There are certainly plenty of Detroit Red Wings who are happy to be playing in Sweden. They probably wouldn’t have minded a trip to St. Louis much, either.
The Red Wings have enjoyed a decade of success at St. Louis, but they’ll have to settle for what will be recorded as a road contest Saturday night against the Blues in a city many of their players call home.
Detroit, with a roster that has eight natives of Sweden, had its season opener in Stockholm spoiled Friday night, losing 4-3 to St. Louis.
It was listed as a home game for the Red Wings, who played in front of a sellout crowd of 13,850 at Ericsson Globe Arena. Detroit, perhaps the most popular NHL team in Sweden, got the biggest ovation during pregame presentations and there were red jerseys throughout the crowd.
This is the second straight year two teams have begun their regular seasons in Sweden. Last year, Pittsburgh and Ottawa split two games in the same arena.
Though St. Louis will take its turn as the home team, Detroit isn’t likely to lose any support as it tries to earn its first win of 2009-10 after falling one victory shy of repeating as Stanley Cup champions in June.
Besides, the Red Wings have had little trouble handling road games against the Blues in recent years, winning five straight and going 18-3-3 with five ties since the start of 1999.
Detroit captain Nicklas Lidstrom(notes), though, has been held off the scoresheet in his last two road games against St. Louis, and had a disappointing outing in this season’s opener, nearly 100 miles away from his hometown of Avesta. Lidstrom, a six-time Norris Trophy winner as the NHL’s best defenseman, did not have a point.
“My body feels good, but I just have to play better,” said the 39-year-old Lidstrom, Detroit’s oldest player. “We’ll get another chance.”
Jonathan Ericsson(notes), another Red Wings defenseman who hails from Sweden, scored Detroit’s first goal of the season. He’s one of a handful of young players the Red Wings will be relying on this season.
That’s somewhat of a change for a storied franchise that has historically relied on veterans.
St. Louis will certainly be leaning on 34-year-old winger Paul Kariya(notes), and he came through with two power-play goals Friday. He scored the game-winner at 17:36 of the third period, beating Chris Osgood(notes) after St. Louis turned the game around with three straight goals within a span of 5:05 in the second.
Kariya has two goals and four assists in his last three games versus the Red Wings. He’s remembered by many of the local fans for his missed penalty shot for Canada in a shootout that clinched Sweden’s gold medal at the 1994 Lillehammer Olympics.