Stephen Weiss a left wing but isn't left out, finally

Chris McCosky
The Detroit News

Detroit – A lesser man, a lesser pro, would be perceived as a potential threat to locker room chemistry.

The Red Wings have no such worry about Stephen Weiss, a former fourth overall pick who finds himself, 13 years into a respected NHL career, as an extra forward on the Wings' roster.

There he was Saturday, healthy at last after two tough years battling a sports hernia injury, wondering if, finally, he was going to get a chance to play. He'd been a healthy scratch for the first four games and his fate would be decided by Johan Franzen's balky groin.

"Not knowing all day if I was going to play or not was tough," Weiss said. "But I got the word after warmups that I was in. It was real exciting to play and be back. And it made it all the better that we got the win."

But here's the rub. Weiss only played 8:03, at left wing, a position the career center has never played in the NHL. And, he has no real idea when he might play again. Franzen's injury isn't believed to be serious.

"Hopefully I can keep practicing well and sneak my way into the lineup a few more times," he said. "I'm only going to get better."

Weiss understands his position. With Henrik Zetterberg, Riley Sheahan, Darren Helm and Luke Glendening all healthy and producing, he's going to have a hard time cracking the lineup at center. Thus, if he is going to get on the ice, it's going to be as a winger.

"Just making plays quickly," he said of his adjustment. "I've never played left wing in my life, so that's tough, too. Trying to figure out the system as a winger – all that stuff is tough. But it was fun to be back in the mix, playing again. Hopefully we can do a little bit more."

Weiss played the point on the first power-play unit, too, but he was removed after two ineffective shifts.

"It was nice to get a couple of looks on the power play," he said. "I would have liked to create a little more early and maybe stay on there."

Coach Mike Babcock has continually praised Weiss for his professionalism and work ethic. But he has also stressed that Weiss needed to be patient. He played in just 43 games the last two seasons and hadn't before Saturday played in a regulation game since Dec. 10, 2013.

"He got an opportunity to play; not a ton," Babcock said. "But at least he got into the game. With Weiss, it's not going to happen overnight. When you miss as much hockey as he has, it's going to take some time.

"But we are happy with him. We think he's going in the right direction. His attitude's been great and he's worked hard."

Weiss said the support he's gotten from the coaches, from general manager Ken Holland and from his teammates has helped him, energized him, through this ordeal. But actually getting back on the ice without any attending pain or discomfort -- that was the elixir.

"To play without pain is really nice," he said. "It's been a couple of years that way, a couple of years where something was always bothering me. This league is hard enough when you are healthy. When you are struggling with an injury, it's even harder.

"So to get back out there again, it was awesome."