Depleted Red Wings enter camp with questions aplenty
Detroit — This is going to be a different kind of training camp for the Red Wings.
For every team in the NHL, for that matter, what with the World Cup of Hockey going on simultaneously and the league’s best players competing in Toronto.
So, coach Jeff Blashill and his staff will compensate accordinglywith the Red Wings beginning camp Friday at Traverse City's Centre Ice Arena.
“We knew we’d be missing a significant number of players,” said Blashill with the Red Wings having seven players in Toronto and another four with injuries. “That part doesn’t change. We have a few extra injuries to deal with, but we had already set the structure to be a little bit different.”
Defenseman Niklas Kronwall (knee) and forwards Henrik Zetterberg (knee), Tomas Jurco (back) and Teemu Pulkkinen (shoulder) will not be ready this weekend.
Justin Abdelkader (USA), Dylan Larkin (North America), Alexey Marchenko (Russia), Petr Mrazek (Czech Republic), Tomas Tatar, Frans Nielsen and Thomas Vanek (Europe) are participating in the World Cup, with Blashill adding the earliest they’ll be with the Red Wings is next week once the team arrives back in Detroit.
Unlike previous years where there have been three teams during training camp, Blashill will have two full squads and a partial third team.
“We won’t have just pure scrimmages,” Blashill said. “There will be some specialty teams scrimmages, 3-on-3 and 4-on-4 scrimmages. We’ll leave the main scrimmage for the Red and White game.”
Speaking with reporters Monday, Blashill touched on various topics heading into training camp:
■ On the possibility Kronwall, and to a lesser extent Zetterberg, might not be ready for the start of the regular season: “Once Kroner pulled out of the World Cup, our goal wasn’t necessarily to have him ready for day one of training camp. Our goal, mine personally, was to have Nik Kronwall ready to play and be a big impact in our first game. It takes build up to get there, but you don’t necessarily need two weeks to get there.”
■ On the possibility of Dylan Larkin playing center at some point this season: “I have no idea what our team will look like (by opening night), but Larks and I have talked lots and I’d like to ulitimately see him be a centerman for our team this season. Organizationally we’d like to see him be a center. Will that start on day one? We’ll see.”
■ On the difficulty of evaluating young players this exhibition season with other teams’ rosters also decimated because of the World Cup: “We’ll have to make sure they are matched up against NHLers, because everybody’s rosters will be depleted of NHL players a little bit. The challenge you have when evaluating a young player is making sure they end up playing against players who are NHLers.”
■ On what Vanek, a free agent signing July 1, can bring to the Red Wings after years of inconsistency in his career: “He scored 18 goals last year. If you look at his yearly goal total, it’s extremely high. If he’s a motivated player, and he looks like he’s in good shape, he can bring a high level of goal scoring to the table. He’ll have to do what everybody else does around here, and that’s to work extremely hard and play good defense. If he does that, he’ll have a great year, but he’ll have to do those things.
“I’m a stubborn person, so I’ll make my decisions based on what I see. I’ve heard good and bad, but it doesn’t dictate my decision. I’ll decide on what I see.”
■ On what veteran forward Steve Ott can bring to the roster: “We’re going to have to win as a team, and part of that is camaraderie. Steve can really help in that area. He also plays with an edge, he’s extremely competitive. He brings an approach to the game.”
Kronwall said he’s been skating on his own, hasn’t taken part in conditioning skates with teammates, and doesn’t know what to expect these next few weeks.
“The last two weeks have been pretty good. I’m back on the ice skating and it’s going in the right direction,” Kronwall said.
Kronwall is disappointed that a summer of rest and rehabilitation hasn’t made his knee feel any better.
“I’m very disappointed I’m not further down the road than I am,” Kronwall said. “I would have hoped a few months at home, I’d be a little further down the road, but in saying that, (I’m) feeling pretty good and it’s about getting back on the ice and going from there.”
Kronwall said surgery wasn’t an option because it could have put his career at risk.
“The surgery that was talked about was something that wouldn’t be the best idea if I wanted to play again, let’s just put it that way,” Kronwall said.
Managing the pain and discomfort is likely going to be a consistent thing for Kronwall for the duration of his career.
“I don’t know if we’ll ever be pain-free, but hopefully I’ll be able to go out there in a position where it doesn’t bite as much,” Kronwall said. “You train a little bit differently. But again, this is something guys go through every year, so it’s not something that’s all of a sudden this crazy thing.
“It’s just something guys have to do when they get older, finding different ways to train.”
RED WINGS TRAINING CAMP
Where: Centre Ice Arena, Traverse City.
When: Friday, Saturday and Sunday, starting at 9:30 a.m (drills, scrimmages). Monday’s Red & White Game at noon.
Tickets: Friday-Sunday, $10-$20. Monday, $20-$30.
Note: An alumni/celebrity game takes place Saturday at 7 p.m. Tickets are $20-$25.