Red Wings' Jakub Vrana arrives for first practice, injures shoulder
Traverse City — Jakub Vrana returned to Red Wings' practice Saturday — and quickly departed.
Vrana, who arrived Friday night after encountering visa issues this week, was on the ice for approximately 10 minutes before injuring a shoulder, coach Jeff Blashill said.
Vrana will be further evaluated and isn't scheduled to play in Sunday's Red & White scrimmage.
On a team starving for offense, losing Vrana would be a concern.
Vrana, after arriving from Washington in a deal for Anthony Mantha at the trade deadline in March, scored eight goals in 11 games for the Wings, including a four-goal game.
Before discussing the injury, Blashill talked about the opportunity Vrana has to be a lead player for the Wings. Vrana was more in the background of a star-studded lineup in Washington.
"There's a real opportunity and with that comes responsibility," Blashill said. "We can't afford for him to be a passenger where he does it right some nights and some nights he doesn't and somebody else carries the ball. We need him to be a driver, one our drivers of the hockey team. He's excited about embracing that opportunity."
Vrana, 25, who was a restricted free agent during the summer, signed a three-year contract worth $15.75 million ($5.25 million salary cap hit, per season) in August.
Last season was difficult for forward Robby Fabbri.
He contracted COVID-19 early in the season, then ended the campaign with a mild concussion. Fabbri played 30 of the 54 games.
In between the setbacks, Fabbri had 10 goals and eight assists (18 points) with a plus-3 rating. He showed glimpses of the efficient offensive player he can be.
"A little bit of a frustrating year," Fabbri said. "But what I took away was I felt good when I was in and I was playing well. So you take the positives and move forward. You're going to have adversity and things come up that yo can't control, so you just kind of take the positives and move on."
Blashill mentioned Fabbri as one of the players who has looked good in the opening days of camp. He has used Fabbri in a variety of spots.
"I feel good, back to where I was before when I was playing," Fabbri said. "It's been a good start."
Red & White scrimmage
The Wings hold their annual Red & White intra-squad scrimmage Sunday at noon. It will be a nice change of pace after three days of intense practices.
"We've put a number of systems, foundations, in place, and we'll practice before the scrimmage, so you kind of see where we're at," Blashill said. "It's like a game and it's a steppingstone to exhibition games. It's not as competitive as exhibition games will be, but it's a steppingstone toward that.
"It's a positive and it gives fans who are here a chance to see the guys in game action. They must like watching that rather than practice."
Blashill has avoided scrimmaging in camp practices, concentrating on drills and specialty team work.
"I'm not a big fan of scrimmaging early," Blashill said. "In the past, we used to scrimmage those first three days. "I don't think you get a lot out of that."
With Vrana unavailable and young players being looked at in a variety of spots, line combinations have been fluid. They will continue to be most of the exhibition season.
Blashill would like to see is Dylan Larkin and Tyler Bertuzzi playing together. The two have skated with Filip Zadina thus far.
Larkin and Bertuzzi have formed a good chemistry over the past few seasons. They were clicking last season before Bertuzzi suffered a back injury one month in that led to surgery.
“They’re a pair that I’d like to keep together all season, if I can,” Blashill said. “Dylan and Tyler complement each other. I also think they have good chemistry on and off the ice. It’s definitely a pair I’d like to see stick together and then we’re looking to see who earns the spot with them.”