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Green ‘extremely excited’ to begin new chapter of his career

DETROIT >> For years the Detroit Red Wings have tried and tried to land a top four, right-handed shooting defenseman through free agency and had no luck doing so.

Because of that teams tried to take advantage of their lefty-lefty pairings on the blue line.

“I know when we would play against the Red Wings, we would try to run plays against their left-handed guys,” Mike Green said after an informal practice at Joe Louis Arena.

The Wings landed Green, a right-handed defenseman, on the first day of free agency inking him to a three-year deal worth $18 million.

“Being a right guy, do my best to move the puck and get it into the forwards’ hands,” Green said. “That’s really all of our goals. It doesn’t matter whether you’re right or left.”

Green, who turns 30 on Oct. 12, had spent his entire 10-year career in Washington prior to signing with Detroit.

“A lot of changes, but all positive,” Green said. “Obviously a long time in Washington but moving forward here, I’m extremely excited to be a part of this group, especially with the history, the leadership here and the recipe to win. Overall it’s just a great deal of excitement.

“My and I wife found a place about two weeks ago and I was fortunate that she came down and sort of did all the moving before I got here,” Green added. “I’m excited to be here. The guys have been very welcoming so I can’t wait to get started.”

Green is a two-time Norris Trophy finalist, awarded annually to the league’s top defenseman.

The knock on Green throughout his career is he doesn’t play hard and isn’t air tight defensively, but he will rack up the points.

With the Capitals he totaled 113 goals and 247 assists in 575 regular season games. Fifty-two of his goals came on the power play. In 71 playoff games, Green had nine goals, six on the power play, and 26 assists.

He’s slated to be paired with Danny DeKeyser.

“Great guy, great skater, moves the puck well,” Green said of DeKeyser. “Obviously playing against him, I know sort of just by watching him. I haven’t paid too close attention to his tendencies, but I’m sure I’ll get to learn him real quick here. I’m really excited to play with him.

“Great player, outstanding,” Green continued. “I’ve kept an eye on him. I’ve actually watched a little bit of tape online, just clips of him. I’m excited.”

Green doesn’t see it taking long to mesh his style of play with that of DeKeyser.

“It really depends,” said Green, who was given the stall next to Niklas Kronwall. “I’ve had partners where it’s taken us a little bit longer, but mostly with the sort of newcomers or young guys, it takes a little bit longer. But Danny’s an experienced guy and I’m sure we’ll connect right away and be able to sort of be cohesive out there in a short period of time.”

Green, who had a career high 31 goals in the 2008-09 season, slipped down the Capitals’ depth chart, falling to a third pairing, after they signed Matt Niskanen and Brooks Orpik for the 2014-15 season. He averaged just over 19 minutes of ice time, which was the lowest since his first full season in the league, and scored just 10 goals and had 35 assists in 72 games.

“Really just getting back out and competing,” Green said when asked what he’s looking forward to the most with the Wings. “That’s the fun part of the game. It doesn’t matter who you’re playing against or what, just that competition. That’s what I’m really looking forward to, just a different style of play. Detroit plays a very puck-possession game and has some incredible players that can make some plays so I’m excited to play with these guys.”

Darren Helm probably knows Green the best since he’s worked out with him in the past.

“I stop in Calgary a couple weeks every summer and jump in with him at his gym and get to train with him,” Helm said. “He’s a great guy, really nice. You don’t really know too many people when you go into new teams or new gyms, and he made that transition real easy for me. Hopefully I can help him do that with this team. It was always fun to work out with him and now it’s going to be even better having him on our team.”

Zetterberg feels ‘it was time’ for Babcock, Wings to part ways

DETROIT >> Sometimes change is necessary.

And that’s just how Detroit Red Wings captain Henrik Zetterberg views the departure of Mike Babcock to the Toronto Maple Leafs.

“I want to thank Mike for the time he had here but I think both him and us probably decided it was time,” Zetterberg said after an informal skate at Joe Louis Arena with a handful of teammates.

After 10 seasons behind the Wings bench where he led the team to the playoffs every season Babcock landed an eight-year, $50 million deal with Toronto.

“I kind of figured that he was moving on and obviously the media attention all along was big, but for us players who weren’t playing we’re kind of on vacation already,” Zetterberg said. “We didn’t really get that effect of it but I heard from the guys who were around here still that it was a big deal.”

The team promoted Jeff Blashill, who had spent the last three seasons in Grand Rapids after one season as Babcock’s assistant in Detroit.

