Detroit – Filip Zadina was back in a Red Wings uniform Friday after a quick trip on I-96 to Grand Rapids.
Zadina was in the Griffins’ lineup Wednesday – a 5-2 loss to Chicago, while the Wings had four days off between games – but was recalled and practiced Friday and will be in Saturday’s lineup against Pittsburgh.
Already this season, and you can see it on the ice, Zadina is feeling different from the nine-game look-see he had last season with the Wings.
“The game is still the same, it’s just that right now I’m stronger,” said Zadina, who has two assists in five games with the Red Wings. “That’s why I stayed in Detroit (last summer) and it’s the reason I feel better because I got stronger and I’m more confident.”
With Anthony Mantha (lower body) out for the immediate future, the Wings have a good opportunity to have Zadina on their roster, reward Zadina for a good start in Grand Rapids this season, and give the former first-round draft pick further NHL experience.
There’s no timeframe as to how long Zadina will stay with the Wings. As long as Zadina is playing meaningful minutes or isn’t overwhelmed, he’ll stay in the NHL.
“It wasn’t like he had played his way out of the American League and dominated – that’s important to recognize,” coach Jeff Blashill said.
Zadina has 13 points (seven goals) in 20 games with Grand Rapids with a minus-9 rating.
“He’s had a nice start to the year but it’s not like it was easy to go down and say he is too good for that league, that’s not the case,” added Blashill. “In terms of what’s best for his development, as long as he’s getting an opportunity here and he’s doing a good job, it’s good for his development.”
While he’s been under the spotlight since he was drafted by the Wings, largely because of being a high first-round pick, Zadina says that hasn’t created any additional pressure.
In Zadina’s mind, there is pressure to end the Wings’ 10-game winless streak (0-8-2) that has squashed any immediate hopes for respectability.
“There’s pressure every game, especially on this team, this town, everyone wants to win,” Zadina said. “It’s Hockeytown, right? So there’s pressure for everyone. We just have to keep playing our game.”
Blashill had Zadina on a line with Darren Helm and Frans Nielsen Friday, and on the No. 1 power-play unit, with Dylan Larkin, Tyler Bertuzzi, Robby Fabbri and Dennis Cholowski.
With Fabbri continuing to play well since being acquired in a trade last month, Blashill is in no rush to give Zadina a spot on the top line.
“Fabs has played pretty good; I can’t stand here and say Zadina has outplayed Fabbri,” Blashill said. “You have to make sure you do it on merit. If he’s outplayed them, great, but that’s not what has happened.
“Filip has come in and done a good job. He’s played solid hockey. If he’s in a position where he’s dominating and says I’m better than the wingers that are up here, that’s awesome, he wins the spot and we’d all be excited about that.”
Justin Abdelkader (lower body) participated in Friday’s practice with no apparent restrictions, and is likely to return to face the Penguins.
Abdelkader has been out injuring his hand Nov. 10 against Vegas.
“It’s good to get a couple of practices with the guys,” Abdelkader said. “It’s always tough to watch (games), especially with what we’ve been going through.
“You want to be in there with the guys, you want to be out there and help, so that’s the tough part, for sure.”
Blashill was hesitant about confirming Abdelkader was in the lineup. Abdelkader was rotating in with Brendan Perlini on the fourth line.
Defenseman Trevor Daley (lower body), who hasn’t played since Nov. 2, also joined practice for the first time since then.
“It was good to see Trevor,” Blashill said. “He said he’s doing real well but was very cautious, because the last time he started pushing it he went backwards. But so far, it’s been good, he’s making real progress.”
There is no time-frame for a return for Daley.
Penguins at Red Wings
Faceoff: 7 p.m. Saturday, Little Caesars Arena
TV/radio: FSD/97.1 FM
Outlook: The Penguins (15-9-4) have been decimated with injuries, but are clinging to a wild-card position despite the barrage of injuries. … They’re without C Sidney Crosby (lower body), but C Evgeni Malkin (22 points in 17 games) and LW Jake Guentzel (15 goals) have picked up the slack.