Slumping Wings practice at Comerica Park

DETROIT — After the Red Wings had finished their public practice on the outdoor rink at Comerica Park, Red Wings center Pavel Datsyuk summed up the weather conditions and the recent fortunes of his hockey team.

“No sun in Detroit; there’s no sunny days,” Datsyuk said Wednesday. “Maybe, if we start winning, it will be sunny.”

Datsyuk tried to joke and remain positive, but the overall mood of the Wings during practice was forced enjoyment. They were outdoors in preparation for their Winter Classic game against the Toronto Maple Leafs on Jan. 1 at Michigan Stadium.

To a man, they recalled fond memories of skating outdoors as children and talked about how getting away from Joe Louis Arena might be the best medicine for a team mired in their worst home losing skid in decades.

“I think this is the perfect thing for us to do today, come out and skate here,” Red Wings forward Dan Cleary said. “A lot of guys haven’t skated outdoors in this type of venue.

“We all realize the game last night (a 5-2 home loss to to the Anaheim Ducks) is not up to par for our standards, but the sun comes up and today is a new day.”     

Coach Mike Babcock was critical of his team’s leadership after Tuesday’s loss. He urged his veterans to be better leaders, especially with a roster that’s minus eight starters because of injuries.

The Wings are suddenly a much younger team and prone to mistakes, but the Wings’ veterans aren’t using their retooled roster as an excuse and agree with Babcock.

“He’s right; we haven’t been playing well enough,” Wing defenseman Nik Kronwall said. “It starts with us. We have to do the right things out there.

“I wasn’t very proud leaving the rink last night, and I think some of the other guys felt the same way. We have to be a lot better than that.”

Jurco hears from Gallant

Tomas Jurco has scored goals at every level, so Detroit’s rookie forward knew it was just a matter of time before he notched his first NHL goal.

And even though his first career goal came in the loss, Jurco couldn’t help being a little giddy.

“Obviously, it’s a great feeling to score your first NHL goal,” he said. “It was just a great night for me, but unfortunately, we lost.”
 
When Jurco played for the Saint John Sea Dogs in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, his coach was former Red Wing Gerard Gallant. Jurco said that Gallant was one of the many friends and family members who sent him a text messages congratulating him on his goal.
 
Jurco was asked if he would score more goals in a Wings uniform than Gallant and he jokingly replied: “I know how many he scored (211). I always made fun of him that it wasn’t too hard playing with (Steve) Yzerman — just rebound all his shots. Now I get play with Datsyuk, so I can’t say anything.”

Helm, Abdelkader feeling better

Darren Helm (shoulder) and Justin Abdelkader (concussion) were on the ice with their teammates Wednesday, and both were optimistic that they would be returning to the lineup soon.

“Feeling good, back felt fine,” Helm said. “I have to do some contact stuff the next couple days. I wasn’t too concerned about this injury as I was with my back.

“I’ve had shoulder injuries before. Just have to kind of rehab.”

Helm wouldn’t put a timeline on his return, but he’s hopeful that he’ll be ready for the Winter Classic.

Abdelkader’s situation is a bit dicier. He’s not sure when he’ll be cleared to play.  

He had headaches for a few days after he was clipped in the head (during Saturday’s game) by the Penguins Deryk Engelland, who was suspended for five games by the NHL.

But Abdelkader’s symptom-free now.

“It was just headaches and pressure to the head,” said Abdelkader. “We’ll see. As long as I have no setbacks, we’ll keep building on it each day.”