“I think he has a lot of knowledge,” Zetterberg said of Blashill. “When he was here last time he was really fresh. I think the time he spent in Grand Rapids was really good. He did a tremendous job down there with the kids and you’ve been seeing the product of him, when you see players like come up like Gus (Nyquist) and (Tomas) Tatar and (Riley) Sheahan and (Luke) Glendening. There are so many guys that went through playing for him and won the Calder Cup with him, so we’re excited and just want to get it going.”

The Wings also added through free agency defenseman Mike Green, a right-handed, power-play specialist, and another veteran presence in Brad Richards, who has his name on the Stanley Cup twice the last of which came last season with the Chicago Blackhawks.

“Green is a right-handed shot, plays a lot on the power play, plays a lot of minutes and did a real good job in Washington,” Zetterberg said. “It’s kind of the defenseman we didn’t have, so it’s a nice addition for us. Also, Richards has been around for a long time, knows what it takes to go all the way and win and it’s going to be nice to have a veteran presence in the locker room.

“There are a lot of guys in here who’ve been through the same stuff for many years,” Zetterberg continued. “I think now with the new additions of Green and Richards, and the new coach, it’s given us a little fresh start. Obviously it’s going to be a different voice behind the bench and sometimes you need that.”

Zetterberg also welcomed a new addition over the summer when his Emma gave birth to their first child, son Love, on Aug. 20.

“First of all, we spent most of the summer in Detroit,” Zetterberg said. “It was the first time we did that. We really enjoyed it. Obviously we were a little nervous when it got a little closer but everything went well. Both Love and Emma are doing well.”

As for the choice of first name, “We knew if it was going to be a boy that Love was going to be the name early,” Zetterberg said. “It’s an old Swedish name and kind of getting popular again. (I) understand the confusion if you see the spelling in an American way, but you pronounce it LOO-vee over here and in Swedish it’s LOO-vay.”

Zetterberg didn’t finish the season the way he had hoped being held scoreless in the first round, seven-game series with Tampa Bay. That had never occurred in each of his previous 21 series.

Zetterberg, who had 17 goals and 49 assists in the regular season, had three assists in the series. He also struggled down the stretch scoring just two goals in his last 35 games.

Cleary gets one-year deal to remain with Wings, but he’s not guaranteed a roster spot

DETROIT >> Dan Cleary is back with the Detroit Red Wings.

Cleary signed a one-year, one-way deal worth $950,000 on Friday.

He had a goal and an assist in 17 regular season games last season and was a minus-4.

He didn’t appear in the seven-game playoff series with Tampa Bay.

But before all of HockeyTown blows their collective lids … he’s not guaranteed a spot on the roster.

If he’s assigned to Grand Rapids his salary won’t count towards the salary cap.

Prior to signing Cleary, who had a base salary of $1.5 million last season and a $1 million bonus for playing 10 games, the Wings had 24 players there are projected to make the team out of training camp, which was already over the 23-player roster limit.

They were also close to $1 million over the salary cap according to

Detroit does have some wiggle room with the uncertainty health of Johan Franzen and Pavel Datsyuk to begin the season.

Franzen has been taking part in informal practices at Joe Louis Arena, but has yet to receive medical clearance from his latest concussion last season. Datsyuk is still recovering from ankle surgery.

Both players could start the year on long-term injured reserve, which would clear two roster spots and provide salary-cap relief.

Pulkkinen to get his shot with Detroit

DETROIT >> The Detroit Red Wings may have gotten the best bargain this offseason.

The team announced Tuesday the signing of restricted free agent Teemu Pulkkinen to a one-year deal worth $735,000.

Pulkkinen, 23, split his time last season with the Wings and Grand Rapids and despite playing in just 46 games with the Griffins a year ago he led the American Hockey League in goals with 34, 10 of which came on the power play.
He also registered 27 assists, which put him second on the team with 61 points.

In 31 games a year ago in Detroit he had five goals, three assists and was a plus-5. Two of his goals were game winners.

After the Wings were eliminated in the first round of the playoffs, Pulkkinen joined the Griffins and tallied 14 goals in 16 games to help lead Grand Rapids to the Western Conference finals. He also had four assists.

In his first year in Grand Rapids he had 31 goals and 28 assists and followed that with five goals and six assists in 10 playoff games.

Pulkkinen, who needs to make the roster out of training camp or would have to clear waivers to go back to Grand Rapids, will again be a restricted free agent next season. He had an average salary-cap hit of $698,333 on his first three-year, entry-level deal.

