Kopecky gets call to replace Calder
Kopecky gets call to replace Calder
Babcock hopes change will generate a spark
May 15, 2007
BY HELENE ST. JAMES
FREE PRESS SPORTS WRITER
ANAHEIM, Calif. -- Forward Tomas Kopecky found out Monday morning he'll be in the lineup for his first NHL playoff game tonight when the Red Wings take on the Ducks in Game 3 of the Western Conference Finals.
"I feel pretty excited, pretty anxious," he said after practice at Honda Center.
Kopecky hasn't played since breaking his collarbone Dec. 14 during a game at Chicago, but he's been cleared for over a month and has been practicing intensely for this sort of opportunity.
"It was getting to the point where it was like, 'I'd love to play,' " Kopecky said. "I'm really energized right now. I'm pretty happy to be back in the lineup. Hopefully I can bring that energy to the dressing room and on the ice."
While expectations of Kopecky have to be limited because he's a rookie and because he hasn't played in five months, he will at least bring an edge of physicality to the lineup. While it's tough for a player to jump into the fray after a long layoff -- just look at Todd Bertuzzi, who missed five months because of back surgery -- the Wings have just seen Todd Marchant reenter the Ducks lineup for this series after missing time because of a sports hernia.
"The way I look at it is this: What we did in that spot the last little bit isn't helping us, so we're going to go at it this way," coach Mike Babcock said. "We think Kopy is a good player. I look at Marchant. He didn't play for a long time. Come back, steps right in. In saying that, that guy's a veteran, proven player. Mentally he can handle it. I have all those concerns, as well. Just the positives outweigh the negatives. That's the decision."
Kopecky will replace Kyle Calder, who had grown so ineffective that he played just four minutes in each of the first two games. Calder had no shifts after the second period in Sunday's 4-3 overtime loss, which evened the series at 1-1. Kopecky practiced on a line with Kris Draper and Kirk Maltby, but that may change for the game.
BEATEN TO THE DRAW: Kris Draper finished Game 2 with a 38% mark on face-offs; his losses -- many against Samuel Pahlsson -- included the face-off that led to Anaheim's winning goal. "I was just trying to come over the top," Draper said of the last face-off.
"He just kind of timed it, where he got my stick. After that, I tried to scramble it. When I go out there for those face-offs, I know what my job is. Go out there and win it and try to get the puck going the other way. I didn't get it done."
As for also being an uncharacteristic minus-4, Draper said, "very disappointed in myself. It stings. You almost feel like you let the guys down. There were so many guys that did so many good things, and I was on for two big goals -- the third goal and the fourth goal -- and that is something that certainly disappoints me. I've got to do better."
BERTUZZI BATTLING: Todd Bertuzzi played just under 10 minutes in Game 1 and finished Game 2 with nearly 14 minutes thanks to it going to overtime. The Wings have him playing with rookie center Valtteri Filppula and out on the team's secondary power play unit.
It's a very different job for a guy who five years ago -- before back surgery -- was a premier NHL power forward averaging closer to 20 minutes a game.
"It'd be a little sweeter if I'd played a full season and had my 82-game legs; instead, I'm more around 20," Bertuzzi said. "But it's a matter of just playing a role here and doing what you can. I'm not going to lie to you, it's not a position that I relish. I'm going to have to work hard to get myself back. But there is something special here, and if you want to be part of it you've got to toe the rope. That's what it takes to win championships."
Copyright © 2007 Detroit Free Press Inc.