DETROIT -- The automobile accident in Atlanta that took the life of Atlanta Thrashers forward Dan Snyder, and left forward Dany Heatley seriously injured and facing criminal charges, is touching the Red Wings as it has everyone in the NHL.
Forwards Kris Draper and Kirk Maltby, and defenseman Mathieu Dandenault, played with Heatley on the Canadian gold-medal-winning world championship team in May.
Coach Dave Lewis met Heatley briefly at last season's All-Star Game in Florida, a game in which Heatley scored four goals and was named the most valuable player.
That weekend must seem forever ago to Heatley, 22, who, along with the Snyder family, is in the Wings' thoughts.
"From being two young guys on top of the world, I don't know any worse scenario that could have happened, individually and to their families, careers, the organization," Lewis said. "It's a real downer for everybody."
Draper said he got to know Heatley a bit from having spent the three weeks together in Finland for the world championships. He came away impressed with Heatley's attitude and outlook on life.
"He's just full of life and an unbelievable hockey player," Draper said. "He was coming off a big year, the All-Star Game and showing what he could do against the best in the game. And in the world championships, he was a gamer, he scored three goals in the semifinal (victory) against the Czech Republic. You could tell he loved the game and always wanted to be around the game, just a good kid.
"What he's going through right now, you can't comprehend. You don't even want to comprehend."
The Wings have been affected by similar incidents through the years.
The Vladimir Konstantinov / Sergei Mnatsakanov limousine accident in 1997 has left both permanently injured. Former winger Slava Kozlov (now with the Thrashers) was involved in a serious car accident before signing the Wings. Last spring, top prospect Igor Grigorenko suffered a severely broken leg n an automobile crash. Former teammate Steve Chaisson died in 1999, while a member of the Carolina Hurricanes, in an auto accident.
"It's really touched home," Lewis said.
Lewis has decided on his lines to start the season, with a bit of a tweak from earlier exhibition games.
Henrik Zetterberg will center Brendan Shanahan and Ray Whitney, annd Pavel Datsyuk will be between Brett Hull and either Boyd Devereaux or Tomas Holmstrom. The checking line in intact with Draper centering Kirk Maltby and Darren McCarty. That leaves Steve Yzerman, Devereaux, Jason Williams and Jiri Hudler to fill out the fourth line depending on who is in the lineup that particular game.
On defense, Lewis will open the season with Nicklas Lidstrom and Derian Hatcher paired,and Chris Chelios with Jiri Fischer.
Lewis said he hasn't decided on the third pair. Mathieu Schneider, Mathieu Dandenault and Jason Woolley are in the mix.
Hatcher (groin) and McCarty (flu) returned to practice Tuesday.
... The Wings spent much of Tuesday's practice working on special teams. Lewis said he was pleased with the pace.
"It was a very aggressive penalty-kill, there was a lot of conversation," Lewis said. "You want that. You want everyone to be on the same page."
... That 2-6-1 record the Wings put together during the regular season has long been forgotten.
"It doesn't matter anymore," Lewis said. "We have to get on with the season."