By Stu Hackel
It's not exactly a homecoming. It will be more like a visit from the folks when Steve Yzerman's Tampa Bay Lightning hosts his old Red Wings family tonight in the first encounter between the clubs since Stevie Y moved south last spring.
On the ice, it should be an entertaining game, with two skating, skilled teams near the top of their respective conferences battling for two points. Off ice, the pregame focus has been largely on Yzerman, who was so sought-after for interviews by the Detroit media that the Lightning made him available prior to game day to get it all out of the way, including a teleconference on Monday.
There have been stories galore on the Yzerman-Red Wings connection in The Detroit News, The Royal Oak Daily Tribune, The Detroit Free-Press, Michigan's Booth Newspapers, Fox Sports Detroit (with video) , WXYZ-TV Detroit (with video), The Tampa Tribune, The St. Petersburg Times, The Sporting News, Yahoo Sports, ESPN.com and USA Today, among other places.
Yzerman has tried to downplay the game. He told NHL.com, "I don't think we should make this any more than one game. For us, I look at it as we're trying to win every game we can and we're playing against one of the best teams in the League. It's a nice test to see how we hold up against (Pavel) Datsyuk and (Henrik) Zetterberg and penetrate the best defense in the league. I'm not going to place too much emphasis on this game, but I'm curious to see how we play against Henrik and Pav and Nick (Lidstrom) and all these great players."
And he told The St. Petersburg Times, "It's not about me. It's not a big deal. This isn't Steve Yzerman against the Red Wings, by any means. … I want to watch the game, analyze it, take all the emotions out of it and think how our team matches up against some of the best players in the game."
But in a very good Q&A with The Detroit News' Bob Wojnowski, Yzerman also admitted it's going to feel a bit strange. "It was weird in Traverse City at a prospects game (in training camp) when I walked in," he said. "So, yeah. It's one game, and hopefully it'll be overtime and we'll get our two points and they'll get their one and we all leave relatively happy."
Wojnowski: "Are you just eager to get this over with?"
Yzerman: "Yeah, pretty much."
This is nothing. Just wait until Yzerman brings the Lightning to Detroit. Coney dogs for everyone!