'It's great to be back at it': Red Wings return to action with intrasquad scrimmage
Detroit — There was a some hockey finally Tuesday at Little Caesars Arena.
How crisp it was is debatable, the intensity was off and on, but it was fun to see nonetheless.
The Red Wings played the first of three intrasquad scrimmages — Team Red won 6-4 in a shootout (they counted shootout goals, too) — with music blaring, seats covered, and everyone simply relieved to be in a hockey environment again.
“I was just saying to one of the guys: Getting out there and getting in a game situation, and get in to game shape, it was fun,” forward Tyler Bertuzzi said.
For what it’s worth, Bertuzzi had two goals, and Vladislav Namestnikov, Marc Staal, Anthony Mantha (shootout) and Dylan Larkin (shootout) had Team Red goals.
Mathias Brome had two goals (one shootout), while Turner Elson and Danny DeKeyser also scored for Team White.
Count coach Jeff Blashill, too, among those pleased to be back doing what he enjoys.
“It’s great to be back at it,” Blashill said. “This is why we do what we do and certainly I’ve been excited about it. To see the guys playing, it’s been 10 months, it’s been a long time.”
But this being the first of three scheduled scrimmages — the lone game-like situations the Wings will have before the Jan. 14 regular season opener against Carolina — Blashill saw room for improvement.
“We can ratchet up the intensity level,” Blashill said. “We need to be more intense as a group. It’s hard in your mindset to play to the level of an exhibition (game) but we have to replicate that exhibition.”
The usual music, announcements and audio onslaught you’d hear regularly at LCA for a Wings’ game was mostly there Tuesday.
That’s likely a good preview, given the arena will be without fans — like it will be to start the season, at least — as it was for Tuesday’s scrimmage.
“The camera crew did a great job, and the sound, it was pretty cool to give them an opportunity to work on their things,” Bertuzzi said. “It felt like a game.
“Honestly, it wasn’t that weird (not having fans) with the music going. It’ll be different, we love our fans, but with what is going on, we can’t have them. But having the music, it felt like fans in the building.”
Blashill liked the fact the atmosphere around the arena was similar to what a game night situation will be like this season.
“The music was loud, that’s for sure,” Blashill said. “They’re trying to keep the atmosphere high without the fans. It is an adjustment.”
Said goaltender Jonathan Bernier: "It was kind of weird (with no fans) but we'll get used to it. It's just a Red and White game. It's been so long, we're just trying to get our reads and get our legs under us. But it was a decent pace for the first game in a long time."
Namestnikov tied it for Team Red, 2-2, at 17:38 — they played 18-minute periods — to force overtime, deflecting a shot in the slot.
Brome and Elson scored goals giving Team White a 2-0 lead before Tyler Bertuzzi cut the lead to 2-1.
Brome, an undrafted free agent from Sweden, made several nice plays and has been a pleasant surprise these opening days of camp.
"He's very good," Bernier said. "He's the type of guy that will create chances. You saw that in the 3-on-3 (overtime). He seems to be in the right position all the time.
"I like his game a lot."
Elson was hurt later in the game, suffering an apparent knee injury, after a collision.
Also hurt was Evgeny Svechnikov, with an apparent shoulder or arm injury, after taking the brunt of a collision behind the net.
Blashill had no update on either Svechnikov or Elson.
"I do not," Blashill said. "I saw what you guys saw. We're still waiting for an update."
It would be particularly disappointing for Svechnikov, given he had major knee surgery that cost him an entire season two years ago when he injured himself during an exhibition game.
Svechnikov isn't waiver-exempt anymore, and was either going to make the roster or be exposed on waivers.