The right-handed shooting forward is known for one thing: his shot.

“I think the thing we like about Pulkkinen is he’s got a tremendous shot,” Wings general manager Ken Holland said in January. “He’s got a weapon. His shot is his weapon. He likes to use it and he seems like he knows how to get open.”

Pulkkinen equaled a Grand Rapids franchise record last season prior to being called up by registering a goal in eight consecutive games. The mark was set by Donald MacLean in the 2005-06 season.

“It’s amazing,” Riley Sheahan said of Pulkkinen’s shot last January. “It’s almost like every time he shoots the puck it’s either going in or the goalie’s not going to know where it’s going and it’ll hit off him and create another scoring chance. It’s hard. It’s accurate. He gets it off pretty quick. Not many guys have a shot like him.”

That right-handed booming shot, which is compared to that of Brett Hull, could come in helpful on the blue line as well.

“Obviously he has a real good shot,” Henrik Zetterberg said in January. “But also he’s good at finding the open ice to be able to receive passes. He doesn’t need much.

“It’s almost like Brett Hull in a way,” Zetterberg added. “He doesn’t need a lot of room to get a shot off. It’s going to be interesting to see what he can do. Obviously he’s done a real good job down in Grand Rapids and we’re looking forward to having him around with us.”

“I’ve heard them,” Pulkkinen laughed nervously when asked about the comparisons with Hull. “Since I was a little kid I had fun with my friends going out to shoot pucks, play different games. I enjoy shooting and I’ve been practicing that since I was a little kid.”

Pulkkinen slipped in the entry draft after injuring his shoulder and the Wings were able to get him in the fourth round, 111th overall, in 2010.

The year he was drafted he set a record for assists (36) by a rookie in the Finnish Elite League, breaking the mark set by Teemu Selanne.

Tomas Jurco is the lone restricted free agent the Wings need to sign.

Detroit has 24 players signed, 15 of which are forwards, at just over $72 million.

The salary cap this season is $71.4 million.

Teams can be 10-percent over the salary cap until the day before the season begins, which will give the Wings enough time to decide if Pavel Datsyuk (ankle surgery) and Johan Franzen (concussion) will be able to start the season or head to injured reserve.

Detroit could also free up cap space via a trade or by sending a player to Grand Rapids.

“We’ve got to get to camp, let it play itself out and pick a team,” Holland said earlier this offseason. “With the additions we made on July 1, we’re a little deeper than last year. We’re hoping for a competitive training camp.”

On the first day of free agency, the Wings added defenseman Mike Green and forward Brad Richards.

Osawa had her dream come true … competing at the 2014 Winter Olympics on Japan’s women’s hockey team

MOUNT CLEMENS >> Chiho Osawa had dreamt of being an Olympic athlete when she was 12 years old.

That dream came true.

Osawa played for Japan’s women’s ice hockey team in the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia.

“I was glad my dream came true,” said Osawa, who’s competing this summer in the four-team women’s division of the Eastside Elite Hockey League out of Mount Clemens Ice Arena. “I love all things about hockey, especially the speed of the game.”

Not only did she compete, but her teammates named her the captain, which still shocks her to this day.

“Our team has some player who’s (much) older than me, so I was worried about (pulling) our team together,” Osawa said.

Her teammate, Tricia MacLeod, on the EEHL team is amazed at how high a level Osawa’s game is at.

“She’s so fluid on her skates,” MacLeod said. “She’s such a good skater and play maker. She’s so smooth you almost don’t notice her. She’s so good on her edges and so good with the puck.

“I never ever thought I’d be playing with an Olympian, ever,” MacLeod added.

There was also a language barrier that needed to be overcome.

“I was curious how that would affect our game,” MacLeod said. “It doesn’t even matter. She sees the ice so well that she’s very easy to play with.”

Japan didn’t win a game in Sochi and got outscored 7-1 in Group B.

Then, they lost to Germany in the seventh-place game, 3-2, in the eight-team tournament.

“At the Olympics, my conditioning and mentality was the best,” Osawa said. “So I brought out my best. However, I felt the difference between Japan and other teams.”

Osawa, 23, added that the teams Japan played against were just more powerful, shot and passed the puck better and had better goalkeeping.

“No,” Osawa said when asked if it was discouraging to lose every game. “I feel that we have to (get) stronger. I think that Japan has a good chance of success.”

And things have turned around.

