TROY – The question most NHL players are asking at this point of the season is, ‘How many more preseason games do we have before the season starts.’
This year, preseason games would be quite delightful for those players.
“I think we all miss being out there playing against other teams,” Wings goalie Jimmy Howard said after wrapping up another week of practice with teammates at Troy Sports Center. “Right now we’d already have a couple of games under our belt.
“Preseason is always key for a goaltender because it got you out there getting your feet wet for the first time in a while,” Howard added. “You’re seeing a lot of traffic and finding the puck. Right now, there really isn’t a lot of that, just free-flowing drills and guys just having fun.”
The Wings, who were scheduled to report to training camp in Traverse City on Sept. 21, are supposed to open the regular season at home against the Nashville Predators on Oct. 12.
The NHL season opens on Oct. 11.
The league cancelled the remainder of this year’s preseason games on Thursday.
“Some of the guys have been skating now for six weeks,” defenseman Niklas Kronwall said. “At some point you play the game because you love to play the game, not practice the game. I’m sure if it gets to that point you’ll have to make a decision if you want to go play somewhere else.”
The Wings have been skating on their own since being locked out by owners at midnight on Sept. 16.
“We’ve done a good job the first week of keeping it light out there and interesting,” Howard said. “Even though we’re playing these small area games there are incentive on them with the losing team skating and things like that. It just keeps the competiveness flowing.
“Talk to me in two weeks and I’ll probably be singing a different tune,” added Howard when asked if skating by themselves will start to get old.
Howard won’t make a decision about playing overseas until the end of October at the earliest. He wants to be in town for his son’s birthday and be there for when he takes his first steps.
The number of players attending the informal practices changes by the day.
“Before we had some other NHLers and Grand Rapids guys,” Henrik Zetterberg said on Friday. “This is probably the guys we’ll have, some of the guys are coming in next week, I think (Jordin) Tootoo and (Darren) Helm. We just got to try to do the best we can. I don’t think we’ll skate every day, probably 3-4 days a week and then do the normal off-ice workouts.”
Danny Cleary is skipping the informal skates and heading to Vail, Colorado to workout with a trainer along with a number of other NHL players.
“It’s little more intensity camp,” Cleary said. “It’s getting a little bit boring.
“I miss (the game) so much,” Cleary added. “It’s a really weird feeling right now, not having that routine of going to the rink every day, seeing the guys, getting into a routine. We’re so much creatures of habit, us athletes, especially hockey players. I miss getting up early, having a routine, going to the rink, seeing the guys, getting dressed, the competitiveness on the ice, skating, getting a good workout in, getting ready for the season. To be honest, it hurts.”
The NHL and the players’ association met on Friday and will continue meet through Sunday, working on non-core economic issues.
“I think just the fact that they’re back talking to each other, hopefully that will spring some life back into these discussions,” Kronwall said. “If you can have some good discussions about that it could lead to some good discussions around the core-economic stuff as well. It’s a good start and hopefully we’ll have some good news (soon).”
“Anytime you’re talking, anytime you’re in the same room it’s good,” Cleary said. “I’m really hoping these talks lead to something else. One day leads to two, leads to three and the next thing you know, ‘Hey, let’s meet tomorrow.’”