The Malik Report
by George Malik on 01/13/13 at 03:30 PM ET
Updated 10 frickin' times at 8:47 PM: Twitter posts galore = ran out of space in the previous Red Wings training camp, day 1 post, so here are a few updates worth noting, with more to come:
According to MLive's Ansar Khan, Darren Helm suffered a minor back injury last week, and while he is sore, whatever he "tweaked" didn't show up on an MRI...
"I do feel a lot better from the day it happened,'' Helm said. "Hopefully, each day it continuously gets better and I can get back on the ice soon.''
But, he added, “It's hard for me to bend down and touch my toes or pick anything up.''
Helm said he hurt himself last week while doing "easy, light weight squats.'
“It was just weird how it happened; I was warmed up,'' Helm said.
He's had a rough stretch of injuries including several stitches in his face from being hit with a puck during warmups, a sprained MCL, lacerated tendons in his forearm that required surgery and a fractured orbital bone from a deflected puck.
“It's starting to bug me, but I'm staying positive,'' Helm said. "It's got to end sometime, right, this string of bad luck and injuries. I'm hoping this is the last one.''
The Free Press's Helene St. James confirms, and offers an intriguing twist regarding the Wings' depth at forward (and again, St. James says that Henrik Zetterberg will be named captain on Tuesday, and Tomas Holmstrom will retire on Thursday or Friday)...
Forward Darren Helm, crucial to the third line and the entire bottom-six grouping, said an MRI on his sore back was negative. He will start skating as soon as he's able, and doesn't anticipate missing the start of the season, which begins Saturday at St. Louis,
Forward Patrick Eaves, out for more than a year recovering from a concussion, took part in practice, including contact. That's a huge step forward from last season, when he never really even skated with the guys except at the end of practices.
"I'm cleared to go out there and practice," Eaves said. "I can do whatever we do out here. It's more than I was able to do a little while ago. I felt good today. We'll see how tomorrow goes."
Eaves still is not cleared for games, but as he said, "I just have to keep making progress."
And we should be hearing more from Wings coach Mike Babcock and his players soon, but Fox Sports Detroit's Dana Wakiji...
And the Free Press's Helene St. James are offering quips and quotes already:
The end zones in the larger rink in the 3,500 seat Compuware Arena were largely not filled, though the fans that did show up were enthusiastic about seeing the Wings returning.
"I'm just happy the Red Wings are back," said Rosie Krackowiak, of Garden City, sporting a red and black Red Wings sweatshirt and cap. "I've missed my hockey."
And Kulfan offered some roster notes:
Not on the ice for the Red Wings Sunday were Darren Helm (back) and Pavel Datsyuk (arriving from Russia Monday). Helm is day to day, and will be reexamined Monday. Carlo Colaiacovo (sore shoulder) was on the ice along with Patrick Eaves (concussion). Eaves will not take part in any contact drills.
…The Wings called up defenseman Brian Lashoff to take part in the training camp.
…Henrik Zetterberg, expected to be named team captain at some point this week, led the team in the stretches.
…Red Wings fans got their first glimpse at forward Damien Brunner, who arrived from Switzerland.
Update #1: The Windsor Star's Bob Duff spoke to Mike Knuble about his "return" to the Wings...
Sweat-soaked after a pair of hard workouts Sunday, Knuble, 40, recognizes that his current mission may prove to be his toughest score as an NHLer – earning a spot on the Red Wings’ roster. He’s in camp on a pro tryout basis and with just five days to display his wares, Knuble understands that odds are stacked against him.
“You’re not going to come back in here and knock anybody’s socks off,” Knuble said. “They know what you can do. You come out here and you’re thankful for the opportunity. You could be sitting at home. I know a few guys who are sitting at home right now. When you’re sitting at home and the league is going on without you, it’s not a good thing.
“The bottom line is you can show people how you’re playing and show that you might be an option down the line. I think you’re really going to need depth guys this year. With guys going from absolutely stop to 100 per cent, there’s going to be guys dropping. You’re definitely going to have to go get help.”
