Pressure not a concern for Red Wings' Zadina as he makes NHL debut

Ted Kulfan
The Detroit News
Red Wings rookie is expected to start on a line with Thomas Vanek and Luke Glendening when he makes his NHL debut Sunday against the Sharks at Little Caesars Arena.

Detroit — In a way, there’s not a ton of pressure on Filip Zadina.

He knows he’ll be with the Red Wings for nine games maximum. Otherwise, a year of his contract is used up and the Red Wings don’t want to do that.

Zadina knows this little look-see — he’ll make his NHL debut Sunday against San Jose — is all about getting a taste of what the league is about and finding what he particuarly needs to work on.

So, it’s about playing loose, for Zadina, and enjoying the experience.

“I’m just going to have fun and play my hockey,” said Zadina after Saturday’s practice. “I’ll play my best and we’ll see if they like me and keep me next season.”

Zadina, 19, the Wings’ first-round pick last June and sixth overall, was promoted Friday from Grand Rapids, where he was playing the best he has this season.

With points in seven consecutive games — Zadina had 11 points (five goals, six assists) in his last 10 games — Zadina was also confident shooting the puck, which coach Jeff Blashill wants to see on the NHL level, too.

“His job is to shoot the puck when he gets those passes,” Blashill said. “It doesn’t mean he can’t make a play. But I expect him to shoot pucks.”

On the season, Zadina has 31 points (15 goals, 16 assists) in 45 games, with a minus-9 rating for the Griffins.

Zadina, who said his parents will be in attendance, will start on a line with Thomas Vanek and Luke Glendening. Vanek, who speaks Czech and was himself a an early 1st-round pick in 2003, can keep Zadina calm and focused on the task at hand.

“He’s been through what Zadina is going through,” Blashill said. “He’s been in similar situations, so he can help. Plus, he as a high hockey IQ and ultimately, he’s our best passer.”

Vanek was impressed with what he saw of Zadina during training camp, especially shooting the puck.

Vanek knows what Zadina will be feeling Sunday.

“He’ll be skating hard and I’ll be trying to get him the puck and hopefully he can get that first (goal) out of the way,” Vanek said. “As a goal-scorer you want to get those first couple chances, that first goal, out of the way quickly.

“Hopefully, I can help him out and calm him down at the same time.”

Zadina had a difficult transition to pro hockey in Grand Rapids after not making the Red Wings out of training camp.

But the time in the AHL has been fruitful, making Zadina understand what North American pro hockey is all about.

“I’ve grown a lot,” Zadina said. “Through the offensive zone, neutral zone, defensive zone, all over the ice, they (the Griffins) made me a better player than I was at the beginning of the season.

“It’s about having fun right now. I’m kind of nervous about it. But I’m not under pressure, so just go and have fun.”

The other debut

With all the hoopla surrounding Zadina, it was a quiet transition for defenseman Madison Bowey, whom the Wings acquired Friday for Nick Jensen, with draft picks going each way.

Bowey, 23, was excited about the chance to start over with a new team.

“I was talking to my agent and my dad and said I kind of feel like I’ve been drafted again,” Bowey said. “It’s a team that wants me, wants to develop me and work with me and turn me into a great NHL player.

“I’m happy to be in this position that I’m in and I’m going to make the most of this opportunity.”

Bowey is expected to go through several more practices before being put into the Red Wings’ lineup.

“Part of that is trying to put guys in position to be successful,” Blashill said. “There are things that are different (from Washington) and it’s hard when you’re a player and you’re doing something totally different than you’ve done.

“We had a good meeting with him, he met with (assistant coach) Doug Houda as well, so a lot is going on in his head. Let’s give him a few days to watch us play a little bit and get a better feel for how we play.”

Ice chips

Blashill said it’s unclear whether goaltender Jimmy Howard (illness) will be able to back up Jonathan Bernier Sunday. Howard missed Friday’s start because of the virus.

…With Jensen’s departure, defensemen Trevor Daley and Filip Hronek will get the majority of Jensen's penalty-killing time, with Bowey also expected to see some time when he’s ready to play.

Sharks at Red Wings

Faceoff: 3 p.m., Sunday, Little Caesars Arena, Detroit

TV/radio: FSD/97.1 

Outlook: San Jose has overcome a sluggish start to become one of the hottest teams in the league (8-1-1 heading into Saturday’s game in Columbus)…D Brent Burns (56 assists, 68 points) and C Joe Pavelski (32 goals) lead a deep, experienced team.

Twitter: @tkulfan