Posted 09 June 2009 - 05:57 PM
CALGARY, Alberta -- Tomas Kopecky intends to take a break from playing jokes on his buddy, Marian Hossa, and trying to get under his skin like he normally does.
He can't risk disrupting his new linemate's concentration.
"Now I have to keep him as relaxed as possible, make sure he's ready for the game,'' Kopecky said.
He has known Hossa since they were school kids in Slovakia. He spoke to him regularly when Hossa was pondering where to sign last summer. Hossa stayed at Kopecky's house for a few weeks before training camp.
But Kopecky never imagined he would ever play on the same line or power-play unit with Hossa, like he will tonight for the second consecutive game, when the Detroit Red Wings visit the Calgary Flames.
It won't last long -- just until Tomas Holmstrom's back spasms subside -- so Kopecky is determined to make the most of an opportunity to play alongside a pair of superstars in Hossa and Pavel Datsyuk.
"It's like a dream come true,'' Kopecky said. "He's so big back home, just a good player. Pav, the same thing. It's just so easy to play with those guys. Keep your feet moving, keep getting them the puck from the corner and just get open and have your stick on the ice, and go to the net and they're going to find you.''
With Holmstrom idled on Thursday, Kopecky scored one power-play goal because of his net-front presence and might be credited with another one, in which the puck grazed his pants, in the 4-3 victory against Edmonton. A fourth-line player with limited offensive opportunities, the 6-foot-3, 200-pound Kopecky is responsible for providing energy and a physical presence by forechecking hard and battling in the corners and around the net.
"Kopy is a real good hockey player with his skill and size,'' Hossa said. "He can skate, he played well in front of the net, he's not afraid to be pushed over. He's a big kid, so when he gets the chance, he has to make sure he uses it.''
Even before the last game, Kopecky started to feel more comfortable, which he anticipated would take some time after having surgery in April to repair a torn knee ligament.
"It's like every player, you got to do it night in and night out,'' Red Wings coach Mike Babcock said. "Every team you're playing against now will be aware he's going to be net-front.''
Kopecky originally was credited with his team's second goal Thursday, when it appeared Datsyuk's shot glanced off his pants. It later was ruled Datsyuk's goal.
"I hope I'm going to get it back,'' Kopecky said. "I talked to Babs and he said he saw it hit my pants. I don't get many opportunities to score two goals a game.''
He joked that he might need to take Datsyuk to dinner to convince him to call the league and have it changed. Kopecky said some of his teammates teased him about not being credited with the goal.
"Homer told me I should mark my pants, maybe spray paint it black and show it to Pav that the puck actually hit me,'' Kopecky said.
Said Babcock: "It hit his pants, we saw that.''
Datsyuk jokingly complained that Holmstrom has tried to take goals away from him before, and now Kopecky is doing the same.
"Holmstrom or Kopecky, they always say, 'I touched (the puck),' " Datsyuk said. "I'm not their friend.''
Holmstrom didn't practice Friday and Babcock said he would not play tonight.
"My left side and lower back is really sore, feels like somebody stabbed a knife in the back,'' Holmstrom said.
Kronwall returns, Meech plays forward
Defenseman Nicklas Kronwall practiced Friday and said his twisted right ankle has improved significantly. He will play tonight.
Because the Red Wings have no spare forwards, defenseman Derek Meech will play left wing on the fourth line, with Kris Draper and Darren McCarty. Meech's skating ability allows him to make the transition. He played a few games up front last season.
"It takes a little bit of an adjustment, more skating,'' Meech said. "I just run around and try to create some energy, keep things simple, get pucks behind their (defense) and make them tired. I feel I can contribute to the greater goal here, whether it's on forward or defense.''
Babcock said he'll start with four lines and see what happens.
"If (Meech) can get on the forecheck like he did before, he's a real good skater, he's good with the puck and he's responsible,'' Babcock said.http://www.mlive.com/redwings/index.ssf/2008/11/red_wings_kopecky_thrilled_to.html
"He think he the Mack!"