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Penguins notebook: Babcock aware of Kunitz performance

| Saturday, Dec. 14, 2013, 4:51 p.m.
NHLI via Getty Images
Red Wings coach Mike Babcock watches the action against the Buffalo Sabres on Nov. 24, 2013 at the First Niagara Center in Buffalo, N.Y.

DETROIT — Red Wings coach Mike Babcock, who will coach Team Canada in the 2014 Winter Olympics, mentioned three Penguins players by name when describing Saturday's opponent.

He specifically referenced Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, which is pretty common around the league. Babcock, however, also chose to mention left wing Chris Kunitz, whose possible inclusion on the Canadian Olympic team has sparked a significant debate north of the border.

Some believe Kunitz, while a good player, is on pace to score 42 goals this season only because he skates on a line with Crosby. Others maintain Kunitz should be a lock for the team because of his production and the reality that Crosby loves playing with him, which would give Canada instant chemistry in a two-week tournament that often sees players on the ice with unfamiliar linemates.

“When you look at (the Penguins), they do a lot of good things and have quality players,” Babcock said. “They have two of the best centers in the league, maybe one and two. And Kunitz is obviously having a real good year.”

Babcock refused to elaborate on Kunitz's chances of making the Canadian team, though he acknowledged he will get a glimpse of Crosby and Kunitz playing together.

“Let's take Team Canada out of it,” Babcock said. “Who would you watch if you were playing Pittsburgh? I'll get a chance to watch them (Crosby and Kunitz).

“In order for us (the Red Wings) to have success, we need to know the good players on other teams and their nuances.”

Impressed by the student

Babcock continues to be impressed with Bylsma, his former player in Anaheim. They matched wits in the 2009 Stanley Cup Final and will coach against one another in the Olympics. Bylsma will coach Team USA against Babcock's Canadian squad.

Babcock said Bylsma hasn't changed much over the years.

“He was always a student of the game,” Babcock said. “He put his time in.

“He was real smart about the way he played. Maximized his potential. He's been no different as a coach. He's a smart guy, talks with people. He works hard.”

New surroundings

Red Wings forward Daniel Alfredsson, the face of the Ottawa Senators for more than a decade, finally is feeling comfortable in Detroit.

Alfredsson signed with the Red Wings during the summer and has produced seven goals and 23 points in 28 games with Detroit.

“It's been a change, a challenge,” Alfredsson said. “But it's kind of rejuvenating, too. It's been fun.”

Light crowd

The Penguins canceled their morning skate in Detroit because they had played the previous night.

Still, a few Penguins hit the ice Saturday morning at Joe Louis Arena.

Goalies Marc-Andre Fleury and Jeff Zatkoff, defenseman Brian Dumoulin, suspended right wing James Neal and injured left wing Tanner Glass took part in a workout.

Josh Yohe is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at or via Twitter @JoshYohe_Trib.

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