Wings' Evgeny Svechnikov working hard to return from knee surgery

Ted Kulfan
The Detroit News

Detroit — The play itself is ingrained in Evgeny Svechnikov’s mind.

Svechnikov was going on the forecheck in a September exhibition game against Toronto, the final preseason game on the schedule. Svechnikov had been having a fine preseason, and was making a bid to begin the regular season on the Red Wings’ roster.

"It’s like home now. I want to be there and I’m good enough, I think, to be there," says right wing Evgeny Svechnikov.

There was a collision along the boards, and Svechnikov and a Leafs defender fell, going after a puck. Svechnikov fell awkwardly, and his right knee fell inward.

Something didn’t feel right.

“It was bad,” said Svechnikov, Wednesday morning after the Red Wings’ morning skate. “But I didn’t know it was torn. I felt bad. But I didn’t know.”

Tests revealed Svechnikov had torn the anterior cruciate ligament, and needed reconstructive surgery. Original estimates noted Svechnikov would be out about six months — basically the entire season.

Svechnikov, 22, the Red Wings’ 2015 first-round draft pick, still hopes to beat the estimate and get into a game in March.

Without a doubt, he wants to play.

“It’s tough, of course it’s tough,” Svechnikov said Wednesday. “But I can just sit (and do nothing, but) I want to play.”

Svechnikov has been diligent in his rehabilitation. The mental impact of the injury has been as difficult, almost, as the physical aspect.

“It’s disappointing, but what can you do,” Svechnikov said. “Nothing. I just say, ‘Whatever.' I don’t even focus on (the injury). I’m going to have a new life, it’s a new page, and go on from here.

“I’m coming back stronger and better. This is nothing. It happens. It’s just another injury. It’s good.”

Patience has been, and will continue to be, important for Svechnikov. He feels the injury, though severe enough to knock him out for the season, still could have been worse.

“Family is huge,” said Svechnikov, noting the help he’s received. “I’m just looking at it from a different side of everything. You play hockey, but also there’s life and you’re going to enjoy things from the other side. I’ve learned a lot overall.

“My family has helped me.”

Svechnikov has enjoyed watching younger brother Andrei Svechnikov have an excellent rookie season in Carolina.

“Unbelievable,” the elder Svechnikov said of his brother. “I’m happy. Hopefully he continues scoring goals. Let’s see where he’ll be at the end of the season, but I’m real happy so far.”

While it’s a frustrating time for Svechnikov, coach Jeff Blashill feels Svechnikov can still benefit from this entire experience.

“It’s how you react to it that matters,” Blashill said. “The training he does, sometimes when you face adversity you come through the other side way better. You’re hardened, you have to dig deeper, and you found stuff inside of you have didn’t know you had. Those are huge things in life.

“He’s getting challenged to a great degree right now. He has to come out the other side better. If he does, which he can, it’ll end up in the long term picture positive as much as in the short term, something that’s hard to go through.”

More: Injuries to defense another test of Red Wings' character, depth

Svechikov was having a fine training camp and preseason and was making a bid for a roster spot, after a disappointing second pro season in Grand Rapids.

The Wings expect him to rebound fully, and compete for a roster spot next training camp.

“He was tracking in the right direction,” Blashill said. “He had a year last year, had a real good first year (in Grand Rapids), and he was tracking in the right direction. He had worked hard over the summer.

“It was unfortunate. But again, a lot of tough things happen in life, and it’s how you react to them that matters.”


Howard an All-Star

Goaltender Jimmy Howard was the lone Red Wings’ selection for the All-Star Game later this month.

Howard went into Wednesday’s game with a 2.72 goals-against average and .920 save percentage, both among career highs.

This will be Howard’s second All-Star Game appearance. Montreal’s Carey Price was the other goaltender representing the Atlantic Division.

No Wings skaters were picked on the Atlantic’s 10-man roster. The All-Star Game is a 3-on-3 format, with the four divisions playing against each other.

Very likely, there will be players pulling out of the game, which could open the door for a player such Dylan Larkin.

Helm to return

Forward Darren Helm (shoulder) will return to the lineup Wednesday after missing 21 games.

Helm will be on a line with Luke Glendening and Andreas Athanasiou, a fast trio that could make things difficult for opponents.

“I saw that, it was pretty exciting,” Helm said of the potential line. “It’s a good opportunity to play with those guys. Glennie and I have played a lot together. There’s a lot of speed and skill (on the line). I hope we can find some chemistry and play well.”

Helm has returned from many long-term injuries in the past, so he knows the recipe for returning.

“Try not to do too much, make the easy plays, and not force anything,” said Helm, noting the speed and physical play of actual games are difficult to replicate in practice.

Blashill was excited about getting Helm back in the lineup.

“He wins a lot of puck races and puck battles, and a lot of games boils down to who wins pucks battles and races,” Blashill said. “He does an excellent job of that. He provides you with a lot of speed. We’re a faster team with him in the lineup, and he has tons of character, a good penalty kill guy, good net-front presence.

“It’s great to have him back.”

Ice chips

The Wings recalled defenseman Brian Lashoff from Grand Rapids, but he’ll likely serve as an extra defenseman for the time being. Lashoff wasn’t in the lineup Wednesday against Calgary.

Defenseman Danny DeKeyser (upper body) and Mike Green (lower body) are skating, but aren’t going to be ready for another week, or two, while Trevor Daley (broken foot) is out for 3-to-5 weeks.

... Blashill likes how forward Christoffer Ehn has played since being recalled from Grand Rapids in late November.

“He’s shown more confidence, continued strength on the puck and strength on his skates,” Blashill said. “He looks like a guy that is going to be a good, useful player in the NHL.”

Twitter: @tkulfan