Minus the chance to display his abilities on the ice in pre-season games, Knuble also understands that his longshot status increases because of this reality.
“I’ve played with three or four guys in my career who’ve scratched and clawed their way into contracts in camps, but they did it by playing strongly in games,” Knuble said. “I’m not going to get to do that, so you’ve got to be very realistic, which I think I am.”
The Free Press's Helene St. James has added quotes from Helm, Carlo Colaiacovo (sore shoulder) and Eaves...
Helm has had a rough 12 months, hurting his knee and then suffering a horrible gash to his right forearm that ended his season a few shifts into the first game of the playoffs. Then during informal skates in the fall, he got hit in the face by a puck and needed stitches. "It's starting to bug me," he said of the trend, "but I'm trying to stay positive. It's got to end sometime, right, this string of bad luck and injuries."
Helm speculated he may have hurt his back as some part of cosmic vengeance because of all the times he's made fun of good friend and Todd Bertuzzi's occasional back problems. "I feel like it's karma, almost," Helm said, "I usually bug Bert a little bit about his back every once in a while. I dressed up and had the heat pack on my back and moped around. I feel like it's karma."
Helm said the biggest problem right now is that "it's hard for me to bend down and touch my toes, pick anything up. But, I'm excused from doing anything around the house. I'm going to milk it as long as I can."
Defenseman Carlo Colaiacovo, nursing a sore shoulder courtesy of a hit by Damien Brunner during Spengler Cup play, practiced and said he is improving; he too, anticipates being ready for the Blues games.
"It's feeling really good," he said. "Surprisingly, it's feeling a lot better than I expected. That's a great thing for me. I think I've waited too long to play hockey games, I don't want anything to hold me back now. New team, fresh start -- you never want anything to hold you back."
Forward Patrick Eaves, out for more than a year recovering from a concussion, took part in practice, including contact. That's a huge step forward from last season, when he never really even skated with the guys except at the end of practices."I'm cleared to go out there and practice," Eaves said. "I can do whatever we do out here. It's more than I was able to do a little while ago. I felt good today. We'll see how tomorrow goes."
Eaves still is not cleared for games, but as he said, "I just have to keep making progress."
And MLive's Ansar Khan took note of a surprisingly...friendly...Mike Babcock's comments about returning to his day job:
“I told the guys this morning I really missed them,'' Babcock said. “We've got great people on this team, being around them all the time is a thrill for me. Even watching today, how hard they worked and how they compete, it's pretty special to get to do what we all do for a living.''
“It felt like Christmas, almost,'' defenseman Niklas Kronwall said. “When you're looking forward to something for so long, to finally have it, it felt really good out there.''
While several players had been playing Europe, many others haven't played a game in close to nine months. But they kept in good shape and Babcock's first impressions were positive.
"I thought the pace was real good,'' Babcock said. “Obviously, you start and you're excited, then you get worn out a little bit. Then we play three games in four nights and our third game in four nights is our home opener. That's life."
The Red Wings open the season with games in St. Louis (Saturday) and Columbus (Jan. 21) before their home opener against Dallas on Jan. 22. Like the rest of the NHL, they have little time to prepare.
“Everything's going to go really fast, but at the same time it's something we've been wanting to do and waiting for for a long time,'' Kronwall said. “I think most guys in here can't wait for us to play games.''
And regarding the fans, who will see their first open training camp taking place in Detroit since the 1994-1995 season?
"We're ecstatic to be back, to have the opportunity to play,'' Babcock said. “When you do something you absolutely love and you don't get to do it, maybe you've taken it for granted a little bit. We're just thankful the fans have stuck with us. It's unbelievable that our season ticket base, it hasn't even … it's unbelievable, they're all still there.''
I think Babcock did take things for granted to some extent, and I believe that the lockout's refreshed him in a way he and the coaching staff have needed to be rested, relaxed and regain their desire to out-compete coaches at every level of hockey again.
The Detroit News's David Guralnick also just posted a first-day photo gallery--and it's an awesome 36-image slate of superb snaps.
