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Wings coach Mike Babcock: “I’m telling you the truth right here nothing has happened.”

DETROIT >> Detroit Red Wings coach Mike Babcock didn’t mince words when discussing reports of his imminent signing of a new deal to stay with the organization.

“I’m telling you the truth right here nothing has happened,” Babcock said after practice Thursday at Joe Louis Arena. “I’m 100 percent comfortable. I’m going to do the best I can and I think things will work out. I’m a big believer in that.

A report surfaced last Wednesday that Babcock was very close to signing a new deal with the team that would pay him in excess of $3 million a season, which would make him the highest paid coach in the league.

All Babcock had to do was sign the contract.

“There’s nothing to sign,” Babcock said. “We’ll work it out. We play Florida tomorrow.

“We’ve never negotiated once about it,” Babcock added. “They’ve come to me once in the summer and they came back the same way just before the season and that’s it.”

Babcock is in the final year of his contract with the Wings that pays him roughly $2 million a season. His deal expires on June 30.

“Besides my family, the thing I like doing most is winning,” Babcock said. “That’s the process here. That’s what we’re trying to do here. That’s what I do.

“If you think I’m working harder this year because I’m in the last year of my contract it makes no difference,” Babcock continued. “I grind. That’s what I do. I’m a professional grinder. I love winning. We’ll see what happens. We have a game tomorrow.”

He said if a deal wasn’t in place before the season began he would not discuss a contract until after the season.

“Guys that’s like a fantasy world,” Babcock added when asked about the report. “Ken Holland and I when we talked before the year, we agreed we wouldn’t do this during the year.

“Our team is going good,” Babcock continued. “Our team is playing good. I like the way we’re playing. We don’t need any distractions.”

Babcock said he didn’t think there was any chance a deal would get done during the season.

“I think that’s what we decided,” Babcock said. “But like I said, I’m with Ken all the time. We can talk all the time, we haven’t about this, period. But it’s not like I’m knocking on his office door. We’re fine. He likes winning and I like winning. We’re both happy.”

The Wings currently are first overall in the Eastern Conference.

“I’m happy here,” Babcock said. “I like the general manager. They treat me good. I don’t know what else I can tell you, but as far as negotiations between Mike Babcock and Ken Holland there are none.

“There are none,” Babcock reiterated. “Do we ride on the plane together? Yeah. Was I out with him and his wife and his daughter the other night? Yeah. I think I had a glass of red wine and he had a Coors Light or something.

“There’s nothing more to tell,” Babcock continued. “I’m not hiding anything. I’m not making anything up. This is just reality so let’s not do this again tomorrow.”

Babcock, who is in his 10th season in Detroit, has led the Wings to a Stanley Cup and a two conference championships.

He could be the hottest sought-after coach this offseason if he doesn’t get a deal done to remain in Detroit.

Babcock, who has led Canada to two straight Olympic gold medals, just recorded his 500th win of his career and last season set a franchise record for wins.

Danny DeKeyser out next two games with upper-body injury

DETROIT >> Quick update from Wings practice at Joe Louis Arena, Thursday.

Defenseman Danny DeKeyser will miss at least the next two games with an upper-body injury according to Wings general manager Ken Holland.

DeKeyser was injured in Wednesday’s shootout loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Holland said the team has recalled Xavier Ouellet from Grand Rapids.

Holland also added he hopes to have DeKeyser back when the Wings host Columbus on Tuesday.

DeKeyser has suffered injuries in each of his first two seasons with the Wings that has made him miss some time.

He has a goal and and 10 assists through 29 games this season.

Wings do move into first place in Eastern Conference

DETROIT >> The Wings will go to bed Wednesday night and wake up Thursday morning knowing the same thing.

They’re in first place overall in the Eastern Conference.

The point the Wings earned in a 2-1 shootout loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs at Joe Louis Arena, moved them a point ahead of ideal Tampa Bay and Pittsburgh for first overall in the East.

“Getting points is good when you can get them,” Henrik Zetterberg said. “Obviously we wanted two here at home, but one point is better than no points. If you look how the game ended with a 3-on-4 there for almost a minute I think we’re going to be OK with this tomorrow and move on.”

Niklas Kronwall was sent off for goalie interference with 57 seconds left in overtime.

“I thought we played good,” Wings coach Mike Babcock said. “It’s over with to me. We got a point. They stole two points but I’ll take it every night. If you play like that you’re going to win.”

Howard falls to 0-4 in shootouts this season, making just three saves on 10 shots in skills competition

DETROIT >> Shootouts have not been very kind to Jimmy Howard this season.

Let’s just say they’ve been downright brutal for the Wings netminder.

Howard dropped to 0-4 in the skills competition this season, allowing two goals on three shots he faced in a 2-1 loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs, Wednesday night at Joe Louis Arena.

“We’ve got to be better at it,” Wings coach Mike Babcock said. “We’ve got to score for Howie and Howie’s got to make saves for us. That’s the reality of the situation.”

Pavel Datsyuk was the lone shooter to score for Detroit in the shootout. Gustav Nyquist shot high and Tomas Tatar shot into the pads of Toronto goalie James Reimer.

“We try to treat it like a specialty teams, try to go through it and be as prepared as we can,” Babcock said. “No one did anything that surprised us. Bottom line is you’ve got to find ways to score goals in those situations and you’ve got to find ways to stop them.

“For me, let’s just win the game,” Babcock continued. “That’s what I focus on. Win the game. We played lots of time until the shootout but let’s just win the game.”

