Red Wings insert a Chelios in their lineup against Devils
Detroit — Your eyes weren’t deceiving you Friday when watching the Red Wings play the New Jersey Devils.
Yes, there was a Chelios in the Wings’ lineup.
And it wasn’t Chris, the Hall of Fame defenseman, coming out of retirement.
Jake Chelios, Chris’ son, was an emergency recall with Jonathan Ericsson unavailable because of an injury sustained the night before in Buffalo.
“He’s done a good job in Grand Rapids,” said coach Jeff Blashill of Chelios, who has had a fine season with the Griffins. “He’s done a good over the years in the American League, he did a good job in the preseason, now he gets a chance here.”
It was the NHL debut for Chelios, 28, who has appeared in 294 American League games between Chicago, Charlotte and Grand Rapids posting 107 points (17 goals, 90 assists) and another 15 in the East Coast league with Toledo and Kalamazoo.
This season Chelios (Michigan State) has played in 59 games for the Griffins with 14 points (1 goal, 13 assists) and a plus-17 rating.
Chelios was signed by the Wing as a minor league free agent on July 1, 2018.
Blashill liked what he saw out of Chelios in training camp.
“Smart, just a guy who does a lot of good things,” Blashill said. “He manages situations well. There’s not one thing that jumps off the page, but he does a lot of little things well, and he’s a player who has had success at every level he’s been at.”
Chelios is similar to minor league veterans such as forwards Wade Megan and Matt Puempel, and defenseman Dylan McIlrath and Brian Lashoff, all veteran Griffins who’ve been promoted to the Wings at various times this season, in large part, because of their performance in Grand Rapids.
“It’s a reward for the work he’s done in Grand Rapids, and that’s one of the things we’ve tried to do with some of these guys is get them up here as a reward for their work in the organization,” Blashill said. “It’s a big piece of our development model. So some of the veteran guys who wouldn’t normally get the love, you get a chance to reward them and have them play in the NHL and we get a chance to seem them play.”
Chelios played college hockey in Michigan State from 2010-14, earning 54 points (17 goals, 37 assists) in 154 games.
Ericsson, Nielsen out
Ericsson wasn’t the only Wings’ regular out of the lineup.
Also hurt Thursday in Buffalo was forward Frans Nielsen, who collided with Luke Witkowski midway in the third period. Nielsen was shaken up, and didn’t return to the game.
Frk replaced Nielsen Friday against the Devils.
Frk, 25, was sent to the Griffins earlier this season after recording five points (1 goal, 4 assists) in 25 games with the Wings.
Since arriving in Grand Rapids Feb. 14, Frk has 13 points (4 goals, 9 assists) in 10 games with a plus-12 rating.
Forward Thomas Vanek (lower body) missed his third consecutive game, with Blashill saying Vanek is basically day-to-day, with pain tolerance the issue at this point.
With four games left on the schedule, it’s unclear if there’s time for Vanek to return this season.
… Blashill was able to spend a few minutes before the game with Devils defenseman Andy Greene (Trenton), whom Blashill coached at Miami (Ohio).
Greene is completing his 13th season with the Devils.
“He’s one of my favorite players I’ve ever coached,” Blashill said. “He’s one of the best college players in my time, an unbelievable person. He’s had a heck of a career, very, very underrated.”