Niklas Lidstrom: Red Wings Captain Back in Detroit

Peter BojarinovAnalyst IMarch 11, 2008

With Niklas Lidstrom's return to the Detroit Red Wings on Sunday, the Red Wings are back on track to lead the NHL, receive the Presidents trophy and much much more hardware.

Lidstrom, who has won five of the last six Norris Trophies as the NHL's top defenseman, had two assists in his first game after missing six because of a knee injury.

"I felt good. It helped early on to be on the power play a lot and get a lot of ice time," Lidstrom said. "You're able to hold on to the puck a lot more and make plays. That helped me get used to the game speed ... The knee feels well now. Tomorrow I'll push it a little more. I don't anticipate any problems." 

I was on my trip to New York with a friend, when I was listening to the Detroit Red Wings game versus the Colorado Avalanche on satellite radio. It was one rough game, let me tell you.

With injuries to Hasek and Rafalski at the time, clearly Lidstrom is the player the Wings will miss the most after a hit from behind by Colorado's Ian Laperrière six minutes into the game. There was no penalty on the play, so the only punishment suffered by Laperrière was administered by the fists of former Canadiens enforcer Aaron Downey.

"It (the hit from behind) looked like it was scripted out of WWE, you know?" Downey said. "Hey, I got no problem playing the game good and fair. But when the elbows are up and you hit a five-time Norris Trophy winner, arguably one of the best defensemen ever to play the game, it's a joke, in my mind. So the message is simple. The next time anyone runs one of our guys in a way that it shouldn't be done, then a message will be sent."

"I respect Aaron Downey and have no problem with what he did," Laperrière said. "I would have done the same thing if it had been on the other side. But it was a clean hit. I play hard, but I play clean." said Laperrière.

Detroit ended up winning the game easily, yet they rather have lost the two points then their captain. It was tough at the time, with the Red Wings in the midst of their season-worst six-game losing streak. They won the game, but then went on to lose four more. One win in 11 games. That would do that to you with out your leader, and one of the best defensemen of all time.

Now, the Detroit Red Wings are rolling again with a double-digit points lead over the rest of the NHL after tonight.

Pavel Datsyuk scored a go-ahead goal late in the second period after Chris Osgood stopped ex-Red Wing Robert Lang's penalty shot, and Detroit went on to beat the Chicago Blackhawks 3-1 Tuesday night. A huge win after losing the first four games between the two teams in the season series. (The sold-out opener in Chicago where I had been to watch in the United Center to see the Blackhawks complete a comeback against Detroit.)

The Red Wings have won four straight after enduring their worst slump in nearly two decades.

Detroit coach Mike Babcock, though, is not satisfied.

"We've still got to ratchet it up," Babcock said. "It's nice to see we've won four in a row, getting our confidence back, but we still have a long ways to go."

With Nicklas Lidstrom back, the Wings will continue to roll.