Mike Babcock on Cory Emmerton: 'He's another guy who, if you don't want to play in the minors, you have to grab your piece (of the pie).' (David Guralnick / Detroit News)
Detroit — What a whirlwind this week has been for Cory Emmerton already.
The forward was put on waivers by the Red Wings Sunday. No team claimed him, and so he thought he was headed to the minor leagues. But he wound up staying with the Red Wings when forward Patrick Eaves was placed on the long-term injured-list.
Tuesday morning, Emmerton found himself centering Mikael Samuelsson and Drew Miller on the fourth line as the Wings prepared for Wednesday season-opener against Buffalo at Joe Louis Arena.
“Probably the most eventful, uneventful 36 hours ever,” said Emmerton of the experience. “To end up here, it seemed like a lot was going on but there was nothing really. It was obviously pretty stressful, but you become stronger as a person and player by going through something like that.”
The Red Wings had been over the salary cap throughout the exhibition season, and they also had been carrying too many forwards.
With forward Darren Helm (back) on the long-term injured list -- he’s one of the Red Wings’ natural centers -- it appeared Emmerton was safe with regard to a roster spot.
“Everyone knew what was going on; there’s too many players and no cap space -- something had to give,” Emmerton said. “Maybe it was a little surprising just for the fact we’re already down a centerman. I couldn’t have told you either way if it was expecting it or not.”
Once Emmerton cleared waivers, he was glad to be returning to the Red Wings.
“They made it pretty clear to me they really wanted me to clear and stay here and be part of this,” Emmerton said.
When Eaves needed more time to recover from a sprained ankle and knee, the decision was made to bring back Emmerton, who is anxious to stay in the NHL.
“I worked even harder this summer to be ready and I have an opportunity to prove I can be -- should be -- on this team and help the team,” Emmerton said. “It’s up to me, and how I play, and it starts (Wednesday).
“I want to play hockey, that’s the only mindset I have. I’ve done everything I could to improve myself to become a better player and more useful, and now it’s just time to show it.”
Coach Mike Babcock expects Emmerton to contribute more this season given Emmerton’s work this past summer.
“He’s still in the growth part of his career and he’ll be better this year because he’s stronger than last year,” Babcock said. “But he’s another guy who, if you don’t want to play in the minors, you have to grab your piece (of the pie).”
Neighbors and strangers
The last time the Sabres visited Joe Louis Arena was Jan. 16, 2012, when the teams were in opposite conferences – though Detroit and Buffalo are separated by just four hours.
Now, they’re both in the Atlantic Division, though pretty much complete strangers currently.
“Until you play them yourself and see how you match up, you don’t know for sure,” Babcock said about how the teams compare.
At 35, Pavel Datsyuk isn’t the oldest player on the Red Wings. But he admits he feels it certain days.
“Some days it hits me but I don’t want to start thinking about age,” Datsyuk said. “I’m thinking about how I can change my passport card to be younger. I’m sitting around two young guys (Justin Abdelkader, Darren Helm) to keep me younger.
“Maybe some day I’ll have to start using my brain (for a different job).”
Red Wings recalled goaltender Petr Mrazek on Tuesday night and sent goaltender Jared Coreauto Grand Rapids.
Mrazek will back up Jimmy Howard, with Jonas Gustavsson (groin) on the injured list.
The Red Wings also sent defenseman Xavier Ouelletto Grand Rapids.