Draper gets chance to spark Wings
Bruce Garrioch, Ottawa Sun
|Despite being benched for the past two games the Detroit Red Wings' Kris Draper is trying to remain positive. (Al Charest/QMI AGENCY)
Sitting hasn't sat well with Kris Draper.
Especially not at this time of year.
Instead of moping around the Detroit Red Wings dressing room in San Jose, where he was a healthy scratch for two consecutive games, the 39-year-old Draper tried to stay positive, stick with his routine and even took part in the warmup. Draper was the first player on to the ice behind goalie Jimmy Howard at the HP Pavilion on the weekend. Sure, the veteran knew he wasn't playing, but he wanted to be around his teammates offering encouragement.
"I tried to have a real good warmup to change (coach Mike Babcock's mind) but it didn't work in Game 1 or Game 2," Draper said with a wide smile before Game 3 Wednesday night at the Joe Louis Arena.
But, with the Wings trailing 2-0 in the series to the San Jose Sharks, getting outplayed and badly needing a victory at home, Babcock turned to Draper, an alternate captain, to replace Drew Miller in the lineup.
Since this could be the final season for Draper, he appreciated getting the chance to play. Playing the role of spectator isn't what he has been accustomed to doing during his career and he badly wanted to be on the ice contributing.
"I'll be honest with you, this has probably been one of the toughest things I've had to do in my career," Draper said. "Just like everybody else I love this time of year, I love playing hockey.
"With that said, I just tried to do all the right things for Game 1 and Game 2. I pretty well stayed within my game-day routine. I got to the rink early with the guys, played soccer, took warmup, ran warmup. I tried to do everything right.
"It's disappointing when you're not playing and it's frustrating when you lose a couple of games and I guess (Babcock) felt like a change and I get to go."
Draper has suited up for 219 playoff games during his career. At his age, it could end any time soon. He could have sulked sitting in San Jose. He decided that wasn't going to be the case. He watched in the dressing room.
He passed along tips between periods. Draper didn't try to get in anybody's face. He just wanted to be there to lend a hand in any way he could.
Experience is important at this time of year and he wanted to pass some along.
There are also his four Stanley Cup rings. That's a luxury the Wings have in their dressing room. They also have veteran Mike Modano, who has a wealth of experience and has been a healthy scratch in this Western Conference semifinal.
Draper didn't hide his feelings about sitting.
"You feel helpless," Draper said. "I tried to talk to the guys as much as I could between periods, encourage the players and talk about some stuff that I saw. I hung around the dressing room for both games.
"I just thought it was good to have some communication with the guys. The bottom line is everybody wants to be a part of this time of year. When you're not playing, it bothers you because you want to be part of it.
"But it's not about me. It's not about one individual. I'd like to think I did everything the right way for Game 1 and Game 2. We weren't able to get the wins and now I'm going to get the opportunity to play. I'm just going to try to make the most of it."
The Wings didn't expect Draper to be a saviour in Game 3 vs. the Sharks. All they wanted was a spark.