By Ashley Dunkak
JOE LOUIS ARENA (CBS DETROIT) – Vancouver coach John Tortorella began his Monday media availability by saying he would not talk about his incident from two weeks ago, the one in which he attempted to storm the Calgary Flames locker room at intermission after the Flames coach sent in a lineup that prompted an instant fight on the ice.
The coach proceeded to talk about it – not so much about his actions but about the fallout from them.
“I apologize first and foremost to the players and the situation I put them in, to the organization with my stupidity, to the league,” Tortorella said. “It’s been embarrassing, and not just for me but for everybody around me and the situation that has occurred here.
“What’s happened with it was deserved, and I hope it makes me a better coach, but it certainly doesn’t stop the situations I’ve put a lot of people in – my other coaches,” Tortorella continued. “It hasn’t been a great two weeks. It’s been very embarrassing for my family, myself, and more importantly everybody else around me that I’m supposed to represent.”
The coaches called his antics that day “nonsense” but said he will not be any less passionate of a coach on the bench. Red Wings fans will get to judge that up close Monday as the Canucks visit Joe Louis Arena.
“I’m going to be who I am,” Tortorella said. “I just can’t go off the rails as I did – off the rails, I was off the country. I think our team needs to be pushed, I do … We need a mental push. We need to develop some skin mentally, and we have not done that consistently enough.”
Vancouver (27-20-9) comes to Detroit (24-19-12) having lost four of their last five games and 12 of their last 16. The Red Wings have dealt with a plethora of injuries this season, and the Canucks are currently experiencing a similarly debilitating situation. Kevin Bieska is missing this road trip with a broken hand, Mike Santorelli is likely lost for the season with a torn labrum, Chris Tanev is out for what is reportedly a broken hand, and captain Henrik Sedin has missed several games recently and might not be available Monday.
“Quite honestly, we have some guys playing minutes that shouldn’t be playing these type of minutes, but we have to find a way,” Tortorella said. “Realistically, yeah, we’re a beat-up club. It’s an unforgiving league. Teams smell the blood when you’re in this type of situation.”
The Red Wings have gotten some of their hurt players back, most notably Henrik Zetterberg, who recorded three assists in Sunday’s game, helping third-year player Gustav Nyquist to his first career hat trick. Star Pavel Datsyuk, however, is still unavailable because of a lower-body injury.
Both Detroit and Vancouver are in the wild card hunt, right on the edge between going and not going. For the Red Wings, failing to make the postseason would end a 22-year streak.
“We’re going to have to compete real hard defensively and hopefully capitalize on our opportunities,” Detroit coach Mike Babcock said Monday after his team’s morning skate. “Our penalty kill here the last little bit, we’ve been on our heels, so we’ve got to get on our toes and get aggressive there and stay out of the box.”
The fact that the Olympics begin this weekend – with 10 Red Wings pegged for slots on their various national teams – should not prove to be any kind of distraction, said Babcock, who is coaching Team Canada.
“I think all you’ve got to do is look at the standings,” Babcock said. “I don’t know why you’d have any trouble being focused at all. We’re in a battle for our playoff life. We understand that and know that. The other thing about it is if you’re not focused you get injured, and nobody wants to be injured, so you’ve got to be dialed in, you’ve got to be intense, or you can’t help your hockey club and you end up hurt.”