Filip Hronek returns to Red Wings more confident, comfortable
Philadelphia — Filip Hronek is happy to be back, and glad to get another opportunity to show what he can do.
The last time, in October, didn’t go as planned as injuries decimated the Red Wings’ defense, and Hronek was part of a replacement crew that simply was too young and inexperienced.
Hronek went back down to Grand Rapids and played extremely well.
Now, with Mike Green (lower body) out for about a month, Hronek gets another chance to show he is NHL ready.
“I feel good,” Hronek said Tuesday after completing his morning skate. “I’m happy I’m back here and I have a chance to show them I can play.”
Hronek was chosen to replace Green because they have similar offensive styles. But Hronek also was playing at an elite level for the Griffins.
Hronek, 21, had an eigtht-game point streak from Nov. 23 to Dec. 7, and had points in nine of his last 10 games in the AHL.
Hronek tied a Griffins’ team record with assists in eight consecutive games.
In 20 games with Grand Rapids, Hronek had 18 points (five goals, 13 assists), leading all Griffins defensemen and ranking ninth among AHL defensemen.
Being around the Wings that month of October — Hronek played in six games with three points (one goal, two assists) — has helped Hronek then, and now.
“I learned a lot,” Hronek said of his time around defensemen such as Green, Niklas Kronwall and Trevor Daley. “You can see guys like Kroner, Mike Green, how they prepare and how they work. They helped me for sure, a lot.
“It helped me (being in the NHL). I know the guys more, so that helped me a lot.”
Similar to the Wings, the Griffins started slowly (most of their defensemen were with the Wings, forcing them to play with ECHL defensemen from Toledo), but have rebounded to get back to playing .500 hockey.
“The start, we were struggling a little bit, but then we stepped up a little it,” Hronek said. “Guys came back and we were playing pretty well.
“We have a pretty good team down there.”
Coach Jeff Blashill has mentioned several times since Hronek returned last week how important it was for Hronek to play with confidence and continue his progression from Grand Rapids.
“Early in the year, he struggled a little bit and got overly hard on himself,” Blashill said. “That’s a good quality and bad quality. Being self accountable is good, but when you cross the line and being to hard (on yourself), sometimes that’s bad.
“He just needs to come up and play. He’s a good hockey player. His game is probably better than his skill set. Just do the things you’re real good at and if he does that, he’s an NHL player. It’s just a matter of when, and hopefully it’s right now.”
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Forward Filip Zadina practiced Tuesday in Grand Rapids and told reporters he expects to play with the Griffins on Wednesday, then travel to Vancouver later in the week for the world junior tournament.
Zadina’s native Czech Republic team will practice and have an exhibition game before the tournament begins Dec. 26.
Zadina suffered a minor hamstring injury Saturday and missed one game with the Griffins.
Blashill talked Tuesday morning about how important it could be for Zadina to play, and dominate, in the tournament.
“It puts him in a situation where he can kind of be a real go-to guy and hopefully be in a position where he can have the puck a ton and have a lot of offensive success,” Blashill said. “Anytime you transfer into pro, it’s hard. I don’t care if it’s the American League or the NHL, it’s hard. He’ll be at a level that he’s more even with his peers in terms of age (at the world juniors).
“If anything, he’d be in the upper echelon at this point.”
Philadelphia will start goaltender Carter Hart, 20, one of its top prospects in the organization, Tuesday against the Wings.
Hart is one of the few young goalies in recent years who has been drafted high in the draft — Hart was a second-round pick — and found his way onto an NHL roster.
Blashill sees a landscape in the NHL these days of elite goaltenders are who aren’t losing their jobs, and not many youngsters capable of assuming those few jobs available.
“Certainly there’s a reason why there’s not been many, it’s only been a few special ones that have come in at that young age,” Blashill said. “Guys don’t give their jobs up and it doesn’t seem like there’s been a whole bunch of abundance of young guys taking them.
“The other thing with a goaltender different from any other position is you an ease guys into other spots. You can ease guys in as a defenseman, you can protect them. You can protect them by playing them on the power play, same thing as a forward.
“You can’t do that with a goalie. The goalie has to be ready when he plays, and certainly confidence is a huge thing at every position, but it’s paramount at the netminder position.”