Detroit — The Red Wings will have a new addition to the lineup when they return to Joe Louis Arena Sunday.
Well, new, but familiar face.
Teemu Pulkkinen will return to the lineup Sunday after missing six weeks with a shoulder separation (suffered Dec. 1 against Arizona).
Pulkkinen was taken off the injured list Friday, practiced Saturday, and declared himself ready to go against the Flyers.
“It’s been a long six weeks, so it’s nice to be back for sure,” Pulkkinen said.
Coach Jeff Blashill wouldn’t commit as to who will exit the lineup with Pulkkinen back, although it’s likely to be Joakim Andersson.
Pulkkinen has 11 points (six goals, five assists) in 24 games this season, with a plus-2 rating in just over 12 minutes of ice (12:24) per game, and could inject some life into the power play with his booming shot.
“He can bring a real scoring threat,” Blashill said. “We’re hoping his shot alone can create chaos and make a good unit.”
Blashill feels this is an opportunity for Pulkkinen to prove he deserves to stay in the lineup.
“So far he’s done a good job in the game he’s played,” Blashill said. “It was unfortunate when he got hurt. He’s in the mix with a bunch of guys who are good players, some of them have had longer opportunities to prove it than Pulkky has, but when Pulkky has played he’s played good.
“For Pullky to be good he has to make sure to do things right defensively. He has to come back and stop and be available on breakouts and then what he does all the time is compete real hard.”
Despite skating and practicing for the last couple weeks, Pulkkinen said it’ll be key to take short shifts and adjust gradually when he returns to game action.
“I’ve been out six weeks and it’s never easy to come back,” Pulkkinen said. “I haven’t been in the league a long time (but I know) it’s not easy for guys who’ve been in the league a long time (and return). I’ll just try to keep it simple and play hard.
“I feel good. My shoulder is 100 percent, that’s a good thing. It’s going to be a couple of games, maybe a game or two, to get to game-speed. I’ll just try ot keep it simple and play hard and play short shifts and I’ll be fine.”
The Red Wings hadn’t practiced at Joe Louis Arena since Dec. 31, the same date for their last game at JLA (a 5-2 loss to the Penguins).
They were still adjusting to being back at home Saturday, but were pleased with the 5-1 record during the six-game road trip.
“Nice to sleep in our own beds,” forward Riley Sheahan said. “I’m sure for the guys with families to wake up and spend time witht them it was definitely nice.
“But it’s nice to be back home after a good road trip and we’re happy about that.”
But now there’s the difficulty of that first game after an extended West Coast trip, and readjusting to the routine and time change of being back in Detroit.
“(Maybe it’s a) different routine, having a few more distractions at home positively and negatively,” said Sheahan, explaining the difference of that first game back at home. “When you’re on the road, you have time for yourself and maybe that change of routine might be something to cope with.
“We have to take the consistency we had on the road and bring it back here. Obviously we’re happy to be playing in front of our fans and there’s always a buzz in the rink.”
Blashill, who got into his own bed around 5 a.m. on Friday, feels catching up on sleep is a big factor.
But whatever the reason, Blashill wants to see more energy out of his team than he did during Saturday’s practice.
“We have to be better than (Saturday), make sure our focus is better,” Blashill said. “We were sluggish.”
Blashill said goaltender Petr Mrazek will get the start in net against the Flyers and will use the same six defensemen as Thursday, which would make Alexey Marchenko a healthy scratch again.
... This will be the Red Wings’ first look at the Flyers, who have rebounded from a slow start this season.
“They obviously have some elite players,” said Blashill, singling out forwards Claude Giroux, Jakub Voracek and Sean Couturier. “It’ll be like every other game in the league, an absolute battle. They’re fighting for points and we have to fight for points.”
Flyers at Red Wings
Faceoff: 7:30 p.m., Sunday, Joe Louis Arena.
TV/radio: NBCSN; 97.1, 1270 AM.
Outlook: The Red Wings return to play their first home game since Dec. 31 after a 5-1 road trip…The Flyers are under .500 on the road (8-10-3) and have struggled on the power play (ranked 29th).