Detroit — Goaltender Eric Comrie learned about being traded to the Red Wings early Saturday morning.
By lunchtime, Comrie was on an airplane headed to Detroit, getting ready to launch the Wings portion of his NHL career.
“It was pretty quick, pretty exciting times,” said Comrie, was acquired from Arizona in exchange for minor-league defensemen Vili Saarijarvi.
Comrie took part in his first morning skate with the Wings on Monday, and was expected to back up Jonathan Bernier.
Comrie, 24, was playing for the Coyotes’ minor-league affiliate in Tucson, where he was 4-0-0 with a 2.75 goals-against average and .900 save percentage.
With Jimmy Howard (mid-body injury) unavailable, and the Wings sending Calvin Pickard back to Grand Rapids, Comrie has an opportunity to show he is an NHL-caliber goalie.
Comrie was 2-3-0 with a 4.21 GAA and .870 SVS in five career starts for Winnipeg, who selected Comrie in the second round of the 2013 NHL Entry Draft.
“For sure, I’m excited about the opportunity,” Comrie said. “I’m excited to go out and hopefully play some games.
“I was surprised (about the trade). I was having a lot of fun in Arizona, just practicing and getting used to being there and it was good. I was pretty surprised when I got the call.”
From the Wings’ perspective, coach Jeff Blashill said acquiring Comrie bolsters the goaltending depth in the organization.
Pickard (7-6-2, 3.00 GAA, .898 SVS) and Filip Larsson (2-5-0, 4.01 GAA, .843 SVS) have struggled in Grand Rapids, so Comrie strengthens the available options beyond Bernier and Howard.
“Right now, it’s just more depth in the goaltending position,” Blashill said. “Pick (Pickard) came in, and it was a weird game for him in Philadelphia (a 6-1 loss). We didn’t give up much, but when we did give up something it was a big chance, so it wasn’t a fair assessment of the goalie.
“Pick is a real good pro, he’s a great pro, but they’ve had some struggles there (in Grand Rapids) as well, and what Comrie does is gives us more depth in that position.”
Comrie was acquired by Arizona on waivers from Winnipeg, unsure of what its own goaltending was going to look like because of injuries.
But with the Coyotes’ goaltending settled and thriving, as the season has progressed, Comrie became a forgotten man until being sent down for conditioning work.
Comrie called this season “weird” thus far, after having been claimed on waivers by Arizona.
Getting the opportunity to play for Tucson, and knocking some rust off after having not playing all season, was helpful.
“A lot of help, for sure,” Comrie said.
Frans Nielsen remains a popular former New York Islander, but Valtteri Filppula is getting close.
Filppula, who enjoyed a fine season on Long Island last season (17 goals), signed with the Wings as a free agent last summer.
Filppula supplied a steady dose of veteran leadership and know-how on the ice for the Islanders — and is doing the same with the Wings, Blashill said.
“Great pro, carries himself like a great pro, he was that when I was an assistant coach here and he’s continued to be that,” Blashill said. “He’s a calming influence and we’ve needed that at times. He’s done a good job of transporting the puck through the neutral zone, and that’s what he does as well as anybody.”
The help Filppula has given to young linemates Robby Fabbri and Andreas Athanasiou, Blashill said, also has been vital.
“These have been difficult times,” said Blashill, noting Filppula has helped them “understand what they’re doing right and need to do better. It’s an extension of the coaching staff and he’s been real good that way.”