Goaltender Eric Comrie, 24, excited for first start with Red Wings

Ted Kulfan
The Detroit News

Winnipeg, Manitoba — The circle of reporters around Eric Comrie was huge after Tuesday’s morning skate, befitting a star player or someone making a grand announcement.

But, no, it was simply Comrie, the Red Wings’ backup goaltender who was set to make his team debut later in the evening against the Winnipeg Jets.

And there was the hook.

Red Wings goaltenders Jonathan Bernier and Eric Comrie (34) in the third period.

The Jets were the organization that drafted Comrie in the second round of the 2013 NHL Draft. And it was obvious judging the from the comments of former players and coaches that Comrie left a positive impression on the organization while there.

“It’s pretty exciting to play against a former team, I have a lot of friends over there,” said Comrie, who spent four seasons playing for the Jets’ farm team, the Manitoba Moose, in the same Bell MTS Place arena where the Jets play.

“It’s going to be a lot of fun. I know this building pretty well. I’ve played a lot of minutes in this building. I’ve always enjoyed playing in front of the crowd and now it’s going to be kind of different playing against the crowd.”

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Comrie, 24, relieved Jonathan Bernier on Saturday at Little Caesars Arena, in Pittsburgh’s 5-3 victory. Comrie stopped all four shots he saw in the final 8 minutes, 13 seconds, and given the Wings’ face the Jets again Thursday at LCA, there was a good chance Comrie was going to get one of these two games.

Getting Comrie into the lineup in an arena he’s familiar with — and obviously the organization, too — probably held a lot of weight.

“There are a lot of factors that go into the decision, certainly that went into it,” coach Jeff Blashill said. “At the end of the day, we wanted to get him a game and we’re playing Winnipeg back-to-back.”

Blashill has been impressed with the way Comrie goes about his business.

“He works hard and he’s a good person, those things for sure,” Blashill said of what stands out. “I don’t have an unbelievable feel for him as a player yet, that comes with getting opportunities, so he gets one of those tonight.

“Certainly he competes hard in net and doesn’t give up on pucks.

“I’m looking forward to seeing him play. He went through a stretch in Arizona where he wasn’t really seeing live action, even in practice. He’s had a week here of live action.”

The Wings acquired Comrie on Nov. 30 from Arizona for minor-league defenseman Vili Saarijarvi. Comrie was claimed by Arizona on waivers from Winnipeg before the season began, but was plagued with visa issues that kept him in Canada for a month, and the Coyotes sent him back to the minor leagues in Tucson.

When Jimmy Howard was injured, the Wings needed depth in the organization and Comrie became a target.

“It’s a pretty cool, an Original Six team,” Comrie said of joining the Wings. “Just putting on the Red Wings jersey is something special, and (general manager) Steve Yzerman calling you (about the trade) is also something that’s pretty cool as well.”

What exactly becomes of Comrie in the days and weeks ahead is a bit unclear.

Comrie is likely to stay with the Wings as long as Howard (mid-body) is injured. Once Howard returns, Comrie is likely to head to Grand Rapids, although a good showing with the Wings will make Comrie a potential piece of next season’s puzzle, given Howard is an unrestricted free agent at the end of this season.

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Comrie has no bad feelings toward the Jets, the team that drafted him but never could find a spot on the roster for him.

“I loved every single second I was with Winnipeg,” Comrie said. “I loved the guys, the coaches, the management. They were awesome from day one. I was really happy to be here, every single moment.

“They made me the player I am today, the person I am today, so I’m really thankful for what they’ve done here. I’m really excited to move forward with a new organization.

“I’d be happy to go back here, but I’m really happy in Detroit right now.”


Twitter: @tkulfan