Euro-bound Wings oblivious to curse

LANCE HORNBY, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:36 AM ET

DETROIT -- Almost every NHL team that has travelled to Europe to open the season is wary of an early-season curse.

From jet lag, to time change, to slow October starts, clubs have struggled to find their rhythm when returning to North America. Yes, the Pittsburgh Penguins eventually won the Stanley Cup after they began the schedule in Stockholm against Ottawa, but both teams fired their coaches during last season, as did Tampa Bay and the Rangers after playing twice in Prague.

But the Red Wings, who are departing tomorrow night for Stockholm for exhibition games and two dates next weekend against the St. Louis Blues, jumped at this chance.

"The big thing is we owe it to Nicklas Lidstrom, period," coach Mike Babcock said yesterday. "What an opportunity for one of the greatest players to play the game, a four-time Stanley Cup champion, a six-time Norris Trophy winner and the captain of the Wings to take his team home. If you know how humble he is and what a great leader he is, we'd better do a good job for him."

Not only will Lidstrom get a hero's welcome at the Globe Arena, but so will fellow Swedes Henrik Zetterberg, Tomas Holmstrom, Niklas Kronwall, Johan Franzen and Jonathan Ericsson.

While acknowledging the adjustments other teams must make on the other side of the pond, general manager Ken Holland says this shouldn't be the arduous journey many are warning him about.

"I find it hard to believe that something that happens in October can affect you in the playoffs," Holland said. "I think we're doing it right; staying in one city and one hotel for five nights, we come home and play two, starting with Chicago, which will have also been over there (to play the Florida Panthers in Helsinki).

"We have a lot of road trips to the West Coast in this conference and those are five-hour flights. This is just a couple of hours more. In the East, some teams can do road trips on a bicycle, but we're used to long ones."

Lidstrom could reach the 1,000-point milestone in Stockholm, entering this season just three short.

"I'm going to have a lot of friends and family at the games, so it would be nice if it happens there," Lidstrom said. "If not, might as well do it in Detroit."

LANCE.HORNBY@SUNMEDIA.CA


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