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Red Wings rookie Damien Brunner feels pressured to succeed thanks to his biggest critic—himself

Red Wings forward Damien Brunner spoke to NHL.com's Brian Hedger today (via RedWingsFeed), and Brunner offered a surprisingly stark assessment of the progress he's made as a 26-year-old rookie (he's not eligible for the Calder Trophy, but a rookie is a rookies) because Brunner has a surprisingly high standerd to meet--his own:

"For sure, I want to prove that [I belong]," Brunner said after practice Saturday morning. "There were also a lot of guys back home who thought it was going to be tough … so I came over and wanted to prove to all the guys who criticized me that I could do it. But I [did] it for myself too."

Brunner, an undrafted free-agent signing who also considered the Tampa Bay Lightning, said it took him roughly two weeks to adjust his wide-open offensive game to fit the smaller North American rinks and physical play. Otherwise, the difference in his game now is an eagerness to charge the net and hang around those tough areas looking for scoring opportunities.

"In Switzerland, you don't have to do it too much," Brunner said. "You make plays and you're entering the zone with lots of speed. You have a lot of opportunities on the outside and you can create like that. Here, for me, I'm not a big guy. So if I can't hit anyone, then I've got to prove I can go to those areas where it hurts. So far, I've found it works well to go to the net and take those sticks. It's about paying the price, and I really try to do that. It's paid off so far."

Brunner teammates and coach believe that he's doing just fine, but Brunner told Hedger that he needs to continue learning, growing and improving as a player over the final 27 games of the regular season (and hopefully some playoff games) if he is to truly deem his debut season a success:

"I haven't played a [full] season yet," he said. "It's about showing it every game. That was a big point for me in Switzerland when I started four years ago. I wanted to prove to myself that I can bring it every night and try to be consistent every night. That's what I want to prove here too."

Brunner's biggest fear as a player?

"I don't want to show up one night and have people say, ‘Yeah, he's a good hockey player … but what happened the last five games?'" Brunner said. "It's a big thing for me to show up every night and prove that I can do that."

Defensively, he's still got a ways to go. He's still trying to adjust to the fast stops and starts of the NHL game and learning all the defensive coverage assignments installed by Red Wings coach Mike Babcock, who was convinced Brunner could play in the NHL while watching him play for Switzerland in last year's world championships. Thus far, Babcock likes what he's seen of the late-blooming forward, who's a good skater and a much-needed right-hand shot in Detroit's top six.

"I think he fits in," Babcock said. "He's not scared. We would have known that by now. He's trying to get better each day, and I think he is getting better. I think he's a high-end player who makes good decisions most times. We've just got to continue to work with him and allow him to grow."

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Vladimir16's avatar

I wanted to prove to myself that I can bring it every night and try to be consistent every night. That’s what I want to prove here too.”

Johan Franzen to the courtesy phone. Franzen to the courtesy phone.

Posted by Vladimir16 from Grand River Valley on 03/02/13 at 11:25 PM ET

OlderThanChelios's avatar

Johan Franzen to the courtesy phone. Franzen to the courtesy phone.

Good one, Vlad. Very funny.

Posted by OlderThanChelios from Grand Rapids, MI on 03/03/13 at 12:17 AM ET

mrfluffy's avatar

Don’t you tell Franzen which zone is for loading, and which zone is for stopping!

Posted by mrfluffy from A wide spot on I-90 in Montana on 03/03/13 at 01:28 AM ET

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The Malik Report is a destination for all things Red Wings-related. I offer biased, perhaps unprofessional-at-times and verbose coverage of my favorite team, their prospects and developmental affiliates. I've joined the Kukla's Korner family with five years of blogging under my belt, and I hope you'll find almost everything you need to follow your Red Wings at a place where all opinions are created equal and we're all friends, talking about hockey and the team we love to follow.