Japan beat the Czech Republic in the decisive game of the 2015 IIHF Ice Hockey Women’s World Championship qualification series last November.

The win qualified Japan for the 2015 IIHF Ice Hockey Women’s World Championship in Malmo, Sweden. It was the sixth time Japan had qualified for the tournament.

Japan won two straight games in the best-of-three relegation series with Germany to book its ticket to Kamloops, Canada in 2016.

It was a huge moment for Japan, which has only avoided being sent down once (2008) at the Women’s World Championships.

“Yes, I think so,” Osawa said when asked if she thought hockey was beginning to grow as a sport in her country. “Staying in the top division at the Women’s World Championships was big for us. I think that we growing up step-by-step.”

Osawa, who didn’t have a favorite hockey player she looked up to growing up, began skating at the age of three and started playing hockey at age six.

Osawa, who has a younger brother that also plays hockey, began playing hockey because her dad, Hirotoshi, did.

And she honors him by wearing his No. 6 when she plays for her club team in Japan.

Her national team number is 12, which was chosen by the head coach.

Osawa has been in the United States a month and will be here for a year of training at EXEDY Globalparts Corporation. She’ll also be playing for Victory Honda Women’s 19+ Hockey Club this fall.

In Japan, she worked at Dynax and was in charge of the sales department.

She was born in Tomakomia, Japan, which is coincidentally referred to as Hockeytown. And that’s why the team she’ll cheer for the most plays out of Hockeytown in Detroit.

Marian grad Madison Packer “never dreamed” of getting paid to play hockey

MOUNT CLEMENS >> Madison Packer had no idea she’d be getting paid to play the game she loved after college.

“Five years ago, being a female hockey player, I would have never dreamed I’d be getting paid to play this sport,” Packer said.

But that’s just what the Marian High School grad is going to be getting paid to do soon.

Packer has signed to play with the New York Riveters in the inaugural season of the National Women’s Hockey League.

“I think it’s going to go well,” Packer said. “Starting with four teams is perfect. We get paid a little bit, not a ton. It’s baby steps.”

The NWHL will consist of four teams all on the east coast – Boston (Pride), Buffalo (Beauts), Connecticut (Whale) and New York.

“They’re being cautious to not expand too quickly,” Packer said. “I think they’ll stick with four teams until it’s good competitive hockey and then slowly add more teams.”

The only other professional women’s hockey league in North America is the Canadian Women’s Hockey League which consists of five teams.

“I’m really excited,” said Packer, who graduated in December from the University of Wisconsin where she played four seasons. “I never thought a day like this would come where I’d be getting paid to play hockey.

“I’m not an NHL player making millions of dollars a year, but it’s a good opportunity, a start,” Packer added. “Probably people my age won’t make enough out of it to make a living without having to have another job. I think the hope is the longer it’s around and the bigger name you build the more opportunities it’ll create and that’s what it’s all about.”

The league conducted a draft of only college players that will be seniors this year back in June so Packer had to tryout to make a team.

“There is still such a big gap in women’s hockey,” Packer said. “I think college hockey is getting better.

“Tryouts weren’t great, but they weren’t horrible,” Packer added. “I was impressed with the number of people confident enough to show up.”

Immediately after tryouts Packer met with league executives and was offered a contract.

“That was pretty cool, something totally unexpected,” Packer said. “I was going there thinking there was going to be a process afterwards and I’d have to wait it out.”

Packer, who also was a keeper on Marian’s lacrosse team, is home for the summer and is participating in the four-team women’s division of the Eastside Elite Hockey League, run by Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Steve Oleksy.

It’s the fourth year Oleksy, a L’Anse Creuse North grad, has had a women’s division and it continues to grow.

“I skate anywhere I can basically,” said Packer, who’s participating in her first season in the EEHL. “I think it’s good for the high school kids out there, a challenge to play against college kids. For some of us college kids it probably would be better to get a few more of us out there.

I’m sure if you look at where this league was two or three years ago I’m sure it’s way different. It’s a process. Everything in women’s hockey is a process. As long as it’s around that’s what matters.”

Packer reports to training camp in September with games beginning in October.

In four seasons with the Badgers, Packer is tied for eighth for single season shots with 184 (2012-13) and is one of 19 players in school history to record 100 points. She also ranks third in school history in penalty minutes (217) and penalties (103).

In 146 games at Wisconsin, Packer had 46 goals, 58 assists and a plus-60. She also had 16 power play goals.

