DETROIT – Nicklas Lidstrom has a chance to ponder his future much sooner than he wanted.
Lidstrom’s 20th NHL season ended Friday night when Nashville eliminated the Detroit Red Wings with a 2-1 victory in Game 5 of their Western Conference first-round series.
The four-time Stanley Cup champion and seven-time Norris Trophy winner turns 42 this month. The defenceman didn’t have a point this post-season, but he played a team-high 118 minutes in the post-season.
Red Wings general manager Ken Holland and coach Mike Babcock are hoping Lidstrom returns, but the Swedish star isn’t even ready to talk about it.
“I’m going to take a few weeks,” Lidstrom said. “I’m sure Kenny wants to sit down and go over things as well. I’ll see what he wants to do and what timetable he’ll give me for me to make a decision.”
Lidstrom played in 70 games, missing more time because of injury than he ever has in his career.
The Red Wings got knocked in the opening round for the first time since 2006 and haven’t gotten past the second round since 2009 when they were defending champions and lost to Pittsburgh in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup finals.
Lidstrom, though, insisted his health and the team’s apparent decline are not making him lean toward retirement or returning for perhaps another $6 million, one-year contract.
“Right now, it’s just the disappointment of losing in the playoffs,” he said.
Detroit was the first team eliminated from the playoffs—just two months after it led the NHL in points.
Injuries stunted the success the Red Wings were having midway through the season when they won a league-record 23 straight home games and they slumped to become a fifth-seeded team with a tough matchup.
Detroit started to struggle to get its winning ways and scoring touch back toward the end of the regular season and couldn’t fix problems in the post-season. The Red Wings had only one goal in each of their last two games against the Predators scored just nine in five games against their standout goaltender, Pekka Rinne.
“I didn’t think we had enough up front and I think it showed in our scoring,” Detroit coach Mike Babcock said.
Red Wings stars Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg were solid, leading the team with three points each in the playoffs. Supporting players, Johan Franzen and Valtteri Filppula, though, combined for only one goal and two assists after ranking third and fourth on the team in scoring in the regular season.
The Red Wings were seventh in the NHL in scoring and goals against in the regular season, but they weren’t among the league leaders on offence or defence in the playoffs.
Detroit’s lack of offence was really a problem against the Predators because it had so many miscues on defence that put Jimmy Howard vulnerable in one-on-one situations or left the net open.
“It hurt us for sure,” Lidstrom said.
If Lidstrom decides his career is over, it would be a setback for the Red Wings because they’re already expecting to have a hole on blue line without defenceman Brad Stuart, who wants to play closer to his family in Northern California.
“Regardless of what happens, it has been a great experience,” Stuart said.
Detroit’s other unrestricted free agents are 28-year-old forward Jiri Hudler, who scored a career-high 25 goals, and 39-year-old Tomas Holmstrom, who might not be welcomed back after helping the franchise win four Stanley Cups in his 15 seasons because his production has declined.
“Hopefully, we’ll see them back next year,” Zetterberg said.
In July, the Red Wings will have a lot of cap space to make moves. By then, they hope some of that money is already spent on a new deal for Lidstrom.
Babcock seemed to publicly lobby for Lidstrom to come back before he played his last game of the post-season.
“He’s too good to quit,” Babcock said.
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