could see there was a lot of emotion getting back at it. This is what we do and to a large degree, what we live for. It's good to get going."
Forwards Lucas Raymond and Adam Erne, and defenseman Jordan Oesterle, were removed from the protocol list Thursday, leaving defenseman Nick Leddy as the lone Wings' player on the list. Leddy will not play Friday.
Many of the Wings who've been on the list recently have only missed one game, at most, before the NHL shut things down. From that perspective, the Wings feel fortunate.
"We're real lucky," Seider said. "The guys didn't have to sit out, and we had a real good practice (Thursday) and we can build on that and go from there."
The Wings are also able to return to game action at Little Caesars Arena, which has been a decided home-ice advantage.
The Wings are 11-3-2 at LCA — one of those losses, to Washington — while only 4-10-1 on the road.
There's also the knowledge the New Year's Eve crowd is usually one of the more festive and loud gatherings of the season.
"The crowd has been awesome, and I'm certain (Friday's) crowd will be awesome," Blashill said. "New Year's Eve is always a great crowd. I've got a large contingent of the family coming down to be here. These types of nights just increases it (the emotion)."
Blashill has coached in the world junior championships and understands the excitement and thrill for players and coaches in the prestigious tournament.
So Blashill was crushed to hear about this year's tournament, in Edmonton, being canceled after four days of play due to concerns surrounding COVID-19.
"Devastating," Blashill said. "I had a chance to talk to our U.S. team before the tournament, and like a lot of people, was really excited to see this group (play). It's just devastating. I was crushed to see it (cancellation). It's just been a really hard couple of years for a lot of people, certainly, but these are young peoples' dreams. These are huge moments.
"It's not just this world junior that got cancelled, it happened to be in the middle of it. But the women's world 18's was cancelled as well. So those poor girls, this is a lot of what they strive for their whole lives, growing up and now they don't get a chance to compete. I know they're working to try to find a solution to that (but) that's the second year in a row for the women and that's crushing.
"I just know how much work goes into it. I know how much passion is involved. I know how much Nate Leaman and his staff put into it and how much John Vanbiesbrouck and his staff put into this and for it to just end on a drop of a dime, is crushing for everybody involved.
"I understand perspective, I get that, and there are worse things in the world. I get that for sure. But you're talking about dreams of young people and it's crushing when they don't have those. Life is about experiences. I feel terrible for them."
Seider spent some of Christmas Eve and Christmas Day with Dylan Larkin's family, as Seider's family was in Germany (his parents were in town earlier in December).
"So I wasn't sitting by myself," Seider said. "It was really nice. Other than that, a lot of 'me' time, which was OK. You want to stay away from guys and public places (because of the virus)."
... Forward Sam Gagner has now had the virus twice, but the first time last year was more challenging.
"Last year it kind of knocked me out,” Gagner said. “It was tough from a conditioning perspective to get back, and I was coughing for a while after I came back. I felt better this time around. From that perspective I’ll be fine.
"But 10 days off, no matter what you’re out with, affects your timing, your reads, all those types of things."
Capitals at Red Wings
►Faceoff: 7:30 p.m., Friday, Little Caesars Arena
►Outlook: The Capitals (19-6-7) resumed play Wednesday with a 5-3 victory over Nashville. ... The Wings are 1-0-1 against the Capitals this season. ... LW Alex Ovechkin, 36, continues to dominate (22 goals, 26 assists) with one of his best starts of his career.