Modano turning into a Wing

DEREK VAN DIEST, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 7:07 PM ET

Mike Modano is still getting adjusted to the colours.

After two decades with one organization, the former Dallas Stars icon appears out of place in a Detroit Red Wings uniform.

“You surprise yourself once in a while when you look at it,” Modano said. “But it’s getting there. Things here are going pretty great. Certainly you’d like things to go a little better productively for you, but it’s a big adjustment, it’s been a big change getting used to the environment, the community, the team and (head coach Mike) Babcock’s expectations for me, our line and our team in general. But it’s coming.”

Heading into Friday’s game against the Edmonton Oilers, Modano, 40, has a pair of goals in 10 games for the Red Wings this season.

He scored a prototypical goal against the Calgary Flames on Wednesday, flying down the wing and firing a shot past goaltender Miikka Kiprusoff in a 2-1 win.

“Mike’s an interesting guy, obviously he’s going to be a first-ballot Hall of Famer,” said Babcock. “He’s got great speed and a great shot. I think he’s been good and he’s got a ton left in the tank. I think he can play a long time. He’s got to fit in with the group and feel good about himself.”

Modano has already been around a long time.

He’s one of two active players that played in the league in the ’80s. Mark Recchi of the Boston Bruins was also around back then.

“It does surprise me a times when I think about it, but I feel it’s gone in the blink of an eye. It does go fast,” Modano said. “I saw that there is only a couple of us in sports that have been around in the ’80s. But I’ve been very fortunate, very lucky and I think as I’ve gotten older, I’ve appreciated more of what I’ve been able to do, how long I’ve been able to play, and you find you enjoy it a lot more.”

Fitting in with the Red Wings has taken some work for the former first overall pick.

After playing 20 years with the Stars, dating back to their days in Minnesota, Modano signed a one-year free-agent contract with Detroit this off-season.

“It’s pretty fast-paced here, with high tempo and good puck movement,” Modano said. “Wingers work very hard here helping the defence.

“Away from the puck you also have to work hard in order get open, make it easier and make themselves available for the guy with the puck. They’re also always coming on you, they get through the zone quick and fast.”

A well-documented speedster in his own right, Modano seemed a natural fit with the Red Wings once the Stars decided to go in a different direction and cut ties with their former franchise player.

However, it still proved to be an eye-opening experience for the highest-scoring American-born player of all time.

“As soon as I got here, I knew I had lot of catching up to do and felt two or three steps behind,” he said. “But it’s kind of gotten to the point where I got a little lighter, got in a little better shape cardio-wise and I’m feeling I’m getting a little more on level ground with these guys now.

“I was playing at 213 pounds in Dallas and I’m down to 205, 206 here. That’s the best I’ve felt in probably three years.”

As is the case seemingly every season, the Red Wings are once again near the top of the NHL standings. They head into Edmonton tied for first in the Central Division standings with the Chicago Blackhawks.

“There’s about six guys here that carry the load,” Modano said. “They’re all world class and seeing them on an every day basis, explains that scenario very clearly.

“The majority of the veteran guys have sustained a high level of excellence of how they play. It’s amazing how they push each other, they’re very competitive with their work ethic and are very well conditioned.”

derek.vandiest@sunmedia.ca


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