Nicklas Lidstrom still loves playing hockey. And the Detroit Red Wings love having him on their roster.
At age 41 years and six months, Lidstrom still plays defense with a classy touch of professional excellence. He had his ninth and 10th assists of the season Wednesday in Detroit's 5-3 victory over the Calgary Flames
"We stuck with it for 60 minutes," Lidstrom said. 'They were carrying the game for a little bit in the second period but we responded in the third."
For the season, Lidstrom has six goals and 10 assists for 16 points.
The Norris Trophy winner in seven of the last 10 seasons played, including 2011, Lidstrom was selected as an NHL All-Star 10 times.
In his 19th NHL season with Detroit, Lidstrom is the only European-born captain of an NHL team to capture a Stanley Cup (four). He was also the first European born player to win the Conn Smythe Trophy.
Lidstrom ranks fourth all-time in Detroit history in games played and points and holds the Detroit single-season records for assists with 64 and points with 80. But he's also the franchise's single-season record holder for assists with 64 and points with 80 for a defenseman.
He also has the distinction of holding the highest plus-minus rating in the league since 1991-92.
Both the Sporting News and SI.com named Lidstrom the league's player of the decade.
Lidstrom is coming off an impressive 2010-11 season in which he became the oldest NHL defenseman to compile 60 points or more in a season
But even though he'll be 42 in April, Lidstrom seems to be playing the game with the zest of an NHL rookie.
"I'm happy the way I'm playing," he said. "Looking how the team is playing, we're trying to be more consistent than we have been. You try to chip in offensively and try to help the power play out and but even 5-on-5 you try to help the offense when you can."
The Wings have won five straight and are 14-7-1 for third place in the Western Conference's Central Division.
"I do feel good," Lidstrom said. "I knew I put in the hard work over the summer to get ready to play at a high level. That's where I want to be. There''s still a long way to go before the season's over. But I'm happy with the start so far."
NHL teams report to camp in September and in Lidstrom's case, the playoffs have usually taken him and the Red Wings to May or June. He's been able to handle the load.
His decision not to retire meant he was willing to face the grueling challenges of being an NHL player for at least another season.
"You know how hard the schedule is and how you feel after 40 or 60 games," he said. "You embrace it. You're looking forward to getting back to training camp and playing real games. You're pushing for the next break around Christmas. You try not to look too far ahead. You're just looking at the next week or so."
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