Red Wing Weiss tosses aside struggle
It was a big night for Pavel Datsyuk.
He has had many, but bouncing back from not dressing for four games with a re-aggravated groin to score two goals — the winner and the insurance — against the Flyers was triumphant.
As the media huddled at his stall Wednesday night, however, Datsyuk was soon to speak the name of one of his linemates. And then, it was all about someone else.
"I'm so happy for (Stephen) Weiss," Datsyuk said.
"Hard work. Off ice, he worked so hard, and I'm so happy he played and he scored. And I hope he keeps going."
It is like that all up and down the roster right now for Weiss. Fabled for playing in pain, hockey players understand what it takes.
You can see it when they respond to him after he scores.
But few ever will do what Weiss is beginning to do now.
Across the room from Datsyuk, the guy held forth who missed the lion's share of two seasons, and then most of the start of this one, before returning with three goals and an assist in two wins by the Red Wings.
Weiss must be desperately happy to do so absent the need to discuss when he thinks he can return — maybe, possibly, someday — to play.
After an introduction ruined by fate, the redo is spectacular.
With a piñata for the harsh in social media, Weiss's performance is now the candy bursting into view.
"Aw, I sleep a little bit better," Weiss acknowledged when asked about the impact of the previous three days on him. "I slept pretty good last night.
"You know, I don't know. Like I said a bunch of times even when I talked to the media while I was hurt, you've just got to stick with it and keep doing the right things off the ice to try to get healthy, and believe that when you do get a bounce, it's going to turn around for you.
"And so far, in these two games, I had some fortunate bounces and hopefully it just keeps going."
They must pour humility and self-effacement into some young men in Canada from an early age. To hear the 31-year-old Toronto native tell it, he merely performed his duty and followed a design to go to the net in the first period — after the Red Wings had struggled with penalties and to consistently generate offense in the first several minutes — and tip Darren Helm's shot behind a previously hot goaltender, Steve Mason.
That dutifulness speaks volumes, on the ice and in the room.
But it is the odyssey of Stephen Weiss that summons prestige.
"I had some moments when it was really tough," the man with the noble hockey face said, when persuaded. "Last year, I worked really hard during the Olympic break and came back, was ready and hurt myself again, had to go for a second surgery. It was tough.
"And then, the one in Grand Rapids this year, the first time when I was going to go play a game and come back and play here. And I get hurt, again.
"Those are the two that stick out in my mind."
'A matter of time'
It is a start, for Weiss. And given the circumstances of the Red Wings, it is auspicious beyond the mere merits of one player.
It was Weiss in the lineup, at the start of last season, instead of Valterri Filppula.
Filppula excelled, for the Lightning. Weiss fell lame, healed, rehabbed, reinjured, healed, rehabbed and went home for the summer.
With his 18 goals and 39 assist in 68 games, Daniel Alfredsson can be viewed as having made up most of the deficit for the Red Wings, helping them to the playoffs.
But with Alfredsson inching toward retirement next week in Ottawa — possibly after signing some prescribed, momentary contract that allows him to disembark appropriately as a member of the Senators — Weiss' contribution seems critical.
And despite a fantastic return, to date, the course is ahead is lengthy.
"He's competing and he's working and he's a smart player," said Mike Babcock, who wanted Weiss as a free agent. "He's played a long time; he knows how to play. He can take a faceoff. He can do lots of things. He's a good power play guy.
"It's just a matter of time, but he's got to get some rhythm and some tempo and he's got to get feeling good about himself.
"You know, to me, that's not this week. That's a month and a half from now."
Persistence will pay off
It all reminds me just a bit of a rather star-crossed fellow who played for the Red Wings when I was a boy, around this town.
Larry Jeffrey had more knee injuries than Job had biblical calamities. In the days when the docs really cut into knees big time, Jeffrey had nine surgeries on one knee.
The Red Wings of the Gordie Howe and Alex Delvecchio era simply shook their heads, as Jeffrey just kept playing on a leg purposefully and permanently set at an awkward angle, allowing the forward to skate.
But he persisted.
The Red Wings eventually traded Jeffrey, Marcel Pronovost, Eddie Joyal and Lowell MacDonald to the Maple Leafs for Andy Bathgate, Billy Harris and Gary Jarrett.
Two years later, Jeffrey won a Stanley Cup in Toronto.
With all of his woes, Weiss is nearly as plagued as Jeffrey.
If he stays in the lineup, the Red Wings hope someday Weiss can be just as rewarded.
Red Wings at Devils
Faceoff: 7 tonight, Prudential Center, Newark, N.J.
Outlook: Red Wings are 5-2 since Nov. 9. They beat the Devils, 4-2, on Nov. 7, at Joe Louis Arena. … The Devils are on a 3-6-1 run, and have had trouble scoring.