Update #1.5: Here's WXYZ's initial training camp report:
The Red Wings are back on the ice, one day after the NHL and the and the player association signed their new collective bargaining agreement.
The team has invited fans to come to its training camp practices this week. Many lined up hours before the noon practice on Sunday, eager to get their fill of Red Wings Hockey.
“I have to go back to college tomorrow, so I have to see them now,” said Katie Gubachy of Livonia.
She and her boyfriend Jake Turchan showed up at Compuware Arena three hours before practice started to ensure they got good seats. They were first in line.
“We love the Red Wings,” said Turchan.
Others waited outside in the parking lot, hoping for a glimpse of Red Wings players arriving for practice. Some of them got autographs.
The Detroit Red Wings will allow fans to watch practices leading up to the season opener for free. The next practice is scheduled for noon on Monday at Compuware Arena. On Tuesday there will also be a practice at 9:30 a.m. at the Compuware Arena, and a special Red vs. White Game at 6:00 p.m.
During the Red vs. White game the Red Wings American Hockey League-affiliate, the Grand Rapids Griffins, will play with the Wings NHL players. If you want to go to that game, doors to Compuware Arena will open at 5:00 p.m.
Update #2: Fox Sports Dana Wakiji spoke to Helm about his injury--as well as Babcock about Helm's status...
"It was just weird how it happened, it was light weights, I was warmed up," Helm said at Compuware Arena after the Red Wings' first official practice of abbreviated training camp. "It's hard for me to bend down and touch my toes or pick anything up."
Coach Mike Babcock is just pleased it wasn't more serious.
"We got great news today though. The MRI shows nothing," Babcock said. "So that's all I was worried about. He'll be back right away. He's got his run out, what did he have last year? The wrist, the face this year already and this, so it's done, isn't it?"
Helm has had more than his share of injuries, including a knee injury that cost him the end of the regular season last year; then his most serious injury, when a skate blade lacerated a tendon in his wrist in his first shift back in the playoffs. During informal workouts, Helm took an errant puck to the face and had to get some treatment for that. So it's no wonder that he's at the point where he's saying enough already.
"It's starting to bug me, but I'm staying positive," Helm said. "It's got to end sometime, right? This string of bad luck and injuries. I'm hoping this is the last one. Get back playing.''
Helm fears he might have brought this injury on by teasing the older Todd Bertuzzi about some of his back problems.
"I feel it's like karma almost," Helm said. "I usually bug Bert a little bit about his back every once in a while."
The Detroit News's Ted Kulfan spoke to Damien Brunner about his first skate with his Wings teammates on North American ice...during an actual NHL training camp, anyway:
"It was fun, a lot more intense than it is in Switzerland," said Brunner, who the Wings signed as a free agent in July after huge success in the Swiss League for the last three seasons. "No break, not much explanations, but it was okay. Hank (Zetterberg) helped me out."
Brunner and Zetterberg were linemates on EV Zug in the Swiss League during the lockout and excelled offensively, something the Red Wings hope will transfer into the NHL during this lockout shortened 48-game season. Having already played with Zetterberg and forming a bit of chemistry, said Brunner, will help.
"When you play together for how many games and practice every day, you start knowing each other, you get to know where each guy is on the ice and where he's going," Brunner said. "It was fun for me, but it was huge for Swiss hockey to have a guy like Zetterberg over there."
Coach Mike Babcock has penciled Brunner on a line with Pavel Datsyuk and Zetterberg to start the season.
"We think he's a talented guy," said Babcock, adding the smaller ice surface and tight quarters in the NHL will be an adjustment for Brunner. "It couldn't have worked out better for him. Zetterberg comes over and he's able to play and develop a friendship with a real good player. Now he just has to keep it going."
Kulfan also addressed Darren Helm's status, and he spoke to Mike Knuble as well:
"You just come in here and you're thankful for the opportunity," Knuble said. "You could be sitting at home right now and the league is going on with you and that's not a good feeling.
