Red Wings' Jake Chelios basking in 'unbelievable experience' of NHL debut
Detroit – It is a feeling defenseman Jake Chelios isn’t going to forget for a long time.
Chelios was made his NHL debut Friday night for the Red Wings, and he was still basking in it after Sunday’s morning skate.
“It was unbelievable,” said Chelios, 28, who had spent his pro career in the minor leagues. “Making your NHL debut is especially enough, and to do it in your hometown, that made it that much better. It was an unbelievable experience.
“There was a lot of work put in in the minors, but it was all worth it.”
Chelios, of course, had spent most of his childhood in Detroit as his dad, Chris, was playing for the Wings. Jake was a regular around the locker room at Joe Louis Arena and got to know his dad’s teammates and the coaching staffs.
“They had an unreal team,” Jake said of that era. “Everybody was a fan. But, yes, you get to meet the guys, you get to know them as people, and they were all awesome guys. To be in that environment, it was a great experience.”
Heading into this final week of the regular season, the Red Wings locker room looks like the Grand Rapids Griffins’.
Injuries have cut deeply into the Wings roster, forcing them to call up many Griffins. That helped Chelios, as it has several Griffins players, become much more comfortable.
“Honestly it helped a lot to have five or six teammates I’ve played with all year,” said Chelios of his Griffins teammates. “You walk into room, and even having played a couple exhibition games to start the season, that helped me a lot to get comfortable.
“I’ve been around the (coaching) staff forever. Honestly, as far as being comfortable, it was a pretty good situation coming into my first game.”
Chelios had 20 shifts in 17:11 during the Wings’ 4-0 win over the Devils. He was a plus-1 with one shot and one blocked shot.
Chelios played in 294 American League games before making his NHL debut, but he hadn’t given it much thought as to whether reaching the NHL was something that was going to happen.
“Once you are down there (AHL) you focus on being there,” Chelios said. “We’ve been doing well down there, too, and that takes your focus. I never doubted it (making the NHL), but in the back of your mind, I’ve wanted to get here. But at the same time you play well down there and you don’t worry about the (end) result.”
Chelios said his parents, sister and grandmother were all in attendance Friday. Having his grandmother, Susan, drive in with his dad from Chicago made Jake especially pleased.
“She loved it, she’s been waiting for this, so it was real great to have her here,” Jake said. “It was too bad my grandpa couldn’t make it, but it was special to see her here.”
And what did Jake’s dad have to say before his NHL debut?
“He tried to keep it pretty calm with the advice,” Chelios said. “He said just have fun, just like everybody else did.
“Afterward, my parents couldn’t have been more proud and happy. It was just a great environment, great atmosphere, and it was a lot of fun.”
Coach Jeff Blashill said after Sunday’s morning skate forwards Luke Glendening, Thomas Vanek and Frans Nielsen, and goalie Jonathan Bernier, wouldn’t be available to play against the Bruins.
Glendening and Bernier were the latest banged up Wings, Glendening’s accumulating injuries and finally reaching a point he couldn’t play, while Bernier was injured during Friday’s victory over New Jersey.
So, with those two regulars out, forward Dominic Turgeon – who was expected to be in the lineup – and goalie Kaden Fulcher (to back up goaltender Jimmy Howard) were recalled from Grand Rapids.
Blashill confirmed forward Evgeny Svechnikov (knee) was not going to return for the remainder of this season.
There was hope Svechnkov, who had surgery for a torn ACL after the final exhibition game in September, could return for the AHL playoffs in Grand Rapids but there will not be enough time.
“His goal now is just to get as ready for next season that he can be,” Blashill said. “He really wanted to play (this season) but it just got a point where he wasn’t feeling great and he wasn’t going to be ready, and you can’t force it to be ready.”