Wings' camp buzz: Fight for roster spots starts Friday

Ted Kulfan
The Detroit News

Traverse City — The fight for jobs on the Red Wings roster is about to begin, at least in coach Mike Babcock's mind

When the Red Wings take the ice Friday for the first time in training camp, it's the first opportunity for players to make an impression in the five-day training camp — which then leads into an eight-game exhibition schedule. In other words, plenty of time for players show they belong in the NHL.

"When the music stops, there's not going to be enough chairs," Babcock said. "You have to make sure you have one of those chairs."

As with every training camp, Babcock wants to establish a tone and work ethic for the rest of the season.

"First thing is, you have to get back your work habits," Babcock said. "Second, you have to have a structure, an understanding of how to play. When you don't have to think anymore, you can go fast.

"Turn the light bulb back on and get everyone going. There's competition for spots."

Injuries were a major factor last season and it was no different the first day of this training camp, during physicals, as tests confirmed a fractured right tibia for forward Anthony Mantha, a much-talked about prospect. The injury will cost Mantha six to eight weeks.

Babcock liked what he saw from Mantha during the prospects tournament; Mantha got hurt in the third game of the tournament.

"He has made an impression and he'll continue to make an impression," Babcock said. "Everytime he plays, he scores. Everytime he plays, he's 6-foot-5. Everybody says he doesn't not good defensively but that's not what I see. He's a smart player, he reads the play. He has to learn to play with pace.

"When he's ready, he'll play here. Whem he's ready."

Battling groin injuries

Broken bones, fractures, etc., those types of injuries in hockey little can be done about. But general manager Ken Holland feels groin injuries — or soft tissue injuries — are ones the organization can be more aggressive about.

Cutting down on those injuries, and ways to deal with them, were areas the Red Wings talked about internally during the summer.

"We all get frustrated, the player, our training staff, the coaches, management, when you have people down," Holland said. "Certainly in September and into early October you expect hip flexors, you expect tender groins, that's the normal expectation.

"When you get past the middle of October and into November, last year we seemed to have too many people with soft tissue injuries."

One difference this season, said Holland in terms of groin injuries, is the team will consult with experts outside the organization for opinions quicker than maybe in the past.

In the past

Defenseman Danny DeKeyser was thrilled to get his contract worked out Tuesday, ahead of camp. The Macomb native admitted he was getting anxious.

"Maybe a little bit," said DeKeyser, who signed a two-year contract worth $4.374 million. "When the days are counting down (he got anxious) but I have good agents at Newport (Sports) and those guys do a good job for me.

"It was close (to the start of camp) but I didn't think there would be a big issue. It was kind of longer than I thought (it would be). It just feels good to get that out of the way and I can focus on playing hockey."

DeKeyser would have preferred a longer-term contract.

"In a perfect world, everyone loves a little job security," DeKeyser said. "But you have to prove yourself before you get those deals."