"This is a chance to show you're still playing and maybe you can help someone down the line. Teams will be leaning on guys this year with the schedule and guys will be dropping. The more depth you have, the better.
"Mike has his lines and you're not going to come in here and blow anyone's socks off. The odds are stacked against you so you just go out and play."
Fox 2's Jennifer Hammond's report should be up in video form soon, but for now, we get a Tootoo Tweet...
But WXYZ's Brad Galli's report is available now...
"We've been looking forward to this for a while now. We were really fired up to come here today," Red Wings forward Henrik Zetterberg said.
"Listen, we're ecstatic to come back, to have an opportunity to play. When you do something you love, I told the guys this morning, I really missed them," [Mike Babcock] said.
The Red Wings hit the ice with nearly a full roster. Pavel Datsyuk will return from Russia on Monday and forward Darren Helm sat out with a pulled muscle in his back. Babcock said the MRI on Helm showed nothing and he is day-today. Every other player joined together for the first time before embarking on a much quicker timeline than usual. It's a challenge they not only accept, but embrace.
"Having five days of training camp, for most of the guys, it's a positive thing. I think it's almost better," Zetterberg said. "Every team has the same five days, then it's on to the regular season."
Defenseman Carlo Colaiacovo, signed by Detroit before the lockout, said the feeling of jamming in preseason preparations into 120 hours is almost a relief.
"It's kind of like we're getting traded. It's almost a good thing because you sit out for this long, the last thing you want is more than a couple days to get going," he explained.
The familiar sounds of skates hitting the ice and sticks hitting pucks replaced the torture of hearing words like "proposal," "veto," and "bargaining." Niklas Kronwall was one of the many players elated at the prospect of not hearing those words for a long time.
"It's great to be back," he said. "That's for sure."
And WXYZ posted a video report as well...
And two Wings players took to Twitter after their on-ice session:
Update #3: The Windsor Star just posted a video of Damien Brunner speaking to the press...
And I'm gonna slide these in as inline updates because there are so many, but FOTMR and Hooked on Hockey Magazine's Kevin Sporka spoke to Mike Knuble at some length, and posted Knuble's comments on his Twitter account, @yungspork (and Hooked on Hockey Magazine's account):
Mike Knuble: "It’s one place you’d always love to come back around to finish where you started, it’ll be a good thing, it’ll be fun.
Knuble: Is it gonna happen? The odds are greatly against me...
Knuble: It’s just an opportunity to come in and play and get your name out there that you’re still active, still looking to play....
Knuble: This organization’s very highly regarded around the league, and if they’re gonna give you a shot…if it doesn’t work out here...
Knuble: then it opens some eyebrows somewhere else. I don’t wanna overanalyze it...
Knuble: I want to play, and play at a high level, and get my name back out there. I practiced with Grand Rapids all fall. My body feels good
Knuble: I don’t feel like I’m mentally cooked yet. You gotta have that desire and the fact is, this league is taking off, extremely quickly.
Knuble: For a guy like me to come in on a tryout, I’ve played with many guys who have made teams on a tryout.
When asked if he considered playing in Europe he said: I did that last time (in 2004) and life changes, kids are older...
When asked how it felt skating with the Winged Wheel on again, he said: The good thing is, as a player, you feel anxious, and you feel like
you want to do what you can do. and you don’t want to embarrass yourself. I know who I am as a player, they know what I do, it's not like
I have to go out and show them something they don't already know. At this point in my career, I know who I am.
When asked what it would mean to him to finish his career where he started, he said: It would be great, it’s a nice story, local guy,
drafted 22 years ago. I don't get caught up in the numbers as much as some people do.
Throughout my career, I’ve been a net-presence guy on powerplays, I’ve been responsible defensively killing penalties.
I think I’ve been pretty versatile. I’ve played on the top line and I’ve played on the 4th line and everywhere in between.
I’ve been around the game, I’ve seen how locker rooms operate and how to talk to guys. If that's needed here, hopefully it's something that
I can fill. If it's not, then it's not, then you move on.
