Detroit — Filip Zadina was admittedly a little bummed when he got a phone call from general manager Steve Yzerman, informing Zadina he was being assigned to Grand Rapids.
But seconds into the conversation, Yzerman explained to Zadina it was a roster management move, and Zadina was going to return.
Zadina, in fact, was back at Thursday’s morning skate — along with defenseman Dylan McIlrath (though Dennis Cholowski remained in the minor leagues), all of whom were reassigned Wednesday — and happy to still be with the Red Wings.
“I got a call from Steve Yzerman and he told me what was going on, and why he has to do that,” Zadina said. “Nothing has changed, I guess. I’m here in Detroit and still trying to prove (to them) to stay here as long as I can.
“He had to do that for some reason, and he’s done it and now it’s done and over with, and it’s a new day.”
But those first few words out of Yzerman’s mouth, that Zadina was being sent down?
“Kind of sad,” Zadina said. “Then he was talking and why he had to do that and it was kind of a better day.”
Zadina was in Thursday’s lineup against the Winnipeg Jets, but for how much longer he’ll remain with the Red Wings remains an interesting question.
Anthony Mantha (lower body) participated in his first team practice since injuring himself three weeks ago, and could be back soon.
The Wings also have the issue of Zadina’s entry-level contract, which could be pushed back another year if he doesn’t play more than 10 NHL games.
“We’re aware of it, but in the end, Steve wants to do whatever is best for his (Zadina’s) development, that’s the No. 1 factor more than anything else, what is best for his development,” coach Jeff Blashill said. “That (contract issue) won’t be the overriding factor by any stretch.”
Zadina, 20, had no goals and three assists in seven games, heading into Thursday’s game. He’s played well, though not overwhelmingly so.
With the Wings in a freefall in the standings, would it benefit Zadina to remain in the NHL for his development, or is it best for him to be away from a losing atmosphere and play major minutes and develop in Grand Rapids?
It’ll be an intriguing decision.
“It’s always a reality in this business, you have the opportunity to being sent down,” Blashill said. “It’s a super-competitive business. My message to him is control what he can control, and that’s playing great hockey. Everybody wants guys who play great hockey. He just has to continue to play and focus on what he can do and that’s his play.”
Blashill has mentioned on several occasions, and did so again Thursday, that Zadina has improved in strength, confidence and learning how to use his hockey smarts.
But Blashill wasn’t going to say Thursday whether Zadina had done enough yet to be considered a top-six or top-nine forward in the NHL.
“Those are the things you take day by day,” Blashill said. “You evaluate it, and things change. We want him to be in position to thrive, and it’s a really hard league to thrive in.”
Zadina is continuing to take his present situation on a daily basis, and hoping to impress the Wings.
That’s all he can do.
“I’m doing the best I can, help the team to score goals and create offense, and to battle through,” Zadina said. “It’s kind of mentally tough right now, but it’s what it’s about.”
Sending down Cholowski, and keeping him in the American League, was about restoring Cholowski’s confidence and getting him back to “thriving” instead of “surviving," Blashill said.
“Swagger with the puck and end plays defensively, those are the two biggest factors,” Blashill said of the issues in which Cholowski needs to concentrate.
“Just learning how to end plays, and he’s better at it today than he was a year ago, without question,” Blashill said. “He’s trying to end plays, trying to get into people in the defensive zone and create a stall, trying to gap better, but he still has to work at it.
“And with that, ultimately he’s going to be a guy who has to be dynamic with the puck, have swagger to get out on a 5-on-3 power play and make a play, find a way to, whatever it is, fake people, draw people to you, and make a play.”
Dylan Larkin was ill Thursday morning and didn’t participate in the morning skate. Blashill said Larkin was “questionable" for Thursday's game.
With Larkin questionable and Andreas Athanasiou (undisclosed injury) out for a second consecutive game, Blashill said the Wings would go with 11 forwards and seven defensemen if Larkin wasn’t ready.
… Mantha (lower body) and goaltender Jimmy Howard both participated in the morning skate, and those two, along with defenseman Danny DeKesyer (lower body), are all getting closer to a return, Blashill said.
Mantha and Howard could return next week, it appears, while DeKeyser might take a bit longer than that.
“DK is getting closer, too, he’s skating with less pain, he’s going longer durations,” Blashill said.
…With the Griffins, defenseman Moritz Seider (2019 first round) has been limited the last couple of games with an undisclosed injury, but Blashill said it was his understanding the injury “wasn’t serious."