Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Shot-Blocking Sets Ian Cole Apart from His Hero

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Shot-Blocking Sets Ian Cole Apart from His Hero

Article excerpt

Penguins defenseman Ian Cole was a Detroit Red Wings fan while growing up.

Probably wasn't a tough decision.

Cole not only spent his formative years in Ann Arbor, Mich., less than an hour's drive from Detroit, but did it at a time when the Red Wings were dominant.

"I grew up in the era when they were winning all of their Cups," Cole said. "They had the best players in the league ? Steve Yzerman, Nicklas Lidstrom, Sergei Fedorov.

"It makes it very easy to follow a team that has that much success and that many great players."

Detroit, which will face the Penguins at 3:20 p.m. today at PPG Paints Arena, won Stanley Cup titles in 1997, 1998 and 2002. And, in those pre-salary cap days, consistently fortified its lineup with the best free agents money - lots of money - could buy.

Cole's favorite, though, was a home-grown talent, Lidstrom.

He won the Norris Trophy as the NHL's top defenseman so often - seven times, to be precise - that crafting an acceptance speech likely earned a permanent spot on his springtime to-do list.

"He was a very special player," Cole said.

Lidstrom did everything well enough that his induction to the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2015 was a foregone conclusion, and that he became a standard by which players at his position are measured.

One of which nearly all fall well short.

There is, however, one facet of the job in which Cole has a clear edge over the guy he idolized: Shot-blocking.

The NHL didn't keep blocked shots as an official statistic until the final seven seasons of Lidstrom's 20 in the NHL, but he never recorded more than 95.

Cole, meanwhile, enters the Detroit game today with 143, which tied him with Edmonton's Kris Russell for fourth-most in the league before Saturday.

If he stays healthy - never a guarantee for any player, let alone one who regularly puts his body in the path of screaming pucks - Cole should break the Penguins' single-season record of 164, set by Rob Scuderi in 2008-09. …

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