Howard has now allowed seven goals on 10 shots faced in shootouts this season.

“Yeah, especially when you work on it, it’s tough,” Howard said when asked if losing this way was frustrating. “You guys can come and watch practice. You see that we do work on it. It’s frustrating, it really, really is.”

Petr Mrazek has the Wings’ only shootout win this season.

Wings coach Mike Babcock on the firing of his former assistant coach Paul MacLean

DETROIT >> Wings coach Mike Babcock had this to say about his former assistant coach Paul MacLean being fired by the Ottawa Senators on Monday.

“It’s always disappointing,” Babcock said. “As a coach, it’s real simple, you side with the coach every single time. This is a little different for me because (Senators general manager) Bryan Murray’s a real good friend of mine as well. Mac’s a good coach, he’ll bounce back. It’s always an initial shock for you and for your family and for your ego. But that’s the business, too. I think Mac’s a real good coach and he’ll coach again if he wants to.”

Abdelkader skates with team, but has been ruled out for Wednesday; Cleary appears back to being a healthy scratch

DETROIT >> Quick update from Wings’ practice Tuesday at Joe Louis Arena.

Justin Abdelkader took part in his first practice with the team wearing a gray “non-contact” jersey.

He won’t play Wednesday when Detroit hosts the Toronto Maple Leafs.

“Not bad, feeling better,” Abdelkader said. “Today was a good day to skate with the team. No contact. It’s not quite there yet, but it was nice to be out there and skate. Hopefully keep getting better. I think it’s made some good strides over the last few days.”

Abdelkader suffered a slightly separated left shoulder when he was hit by Vancouver’s Luca Sbisa a week ago last Sunday.

“It’s just one of those things where you just can’t put an exact time line on things,” Abdelkader said. “You’ve just got to see how it feels, see the trainers and I guess I’ve got to get my strength back and full range of motion.

“You know you’re getting closer, but you know you’re not quite there yet,” Abdelkader said. “I’m just happy I’m able to be out there and skate with the guys. That’s going to hopefully make it so when I’m ready. I can back into the lineup quicker.”

Abdelkader is off to his best start of his career with seven goals and eight assists through 24 games.

“Just full range of motion and shooting is going to take a little bit,” Abdelkader said. “I think it was positive that I was able to skate out there and do lots of things. Hopefully, it’ll keep coming as quickly as it has the past few days.”

Daniel Cleary appears to be back out of the lineup. He was the extra forward that worked in with the top two lines.

At age 36, Pavel Datsyuk isn’t showing any signs of slowing down

DETROIT >> You ask Pavel Datsyuk’s teammates to best describe the type of player he is and what he means to the Detroit Red Wings and they all have trouble finding the proper adjective or adjectives to use.

“He’s a special player,” Gustav Nyquist said. “It’s amazing what he can do with the puck. He means a lot to this team.

“He’s a good … pretty good player,” Nyquist added as he shook his head.

“He’s been unbelievable,” Joakim Andersson said. “He’s good every game. He’s so good holding onto the puck and so strong defensively. He does it all.”

“He’s got great hockey sense,” Jimmy Howard said. “He just puts himself in great spots to succeed. He thinks the game differently than anyone.”

Datsyuk, who was named the NHL’s first star from last week, is tied for the team lead with 12 goals and second on the team in points with 22. He’s also got a team-best plus-9 rating.

Age and injuries haven’t slowed down Datsyuk, 36.

To start the season, Datsyuk missed four weeks after suffering a separated shoulder in the preseason opener. In his return, he recorded points in six consecutive games.

“That’s Pav,” Howard said. “He’s so gifted, he’s so talented that he’s able to take a week off and most guys would need a couple of games to get the rust off but he’s out there and looks like normal Pav.”

Next, he sat out four games in a row and six-of-eight with a pulled groin. In his return, he scored two goals in his first game back.

“Since he’s been back you don’t notice he’s been hurt,” Andersson said. “Most guys it takes a few games to get their legs back and going again.”

And for the first time in his 12-year career Datsyuk is scoring more goals (12) than he has set up (10 assists). He ranks seventh in the league in shooting percentage at 26.7, (12 goals on 45 shots).

“Pav is Pav,” Niklas Kronwall said. “I don’t know how you explain it, really. When he goes out there feeling good, he’s one of the best in the league. And he shows it night after night.”

“Obviously, we’re happy to have him playing,” Henrik Zetterberg said. “When he’s out there he’s such a big part of our team, we need him to play games. When he’s doing that he’s been on fire. Not just production. Overall the way he plays out there, offensively, defensively.”

Datsyuk has a three two-goal games this season and eight multi-point games, including a one goal and two assist game Sunday.

“He’s a special guy,” Stephen Weiss said. It’s not easy to do when you’ve missed consecutive games like that and a couple weeks and to come back and produce like that it’s a pretty amazing player.”

Weiss got to play wing for Datsyuk when he returned from a groin injury on Nov. 26 and witnessed a two-goal game from him.

“I haven’t been able to play with anyone like that in my career before,” Weiss said. “He’s amazing. He’s just so talented and seems to not miss a beat.

“I ask him after every game how he feels and he says, ‘Uh, OK,’” Weiss continued. “And he scored two goals. That’s pretty impressive.”

Despite producing more than a point per game this season, Datsyuk still is committed to playing defense first which has helped lead him to three Selke trophies as the league’s top defensive forward.

“First priority is defense,” Datsyuk said. “More defense, (equals) more offense.”