When asked about his veteran presence in the locker room: I’ve been around awhile, that’s not for me to judge if they need it or not
but it’s certainly something I’ve learned through the years. How to help out in the locker room, being able to talk to guys."
Jordin Tootoo just posted something on Twitter, well, uh, too (no embed, Twitter is being a pain):
Day 1 of camp in the books. Thanks to all the fans that came out to watch. Many warm welcome wishes, making me feel right at home. Thank you
Update #3.5: I thought this was a nice touch from the Wings:
I'm glad that the Wings are operating on that premise...
And it appears that the Windsor Star's Bob Duff is working on a story at present:
And the Windsor Star's Bob Duff focused on Tootoo's "intangibles"...
“I think Tootoo brings something that we haven’t really had in a few years, just that little extra bit of toughness,” Kronwall said. “I think our toughness has lacked the last few years.”
Wings coach Mike Babcock believes he can even pinpoint the last time a player of Tootoo’s ilk wore the winged wheel.
“Dallas Drake,” Babcock said of the fierce forechecking forward whose last NHL season came during Detroit’s 2007-08 Stanley Cup-winning campaign.
There’s the rub, or perhaps in Tootoo’s case, the rubbing out.
There’s been no shortage of elite talent in Detroit’s lineup. What has been in short supply are playoff victories. By adding the agitating, irritating presence of Tootoo, the Wings believe they can improve on the latter statistic.
“When we won the Cup last, we had great toughness on our team,” Babcock said. “Dallas Drake hunted you down and we had Mac (Leamington’s Darren McCarty) and we had Downs (Aaron Downey). We had lots of grit. We haven’t been near as gritty since.”
Tootoo, 29, dished out 151 hits in 77 games last season for the Nashville Predators, which would have led all Detroit forwards.
“Obviously they brought me in here for a reason,” said Tootoo, who at 5-9, 199 pounds fits the bowling ball image well. “My foundation is playing the physical part of the game and creating opportunities for not only my linemates, but also for myself, and creating room out there. My game is very simple – north and south.”
“We’re not talking about guys to stop and fight at stoppages,” Babcock said. “We’re talking about guys who can get on the forecheck and make people nervous, and he always made us nervous.”
Via RedWingsFeed, the Windsor Star posted Duff's interview with Tootoo...
And Fox Sports Detroit's Dana Wakiji filed a second training camp article, duly noting that the Wings are skating at Compuware Arena because Ford's leased the Joe for pre-Auto Show vehicle unveilings:
"It was great to be officially skating again with all the guys," Henrik Zetterberg said. "Lot of fans here, great experience, felt like we were in Traverse City."
Niklas Kronwall, who celebrated his 32nd birthday Saturday, said being able to be back with his teammates was the best birthday present he could have received.
"It felt like Christmas, almost," Kronwall said. "When you're looking forward to something for so long, to finally have it, it felt really good out there."
Coach Mike Babcock was also feeling grateful to be back in the job he loves.
"I told the guys this morning I really missed them," Babcock said. "We've got great people on this team, being around them all the time is a thrill for me. Even watching (Sunday), how hard they worked and how they compete, it's pretty special to get to do what we all do for a living. We're just thankful the fans have stuck with us. It's unbelievable that our season ticket base, they're all still there. It's crazy."
Babcock has no problem with the shortened training camp schedule, and he told Wakiji that, at some point, the Wings are definitely going to see the Nyquists and Tatars because 48 games in 99 nights = high likelihood of injuries occurring:
"Normally in a five-week training camp you get an opportunity to give everybody over eight exhibition games the power play, the penalty kill, everything to really show what they have, Babcock said. "That's not going to happen. So it's very important as a player, if you don't like your lot you've been giving day one, that you choose your attitude right, you work hard and you stay (ready). There's going to be a ton of injuries,, you're going to get an opportunity. If you've done a good job, your opportunity's going to grow.
"The same thing, though, just because it's gone good for you in the past, you've got a whole bunch of guys that have been skating, you've got four or five kids in the minors that have played great, they're ready to go. So it's going to be competitive within our division, it's going to be competitive within our conference and it's going to be really competitive within our team."
