Wed, January 14, 2004
Wing exceeds goals
Grinder Draper checks in as surprise scorer
DETROIT -- Kris Draper is not allowing his goal-scoring ways to go to his head. The Detroit Red Wings centre ranks among NHL leaders with 18 goals, but he still thinks of himself as a member of The Grind Line even though Kirk Maltby and Darren McCarty are no longer his linemates.
"I'm tattooed with The Grind Line for life," he joked. "Obviously, to be able to score goals is great, but I realize my role for this club. I'll always be a backchecking, gritty guy."
Draper has been one of Detroit's top defensive forwards since he broke into the league during the 1993-94 season.
In seven of his first eight years, he scored eight or fewer goals.
Draper broke through with 15 goals two years ago. He proved that his knack for finding the back of the net was not a fluke last year when he scored 14.
Just past the midway mark of this season, Draper already has surpassed his career-high goal total and has 11 assists.
"If you asked anybody in the dressing room, I don't think you'd find anybody not happy for him," Maltby said. "He works so hard, and he's made the most of his opportunities and chances."
Red Wings coach Dave Lewis said Draper has a chance to win the Selke Trophy, which goes to the league's top defensive forward.
"He's scoring without giving up anything defensively," Lewis said. "The goals are drawing attention to what a good two-way player he really is. It's great that he's finally getting recognition throughout the league."
Draper knew he would have a chance to play more this season when centre Sergei Fedorov left as a free agent last summer.
"Sergei obviously got a lot of minutes and played in a lot of the situations I am now," he said. "When you lose a player that plays 20-plus minutes, it's going to create a lot of ice time. The guys that have taken advantage of it are myself and Pavel (Datsyuk).
"The last couple of years, my ice time has increased and this year it really has jumped up with all of our injuries. I used to get one or two scoring chances, now I'm getting three or four in a game."
Draper said the team's success has allowed him to enjoy his personal accomplishments.
"Everybody knows our goal is to win the Stanley Cup, but you also have individual goals and to be where I am right now blew away my expectations," he said. "It's been fun to finally be able to fill in offensively. I felt good about getting 15 goals the past two years, but it made me only want more.
"Things have obviously gone well for me, and I can feel good about it because we're in first place."