Detroit —There’s always been a sense of honesty and no sugar-coating of anything around Evgeny Svechnikov.
The young Red Wings forward will answer a question and doesn’t hesitate.
Recovering from ACL surgery on his right knee, which forced him to miss all last season, Svechnikov didn’t downplay how he’s feeling currently with the exhibition season beginning.
Is he feeling like his old self?
“Not even close,” said Svechnikov, the Wings’ 2015 first-round pick who was in the lineup Tuesday against Chicago. “I don’t feel like myself out there yet. It’s tough. It’s not easy. I just have to go through it and push myself.”
Facing, arguably, the biggest season of his young career so far, Svechnikov is going through added adversity.
Not only is Svechnikov still getting stronger following the surgery, but he's also in the final year of his three-year entry-level contract.
And, with so many prospects already here or on the way, you feel the sense that Svechnikov, 22, needs to establish himself this season.
“For sure, it’s big,” Svechnikov said of the coming season. “Every year is big, like I said before, but this is the (biggest) one. When I do good and when I feel good on the ice, when I feel like my knee is good, I’m just good.
“We will talk about it, but I have to do it.”
Coach Jeff Blashill agreed this might be a key season for Svechnikov, but said he believes Svechnikov can face the pressure.
But what’ll be important for Svechnikov is to relax and not put undue, added pressure on himself — something Svechnikov has tended to do through his young career.
“It’s a big year for him, especially after missing a full year,” Blashill said. “The league always has room for great players, so just play great.
“He tends to put lots of pressure on himself. He can’t. Just relax and just go and play and understand it’s a marathon and not a sprint.
“He’s going to have good moments, going to have bad moments. He just has to keep working through it.”
Svechnikov was having a positive preseason last September, and making a run toward a roster position only to suffer the torn knee in the final week of the exhibition season.
Svechnikov gradually built strength in his knee as the season went on, and was hopeful of returning to play for Grand Rapids in the American League playoffs.
But the Wings and Svechnikov decided on squashing that idea, not wanting to aggravate the injury.
Svechnikov admitted he’s felt like a player who hasn’t practiced in nearly a year during training camp workouts.
Patience is going to be required, said Blashill, for any player going through a similar surgery.
“It’s a long time to be out and super hard; (there are) no real high expectations, let him go out and feel his way into this thing,” Blashill said. “It’s hard.
“Your body, No. 1. No. 2, you have to get used to how your leg feels. It’ll be different, never going to be the same.
“Anyone who’s had any kind of injury knows it’s never the same. It becomes your new normal but it takes time to become your new normal.”
Svechnikov has spent time with former Red Wings defenseman Niklas Kronwall and former Griffins teammate Matt Lorito, both of whom had similar knee surgeries, talking about the rehabilitation they went through.
What Svechnikov found was there is no firm, consistent timeline to recovery.
“Everybody takes a different (amount of time),” Svechnikov said. “Lorito, it took a while. He said he’s just feeling — after 16 or 17 months — he’s just feeling normal.
“Kronner said he was playing after six months. It’s different for everybody, but we’ll see how I feel. It’s still sore, still a process (right now).”
Tuesday’s return to the lineup was a milestone of sorts, a reward for all the work and sweat Svechnikov put into this season and returning.
He’s intent on continuing to put forth the effort to get back to how he felt before the surgery.
With his future in the organization unclear, it's another obstacle Svechnikov must overcome.
“You do what you can up to this point,” Svechnikov said. “I just have to push it and stay positive.”
Preseason hockey: Red Wings at Blackhawks
► Faceoff: 8:30 p.m. Wednesday, United Center, Chicago
► TV/radio: NHL Network/no radio
► Outlook: It’s the second game in two nights for the Wings, both games against the Original Six rivals. …Expect a stronger, veteran lineup from Chicago, and likely from the Wings, who play the second of their nine exhibition games, in 12 days.