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Red Wings' Robby Fabbri heats up in return from COVID-19 protocol list

Nolan Bianchi
The Detroit News

The Detroit Red Wings are home for an extended stay after playing 10 of 12 on the road, and there are probably few who are happier about it than forward Robby Fabbri.

Fabbri has scored in three of his last four games after missing eight games on the COVID-19 protocol list, and now, he said Monday morning, he’s looking forward to regaining some sense of normalcy on the homestand.

Red Wings center Robby Fabbri has four goals in eight games this season.

“It was definitely different than what I was used to,” said Fabbri, who rejoined the team prior to the series against Tampa Bay on Feb. 3 and has seen his minutes steadily increase in the six games since.

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“That was my first road trip with the COVID protocols. It was tough, it was different, a lot of downtime, a lot of relaxing, just getting ready for the games.”

Fabbri confirmed Monday that he did feel symptoms from the illness from “Day 2 to 5.”

“I had (all the symptoms),” he said. “So that wasn’t too fun. It took a few days to get my energy back and get skating, and back working out and getting ready for the first game on that road trip.”

The second-year Red Wing has seen a boost in confidence from his recent stretch of play, during which time he’s also added an assist and is plus-2. Detroit was without Fabbri heading into the first series with Chicago, which had to be disappointing for Red Wings head coach Jeff Blashill, who credited Fabbri with having “a significant impact on our games” since returning.

“I think he’s felt better so he’s played better,” Blashill said. “I think the first couple of games he was not to 100%, and I think he’s getting closer to 100% in terms of getting his games back, his endurance, all those types of things. But I think he’s played really well, he’s been up on a good line.

“I think from the second Tampa game on, he’s played really hard and competed really well.”

Adding a higher degree of difficulty to Fabbri’s season so far is a change in role. The former first-round pick by the St. Louis Blues entered the league as a winger, and hasn’t played at center since juniors — until this season.

He has won more than 50% of faceoffs just once, and started his NHL career at center by losing 2 of 14 in the circle. Still, Fabbri hasn’t been discouraged by the lack of early success, and part of that has to do with the guys around him.

Teammate Luke Glendening, who Fabbri said he’s worked with in the faceoff dot, leads the NHL with a 66% faceoff percentage.

“It’s been awhile since I’ve been consistent in the draws,” Fabbri said. “Glenny’s a great guy. He’s got all the tricks and trades and all the secrets, so I talked to him a bit. It all comes down to just working on it and getting comfortable with it, and getting confidence in the circle.”

DeKeyser clears waivers

The Red Wings surprised a lot of people on Sunday by putting veteran defenseman Danny DeKeyseron waivers.

DeKeyser, who turns 31 in March and was a healthy scratch in the most recent Tampa and Nashville series’, cleared waivers at noon on Monday. 

Blashill said that the move was “ultimately just a roster management move,” and that DeKeyser clearing waivers “gives room for flexibility.”

“We have to manage our roster within our taxi squad and the guys eligible to play, and trying to keep guys playing Grand Rapids,” Blashill added. “I wouldn’t read into it more than that.”

The Macomb native has struggled to stay healthy in recent years. He’s lost 110 man-games due to injury over the last three seasons, most recently dealing with a lingering back issue that required surgery after recording four points in the first eight games of 2019-20.

“It’s just the reality of what happens when you have some major surgeries,” Blashill said. “Is there concern long-term? I’m concerned for Danny today, in the sense that Danny is a great person, he’s worked his tail off, wants to be in the lineup, wants to help us win, but yet, he’s not able to be at 100% and that sucks. But that’s life right now and he’s just got to keep working to try to rehab that and get it back to full strength.”

Bertuzzi won’t return vs. Chicago

In other Red Wings injury news, forward Tyler Bertuzzi (upper body) won’t be back in Monday night’s series opener against Chicago, Blashill said.

The first-line winger has not played since an overtime loss on Jan. 30. Blashill said he would anticipate that Bertuzzi won’t play Wednesday night against the the Blackhawks, either, but beyond that, “I can’t say.”

“He hasn’t practiced with our team yet, and he’s progressing,” Blashill said.

Bertuzzi recorded seven points in nine games after signing a one-year, $3.5 million deal with the Red Wings via arbitration this offseason. Despite his absence, he remains tied for the team lead in goals with five.

Nolan Bianchi is a freelance writer.