And we should see an AP story mentioning the Wings shortly as Larry Lage attended camp today.
Update #6.5: The Associated Press did post six images from today's camp skate, which you can access via Yahoo's Wings gallery, and Brendan Smith and Brian Lashoff apparently headed back to Grand Rapids to take part in the Griffins' annual "Great Skate" charity event, so the Griffins' Twitter account revealed that Smith and Lashoff took their NHL headshots at Van Andel Arena:
Update #7: From Pavel Datsyuk:
And the Macomb Daily's Chuck Pleiness has filed two stories, first discussing Mike Knuble's tryout and training camp's format...
“We’re ecstatic to be back, to have the opportunity to play,” Babcock explained. “When you do something you absolutely love and you don’t get to do it, maybe you’ve taken it for granted a little bit. I told the guys this morning I really missed them. I’ve got to tell you, we’ve got great people on this team, being around them all the time is a thrill for me.”
Sunday’s event was broken into two separate 45-minute sessions. Each was run at breakneck pace. Babcock led the squad through several drills, all of which placed clear emphasis on speed and puck movement. Rests were nonexistent.
In the second session, former Edmonton Oilers head coach and current Wings associate coach Tom Renney took more of a leading role. The team worked on its power play and penalty kill. The session ended with conditioning skates and, finally, a salute by the players to the crowd.
As first practices of the year are concerned, Babcock was pleased with what he saw. Though he and his staff have very little time to evaluate players, the goal is to make as much of the truncated camp as possible.
“I thought the pace was real good,” he said. “I thought it was pretty good. Obviously, you start and you’re excited. Then you get worn out a little bit. But, then we play three games in four nights and our third game in four nights is our home opener. It’s life.”
Babcock conceded that it is simply impossible to replicate the evaluation process that would go on during a normal-length camp. However, he did say that the shortened season would likely create even more opportunites for players on the bubble to eventually gain a role with the team.
“Normally in a five-week training camp you get an opportunity to give everybody over eight exhibition games the power play, the penalty kill, everything to really show what they have,” Babcock explained. “That’s not going to happen. So it’s very important as a player, if you don’t like your lot you’ve been given day one, that you choose your attitude right, you work hard and you stay. There’s going to be a ton of injuries (and) you’re going to get an opportunity.”
And then discussing Damien Brunner's North American debut:
Wearing a constant smile and appearing a tad uneasy, Brunner fielded questions from the horde – including a query regarding the differences between the media in North America and his native Switzerland.
“Maybe 10 is the highest number of journalists (we had),” Brunner explained. “It’s a small country. (In Switzerland) the media stays out of the dressing room, and not allowed to come in. No cameras allowed. All interviews (were held) on the ice.”
Contrast that with Sunday, where Brunner, who has been dominating the Swiss league for years, was surrounded by around 50 media members in the bowels of Compuware Arena and grilled on a number of topics. Not the least frequent of which was in regards to Brunner living up to the hype; his YouTube highlights have garnered some serious attention after playing alongside Henrik Zetterberg earlier this season for Zug in the Swiss league.
“Actually, I don’t know if it is hype,” Brunner said. “I haven’t heard about that. I was playing in Switzerland and now I’m here and I’m battling for a spot.”
Nonetheless, he has been touted as an offensive force and there is a possibility that he will find himself with an opportunity to play on a line with Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk. While teammates have vouched for his legitimacy as an NHL talent, there is no chance he will let all the praise inflate his ego. The proof, he explained, is on the ice surface.
“It’s nice that they have some nice words,” Brunner began. “But, but the end of the day, I have to prove it on the ice. This was one day of practice, and I can’t say I did anything special today. I try to skate hard and put pucks in the net.”
Brunner's apparently going to live at Zetterberg's house...
“He’s helping me a lot,” Brunner said. “I was supposed to stay at a hotel, and he had me come join him at his house and I lived with him. It was a great gesture (for) a player of his caliber and it took away so much nervousness. When a guy like him takes care of you, it’s really nice.”
