Veteran captain steps up for Wings

JIM KERNAGHAN -- London Free Press

, Last Updated: 5:17 PM ET


 Team captains are made, not born, and Motown can offer you a pretty good template.

 Stand up, Steve Yzerman. But watch out for that rebuilt leg.

 The longest-serving captain in the NHL (21 seasons) stepped up just at a time the annual Detroit Red Wings fan doubts were creeping in to fire two goals in Detroit's 5-2 victory over the Calgary Flames yesterday.

 His contribution, along with duty on Detroit's key checking line against Calgary superstar Jarome Iginla, was in keeping with the Wings' approach. Old and established firms did the job against the rising young Flames, surprise 2-1 overtime victors in Game 1.

 Other than the score, the game was almost a carbon copy of the opener as the Wings again outshot Calgary widely, 32-16, conceding just three shots in the first period.

 "I wouldn't read too much into the shots on goal," Yzerman cautioned. "I want to see how it goes in their building. At home you can match up."

 Yzerman, who was installed at right wing on the Grind Line along with centre Kris Draper and left-winger Kirk Maltby, underwent serious knee surgery in the summer of 2002. The predicted reduction in ice time for him proved a major myth; he is on the power play and penalty killing along with facing the opponent's top line.

 Yzerman, 38, admitted his two-goal outburst provided a spurt of energy but he has been around long enough to be careful of such euphoria.

 "It's amazing how much energy you get from scoring a goal, the rush of adrenaline," he explained. "But you have to guard against it. It wears off and you get tired fast."

 In other words, as all pro athletes are accustomed to saying, don't let the highs elevate you too much or the lows bring you down too deep.

 This game was an upper for the Red Wings veterans when Tomas Holmstrom and Nicklas Lidstrom of that old Swedish national team firm conspired for the opener, Holmstrom redirecting Lidstrom's blue-line drive past Calgary netminder Miika Kiprusoff.

 Fast-skating defenceman Mathieu Dandenault teed up Yzerman from behind the net after a rink-long rush and then Yzerman connected again on a superb setup by Maltby to give the Wings their first breathing space of the series. The all-time Detroit playoff scoring leader now has 70 goals and his 111 assists are two behind Gordie Howe.

 Brett Hull, 39, potted his third goal of the playoffs from Lidstrom and linemate Pavel Datsyuk, who was six years old when Hull played his first of 19 straight playoff springs, then Lidstrom, after a series quick relays with Hull across the top of the blueline, drilled Detroit's third power-play goal of the game.

 Shean Donovan and Chuck Kobasew scored for Calgary.

 Wings coach Dave Lewis said a lot of thought went into aligning Yzerman with Draper and Maltby, even though they'd been together at times through the season.

 "Draper and Maltby with their speed and Yzerman with his smarts and hands, they find a way to generate offence, not just defence," Lewis said. "That line gave us a little bit different look, a different opportunity to create some offence."

 Yzerman was unaware his stick caught Calgary defenceman Rhett Warrener in the eye during a skirmish in the Flames zone until teammate Jiri Fischer told him at the bench. Warrener was at the bench during the third period but didn't play.

 Iginla was held without a shot but Yzerman says he's too talented not to get some when the series swings to the Foothills on Tuesday, where the fan support is certain to give the Flames an enormous lift.

 Like Colorado, it's a tough place to play, the Detroit captain said, and there's only one way to counteract it.

 "They're going to come out with a really high tempo and we have to, too," he said. "The first period will be really important, regardless of what the score is."


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