Packer competed for the girls U19 AAA Little Caesars hockey team in Detroit where she was a four-time Michigan State champion. She also won a silver medal in 2008 and bronze in 2007 at the USA Hockey National Tournament and tallied a career-high 98 goals and had 53 assists in 60 games in 2010.

Packer was also a member of the U.S. Women’s U-18 World Championships in 2008 and 2009, serving as alternate captain in 2009, along with being a two-time International Ice Hockey Federation World Women’s U18 Championship participant those same years.

With Babcock gone will more top free agents sign with Wings?

DETROIT >> Some say free agents didn’t see the Detroit Red Wings as a good destination because of their former coach, Mike Babcock.

Wings general manager Ken Holland disagrees.

“I don’t put any stock into that,” Holland said. “I just think a year ago … we targeted so few people. If you look at our team, we’d like to think we drafted well. A year ago we wanted a right-hand shot defenseman which there was two or three people.”

The first offseason after Babcock left Detroit for the Toronto Maple Leafs and became the highest paid NHL coach ($50 million over eight years) in the process, the Wings landed that right-handed shooting defenseman – Mike Green – and a two-time Stanley Cup champ – Brad Richards.

“I think everybody wants to play manager and come up with reasons why things don’t happen,” said Holland, who hired Jeff Blashill once Babcock decided to go elsewhere. “I just think there are 30 teams in the game, and the salary cap has made it almost a level playing field.

“We saw (on July 1) a bunch of different teams were getting players they wanted, it’s just the nature (of things),” Holland added. “Some summers you’re going to hit, some summers you’re not going to hit. The important thing is to draft and develop and continue to have a steady flow.”

Last season, the Wings struck out on blue liner Dan Boyle, their top priority, and Matt Niskanen, who both chose to sign with other teams within the Eastern Conference.

Boyle signed a two-year deal with the New York Rangers for $9 million instead of a better deal Detroit had on the table, three years at $12.5 million.

Boyle, who’ll turn 39 Sunday, was first being offered a two-year deal at around $11 million total.

Niskanen informed the Wings a couple hours into free agency that they were not on the list of teams he was considering to go to and finally chose the Washington Capitals, getting a seven-year deal worth $40.25 million.

Detroit was in the ballpark with its offer, seven years at $42 million, for the now 28-year old defenseman.

Then the second tier of right-handed defensemen began getting deals done with other teams – Tom Gilbert (two-year deal with Montreal worth $5.6 million), Stephane Robidas (three-year deal with Toronto worth $9 million) and Anton Stralman (five-year deal with Tampa Bay worth $22.5 million).

Christian Ehrhoff was the head-scratcher, signing a one-year deal worth $4 million with the Pittsburgh Penguins. Detroit was told by Ehrhoff’s agent that he was seeking a five-year deal at roughly $5 million a season.

The Wings were never given a second chance by Ehrhoff, who was bought out of the final seven years of a 10-year deal with Buffalo, to better the Penguins’ offer.

“When you’ve got 29 other teams in the mix and there’s two or three (players) the odds of every team hitting (aren’t good),” Holland said. “The summer before, we wanted a second-line center so we got Stephen Weiss and we got Daniel Alfredsson.

“Unfortunately Stephen Weiss didn’t turn out the way we hoped,” Holland continued. “Certainly Daniel Alfredsson with what he accomplished in his career had some options and chose to come to Detroit.”

Also under Babcock’s watch, they got Brian Rafalski (2007) and Marian Hossa (2008).

“At the trade deadline we tried to make some moves, with the second-round pick for (Erik) Cole and the third-round pick for (Marek) Zidlicky, we thought we had a chance to go on a playoff run, thought they were two great additions,” Holland said. “You wake up at the start of the playoffs and (Justin) Abdelkader’s got a broken finger and Cole is out with his back. Game 7, Zidlicky has a concussion and (Niklas) Kronwall is suspended.

“We’ve got to keep at it, we think we’re close, we think we’re in the thick of things, we think the moves we made are going to make us a little deeper, a little better and at the same time the experience we’ve gone through in the Boston series and the Tampa Bay series for the players on the team that are 25 or younger – (Gustav) Nyquist, (Tomas) Tatar, (Riley) Sheahan, (Luke) Glendening, (Danny) DeKeyser and now (Petr) Mrazek – that they’re going to be a little more prepared for the upcoming season. I think it’s such a fine, fine line. There are so many teams in the game, some years you’re going to get your guys and some years you’re not.”