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January 6, 2004 - Woolley, Draper -- what a pair!
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Woolley, Draper -- what a pair!

January 6, 2004

BY HELENE ST. JAMES
FREE PRESS SPORTS WRITER

Jason Woolley and Kris Draper stood maybe five feet apart Monday night in the Red Wings' dressing room at Joe Louis Arena, their smiles giving away their sheer delight over Detroit's 6-0 pasting of Nashville.

Each scored twice. Woolley scored two for the first time in almost three years. Draper scored two for the first time since, well, last Friday. Woolley was asked if he could remember the last time he had two goals, and without hesitation he started to answer.

"Actually, yeah, I can," he said. "It's easy to do when it doesn't happen very often. I think it was '95 or '96, when I played in Florida."

When a reporter told him it was actually April 2, 2001, when he was with Buffalo, in a game against Florida, Woolley laughed.

"OK, I guess I don't remember," he said. "Man, that's good. I would have never guessed that."

Even without two-goal games, Woolley is enjoying himself these days. He began the season as an extra defenseman but got into the lineup after Derian Hatcher suffered a torn anterior cruciate knee ligament in the third game. He has played better and better and has become invaluable whether he scores or not. He has three goals and 14 assists.

"I really kept a good attitude and I'm proud of the way I handled that," Woolley said. "I told the coaching staff and I wanted to make sure the players in this room knew that whenever I get the call, I'm going to be ready. You have to earn your ice time here, and I think I'm doing a good job of doing that."

Woolley has been paired lately with rookie Niklas Kronwall, who was called up and played his first game Dec. 10, after Chris Chelios was injured. Kronwall stayed even after Chelios returned, with Mathieu Dandenault moving from defense to forward.

"Niklas is playing awesome," Woolley said. "We're starting to really move the puck well together. He's very highly skilled. He makes good passes, he makes smart plays in our end, and he's got good composure for a young kid. So far things are going real good."

Woolley's outburst prompted him to kid Pavel Datsyuk, who earlier in the day was selected the NHL's offensive player of the month for December after scoring 12 goals among 23 points in 15 games. "Yeah, I told Pavel, he just beat me out last month," Woolley said.

Woolley scored both goals Monday after faking first, but said he wasn't about to patent the move, because "I'd end up faking myself out sooner or later."

Draper, a center who has a career-high 18 goals, also laughed off a couple of questions. When it was suggested he might reach 50 goals, he grinned but refused to bite.

"Oh, boy," he said. "Don't even start. I'm not even answering that. I don't know -- just kind of going to the net and things are happening. I'm getting a little bit more ice time and trying to take advantage of that. It's fun. My smile obviously gives it away pretty good, but the main thing is it's just great to be able to contribute."