But he's not so sure about Babcock's assertion that he'll start the season alongside Zetterberg and Datsyuk:
“I still don’t believe it,” Brunner began. “Until I step on the ice with him.”
Update #8: Pleiness also offers a very, very intriguing take on Mike Knuble--from Wings GM Ken Holland, who is well aware of the fact that Knuble may be 40, but would also be the Wings' biggest forward at 6'4," an inch over 6'3" Todd Bertuzzi, and he'd outweigh Bertuzzi as Knuble rounds out the scales at 229 lbs. He likes to go to the front of the net and stay there, like the outgoing Tomas Holmstrom, too:
“First off, you have to look at our history,” Holland said in a phone interview Sunday night. “Part of who we are and what we are I guess if giving people chances, either people who they thought we too old or had maxed out somewhere else. He’s an NHL player, we drafted him, he’s 6-foot-4 and you can’t teach size. We kind of want to see if he has what we need.
“It’s going to be a quick look, we have Red and White game on Tuesday so it’s a quick look for our coaches,” Holland added. “We told him we’ll let him know Friday what we’re thinking and if he’s got some hockey left in him. For him it’s a chance to earn a contract. He’s in a training camp, he wants to hook on and play one more year.”
Knuble had been working out in Grand Rapids with the Griffins during the lockout and approached the Wings about coming to camp.
“We’re pretty deep up front,” Holland said. “Again, the one thing he’s got is size. You can teach that. If he was 5-11, we’ve got some good smaller players. Do we want to give him a one-way contract on Friday, a two-way contract or just release him. We have a quick six days here to evaluate and make a decision.”
Something tells me that the Wings will ask Knuble to start the season in Grand Rapids, and will eventually call him up, but that's just my gut feeling talking.
Update #9: The Wings' Facebook Day 1 photo gallery is bigger than the one on their website, and, via RedWingsFeed, the Windsor Star's Dax Melmer posted an excellent photo gallery as well (Michigan Hockey's Michael Caples and the Detroit News's David Guralnick posted photo galleries, too, and the Wings website's gallery is available here) ...
DetroitRedWings.com's Bill Roose took note of Damien Brunner's much-heralded arrival...
“He's obviously a goal-scorer, but he's got more qualities than that,” said Wings forward Henrik Zetterberg. “He's a good skater, sees the ice very well and he wants to win. That's a good quality to have.”
Red Wings coach Mike Babcock has already stated that Brunner will begin the shortened 48-game season with the NHL club. Pavel Datsyuk will center the Wings’ top line along with Zetterberg and Brunner, who have seemed to forge some continuity already having passed the time of the NHL lockout by skating as linemates for EV Zug in Switzerland’s top pro league. Zetterberg collected 16 goals and 16 assists in 23 games with Zug. But the biggest concern for Brunner is can he make the adjustment to the smaller NHL rinks? Players don’t have a lot of time in space to create opportunities in the North American game as they do on the Olympic-sized ice sheets in Europe.
“No space, right?” Red Wings coach Mike Babcock asked, rhetorically. “No space so it's a different game. We think he's obviously a real talented guy. Time's going to tell how he adapts. It worked out as good for him as it could have possibly worked because obviously leading the league in scoring again for the third year in a row, Z comes over, he develops a friendship, a confidence to play with real good players. Now he's just got to keep doing the same thing so we're excited about having him.”
Brunner's admission that an adjustment period is coming (and it's interesting to hear him speak as his English is good, but his very Swiss German accent throws people off. It's kind of high-pitched and a little melodic)...
“It was fun, but it was not much time to think because it was so intense,” Brunner said, in broken English. “The practices and the drills were just rolling, there were no breaks. But that was the best because you have no time to think or to be nervous. It took like 10 minutes to get used to it, but my linemates helped with the drills and I thought it went really well.”
And, of course, Brunner's living arrangements:
Brunner received his first introduction to Detroit in September when he arrived for the Red Wings’ informal workouts. It was during that trip that Zetterberg made the Swiss star feel at home, and he realized then that he had made the right decision to sign a free agent contract with Detroit.
