Detroit — There have been many Red Wings players talking about “fresh starts” under new coach Jeff Blashill, but nobody seems to be living it as much right now as defenseman Jakub Kindl.
Never able to earn the confidence and trust of former coach Mike Babcock, Kindl appears to be getting new life under Blashill.
Kindl met with Blashill before training camp and basically just asked for an opportunity
“All I asked for was a chance and it looks like he’s giving me a chance, and that’s all I can ask for,” said Kindl, who has been one of the better Red Wings through the exhibition season. “I’m coming in every day and competing every single day and hopefully I can make the lineup.”
Kindl’s career with the Red Wings hit a low point last season, having played a career-low 35 games (he did deal with an elbow injury in late December, missing a month) scoring 13 points (five goals, eight assists) while averaging just under 16 minutes of playing time.
A perfect indicator of where it was occurred March 24 against the Arizona Coyotes. Kindl had a goal and assist in the game, played 16 minutes 18 seconds, after having not played for 10 consecutive games
He didn’t play again until April 11 against the Hurricanes. He next played in Game 7 of the Tampa Bay Lightning series in which he distinguished himself quite well in the 2-0 series-ending loss.
“You tell me how often it happens when a guy put up two points, has a good game, and next thing you know he sits for 10 games,” Kindl said. “But that’s in the past and I don’t want have that in my mind. I’m just excited for this new camp.
“I always tried to have confidence when I wasn’t playing. It wasn’t easy for me. You may think you played a good game and you sit down for the next 10 (games) and keep going back and forth, but all that is in the past and I’m just looking forward to a new challenge.”
Kindl appears to be in a battle for playing time on the third pair with Kyle Quincey and Brendan Smith, a situation Blashill said likely will last through the end of this week’s exhibition games.
Kindl, 28, a 2005 first-round draft pick, played under Blashill when Blashill was an assistant under Babcock and then when Kindl went to Grand Rapids on a conditioning stint last season
Blashill has used Kindl on both the power play and penalty kill and Kindl views that, again, as a fresh start.
“Blash is giving a chance to every player, he seems to like to play the players,” Kindl said. “I tried to stay confident when I wasn’t playing — it’s not easy, but I know how to deal with those things and know I’m comfortable coming to the rink and (more) relaxed than in the past and just enjoying myself.
“When you look around it’s not just me. We’re all on the same page, new coaching staff, he (Blashill) has a new plan and vision. I’m hoping I have a bigger chance and I’m just enjoying (this) as much as I can. I’ve been here long enough, I know what position I’m in but it’s a fresh start and it’s not just me , for everybody.”
A new season, Blashill said, presents a new chance to wipe the previous season from memory for any player
“Sometimes when it hasn’t gone as well, there’s a chance to have a good year and vice versa,” Blashill said “You can never rest on your laurels in this league because somebody is always chasing you from behind. Kindl has good ability, and he needs to continue to go and execute at a high level. He has so far for us.”
Howard, Mrazek 'elite'
Blashill likes what he’s seen from both goalies thus far in the exhibition season, Jimmy Howard’s star-quality performance Monday in Boston the latest positive.
“What I see now is a guy who looks confident, and the Jimmy Howard who I believe Jimmy Howard is, he’s patient in net and pucks are sticking to him,” Blashill said. “Both (Howard, Petr Mrazek) of them have been real good.
“We have two guys who’ve proven to be elite and can be elite.”
Of Monday’s victory, Blashill said “Jimmy Howard was great. The difference in the game was probably that, not that (Boston’s) Tuukka (Rask) wasn’t, but Jimmy was real good.”
Howard has moved on from the second half troubles of a season ago.
“I learned from it and I grew from it and I used it for motivation over the summer,” Howard said.
Mike Green (groin) is likely to be in the lineup Friday, after rejoining practice Wednesday.
“It’s important just to kind of get the feel for each other and certain lines and Danny (DeKeyser) as a partner,” Green said.
… Darren Helm (separated shoulder) is expected to begin skating later this week, meaning he won’t play in any exhibition games.
Blashill wants to see Helm go through several full practices before saying Helm could be ready for the Oct. 9 regular-season opener.
“He’s a player I think can do that,” Blashill said.
... Teemu Pulkkinen (upper body) skated Tuesday and will be re-evalulated.