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Traverse City — There are a lot of NHL-caliber forwards in Red Wings camp right now, but one to keep an eye on is Mitch Callahan.

Known in the past for his fighting ability, Callahan became more of an all-around, agitating forward last season in Grand Rapids where he scored a career-high 26 goals.

The fact Callahan can score is nice. But his work ethic, ability to protect teammates, and improving defensive game are what possibly could land him a spot in the NHL.

"I'm kind of known to be an agitating, physical player," said Callahan, 23, a 2009 sixth-round draft pick. "It's kind of hard to do (in training camp). I don't want to be hitting the stars or hurting anybody in camp.

"Hopefully I can get some (exhibition) games and show that side, show I worked on may skill-set all summer, and I'm reliable defensively."

But don't be mistaken into believing Callahan (6-foot, 195-pounds) has lost his willingness to fight.

He's more than willing to energize his team and the fans that way, too.

"I fought quite a bit my first year in pro, but what (coach Jeff) Blashill told me is you're either going to be a fighter or a player that's not afraid," said Callahan, who was called up to play in one NHL game last season. "Hopefully I can be a player who can still play hockey and if I need to stick up for somebody or set the tone in any way, then I'm willing to do it."

Callahan is out of minor league options, as is Landon Ferraro, two Griffins who are looking to finally earn an NHL job.

Either could be lost on waivers, if they don't make the Red Wings out of the exhibition season.

"We like 'Calli,' he has good touch, he has grit, he knows how to play," coach Mike Babcock said. "He has to win a job. That's just the way it is. He has to have a good exhibition season. We'll give him a chance."

Callahan is probably best known to hockey fans for his Twitter picture April 2, shortly after taking a puck in the mouth on a shot by teammate Ryan Sproul, that caused Callahan to lose 10 teeth and have a broken jaw.

The picture has been retweeted almost 8,000 times.

"I had no idea it was going to explode that much," Callahan said. "I tweeted the picture to let my family and friends know I was OK because I was getting texts like crazy after the game.

"It's crazy a picture can go around that much. I didn't think it was that gruesome. To other people, it was."

ted.kulfan@detroitnews.com

twitter.com/tkulfan

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