Mike Babcock has sounded the warning over and over: Winter Classics are unkind to the home team.
As thrilling as Wednesday's game between the Detroit Red Wings and Toronto Maple Leafs at Michigan Stadium is expected to be, the game will count in the standings. Or as Babcock put it following Tuesday's practice: "There's an opportunity to have a heck of a New Year's Eve party on New Year's Day."
That would be a rarity: Since the game became an annual event in 2008, only once has the home team partied.
The Wings are looking to rebound after dropping a 6-4 decision Monday at Nashville. Daniel Alfredsson missed that game because of back spasms, and while he did take part in Tuesday's practice, Babcock told Alfredsson to heed his 41-year-old back over his heart's desire to play.
General manager Ken Holland said Alfredsson "feels a lot better today than yesterday. Wake up tomorrow morning, and hopefully he's ready to go. We're hoping he's going to play."
The Wings did make one move Tuesday, flipping Tomas Jurco for Luke Glendening. Glendening gives the Wings five centers, which allows for the option to play Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg together, the Wings' ace move when things are going badly.
"Come game time, we have to remember there's a big two points on the line," Niklas Kronwall said. "Toronto is right behind us, and going head-to-head here going forward, it's a big game for us."
INJURY UPDATES: Jonas Gustavsson put on his equipment so he could at least say he skated at Michigan Stadium, but he remains day-to-day with a sore groin. Johan Franzen (concussion), Jonathan Ericsson (ribs) and Stephen Weiss (hernia) are all out.
BABS' THEORY: Asked why the home team has struggled at the Winter Classic, Babcock went to an anecdote:
"Let's just go with what's going to happen in my house. So my wife's maiden name is Dunham, and my kids say nobody parties like a Dunham. So you can just imagine in my house tonight. That's why a couple blocks down the road I got myself a hotel room, because when 11 comes, they're not going to care that the Winter Classic is tomorrow. ... So the home team has won one game. We've gone through this with our players. They know."
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