“I was supposed to stay at the hotel,” said Brunner, of his first Detroit visit. “Then after two days (Zetterberg) came up to me and said, ‘Well, come and join me at my house.’ I lived with him and it was just a great gesture from such a great player. And it took away so many nerves. It’s really nice when I guy like him takes care of you, and I really appreciated that.”
In Twitter form, Hooked on Hockey's Kevin Sporka also transcribed Damien Brunner's comments to the media...
Damien Brunner: "I hope I can do a good job every day, try to learn, and adjust to the small ice."
DB: When told of his teammates' praises: It's nice that they have some nice words, but at the end of the day I have to prove it on the ice."
"I tried to skate hard. It was a good first practice."
Commenting on Zetterberg as a teammate: "I was really nervous at the beginning. The look on his face, takes away the pressure and nerves."
"It was awesome to have [Hank] for the whole [Zug] team."
On describing his style of play: "I hope I can bring a lot of speed, a lot of shots at the net."
First impression of practicing with team: "It was fun, but it was so intense, no break. There was no time to be nervous. My linemates
helped me out.
On potentially sharing a line with Datsyuk: "Well I still won't believe it, until I step on the ice (laughs)"
""Media stays out of the dressing room in Switzerland, they're not allowed to come in. After games for sure we have no cameras." Oops lol
On all the media hype and excitement from fans: "I'm gonna try to fulfill their expectations. It's gonna be tough for me, I'll try to work
hard to [fulfill] the expectations I have of myself."
MLive's Ansar Khan took note of Mike Knuble's comments and uphill roster spot-earning climb...
“The bottom line is you can show people how you’re playing and show that you might be an option down the line,'' Knuble said. “I think you’re really going to need depth guys this year. With guys going from absolutely stop to 100 percent, there’s going to be guys (injured). You’re definitely going to have to get help. Where they get it from is going to be determined.''
“I’ve talked to Kenny (general manager Holland) and Mike (coach Babcock), I know the situation,'' Knuble said. “The odds are against you. You just go out and play. My body feels good. And I don't think I'm mentally cooked yet.”
Knuble had been skating occasionally with the Grand Rapids Griffins the past few months. His agent called the Red Wings asking for a tryout.
“Part of who we are and what we are is giving people chances,'' Holland said. “We’re pretty deep up front. The one thing he’s got is size. You can teach that. Do we want to give him a one-way contract on Friday, a two-way contract or just release him? We have a quick six days here to evaluate and make a decision.''
“I’ve played with three or four guys in my career who’ve scratched and clawed their way into contracts in camps, but they did it by playing strongly in (preseason) games,'' Knuble said. “I’m not going to get to do that, so you’ve got to be very realistic, which I think I am.''
He knows how difficult it can be to crack this roster. After playing 53 games for the Red Wings during their 1997-98 Stanley Cup championship season, Knuble was dealt to the New York Rangers for a conditional draft pick. The Red Wings wanted to keep him, but their roster was stacked and they knew they would lose him for nothing on waivers.
“It seems like every time I’m here, the odds are against me,'' Knuble said. “You know what? You come out here and you’re thankful for the opportunity. You could be sitting at home. I know a few guys who are sitting at home right now. When you’re sitting at home and the league is going on without you, it’s not a good thing.''
Knuble also told Khan that he has a "backup plan," and it sounds like he may market himself to other teams, but I also know that he spent all summer saying that he wanted to stay as close to his family in Grand Rapids as possible.
Update #10: Fox Sports Detroit's Dana Wakiji has filed a story discussing Damien Brunner's addition...
"He likes to shoot," Zetterberg said. "If you have a shot like that, if I would have that I would love to shoot, too. That's one of his strengths and he will do it. He will have that role here. He will be the guy who's going to shoot a lot. He's a righty, so on power plays and stuff, it's going to be fun to see him here over this year. He is good enough to be a good player here."
Brunner has good memories of his first game playing alongside Zetterberg.
"We scored on opening shift," Brunner said. "
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