DETROIT – Valtteri Filppula and Henrik Zetterberg are doing so well on the second line for the Detroit Red Wings that it’s easy to overlook the play of Jiri Hudler on the line’s right wing.
It’s been an adjustment for the 27-year old Hudler, who usually plays the left side because he’s a left-handed shot. However, after getting used to the new side of the ice, he’s starting to showcase his own skills while playing with two highly-skilled teammates.
Hudler has scored a goal and added an assist in each of the Wings’ last two games and has four goals to go with 12 assists in 26 games heading into their game Saturday night against the Winnipeg Jets at Joe
“I feel pretty good,” Hudler said. “Being with both [Filppula] and [Zetterberg] is fun. I’m playing on the right wing. I usually play on the left, but when you play with players like this you don’t need to worry about it.”
So, he’s not.
He’s also trying not to overthink his recent success after last season’s disappointing regular season – when he scored 10 goals and finished with 37 points in 73 games. Those numbers were a far cry from what Red Wings coach Mike Babcock was hoping to get from him, after Detroit got him back from a year he spent playing in Russia’s KHL.
“Obviously, last year at this time it didn’t go my way,” Hudler said. “I was frustrated and you know, it was tough. But it’s a new year and a totally different thing. I feel pretty good. I’m not going to get over-excited. It could kick me in the butt (any) time. We don’t want to mess with the karma.”
It might not matter if the forward trio he’s a part of currently keeps playing the way it has the past few weeks. Hudler said it has been a little odd to have his stick blade facing the wall now, but he’s learning to make it work.
“You get the puck on your backhand more because you’re (stick’s) facing (the wall),” he said. “At the same time you’ve got your forehand to the net all the time, so you’re ready to shoot the puck quicker. Other than that, when you play with good players it doesn’t really matter.”
The Wings just hope the chemistry continues for that line – including Hudler’s improved play.
“He seems to be playing well, skating way better and he looks like he’s got confidence in playing,” Babcock said. “[Hudler] is a veteran player. It’s quite evident he didn’t have the kind of year he wanted to last year and he’s on track this year. We need him to generate offense for us and be good defensively as well.”