DETROIT -- David Legwand has been inside the Detroit Red Wings locker room at Joe Louis Arena before, but never with his nameplate over one of the stalls.
That changed Thursday morning. Legwand, originally from suburban Detroit, rekindled some of his childhood dreams by pulling on a Red Wings uniform for the first time.
After spending his entire 15-year NHL career in the Music City for the Nashville Predators, the 33-year old Legwand took part in his first morning skate in the Motor City as a Red Wing.
"I think every kid growing up here is a Red Wings fan, as they should be," Legwand said. "The tradition, the history, the players that have been here from the past, they’ve meant a lot to the city and to the team."
Now Legwand is one of them, thanks in large part to an injury crisis Detroit has at the center position. The Red Wings are missing Pavel Datsyuk, Stephen Weiss and Darren Helm, and they're also without versatile captain Henrik Zetterberg, who can play on the left wing with Datsyuk on the top line or center the second unit.
Of that group, the Red Wings are only hopeful of getting Weiss and Helm back in the near term, with Datsyuk (knee) shelved for at least three weeks and Zetterberg out for at least the remaining 21 games of the regular season after back surgery.
Legwand will center the top line with Gustav Nyquist and Johan Franzen.
"We needed a guy," Detroit coach Mike Babcock said. "We needed a veteran guy to help these kids. These kids are real good players, but a little leadership helps. [Legwand's] got 40 points, can pass the puck, he can play on your power play and he can play against real players, so it'll be a good fit for us."
Legwand is familiar with Joe Louis Arena and a number of Red Wings players because he often skates with them there during the offseason. How long did it take him to approve the trade?
"Not too long," said Legwand, who remained an avid fan of Detroit's other sports teams. "Being somewhere for 15 years is tough, but to come home and have a chance to play in front of friends and family, day in and day out, it’s exciting."
His reignited passion for the Red Wings couldn't have come at a better time for another reason. Prior to the game Thursday against the Colorado Avalanche (8 p.m. ET, NHLN-US), legendary former Red Wings defenseman Nicklas Lidstrom will have his No. 5 jersey hoisted to the rafters, the seventh one in franchise history.
"It's obviously going to be an honor to be here and see that," Legwand said. "Nick was one of the best of all-time, if not the best of all-time, and to see him go up in the rafters will be exciting. There’s only [six] of them up there [now], so he’s up there forever now."
It's also fitting that Colorado is in town, considering the intense rivalry between the Red Wings and Avalanche for much of Lidstrom's career. Avalanche coach Patrick Roy was in net for Colorado eight of those seasons and was right in the middle of the action.
The intensity has dropped off the past decade, but Roy said there's now a solid respect factor among the players who made it white hot. He's looking forward to the pregame ceremony as much as anybody.
"[Lidstrom] was a special defenseman and as much as we didn't like him when we were playing against each other, I have tons of respect for him," Roy said. "I'm very happy to see what's happening for him. Today there's tons of respect between all the [former] players. Seeing his jersey retired, it's something that I will enjoy being here to watch it."
Jimmy Howard will start in net for the Detroit and backup Jean-Sebastien Giguere will start for Colorado.
The Avalanche are also using a rotation on defense with Cory Sarich re-entering the lineup in place of Nate Guenin. Roy said that Guenin would return against the St. Louis Blues on Saturday at Pepsi Center.
Here is how the rest of the starting lineups might look Thursday night:
Ryan O'Reilly - Matt Duchene - PA Parenteau
Gabriel Landeskog - Paul Stastny - Nathan MacKinnon
Maxime Talbot - John Mitchell - Jamie McGinn
Cody McLeod - Marc-Andre Cliche - Patrick Bordeleau
Jan Hejda - Erik Johnson
Tyson Barrie - Nick Holden
Cory Sarich - Andre Benoit
Scratched: Ryan Wilson, Nate Guenin
Injured: Alex Tanguay (out for the season, knee/hip)
Gustav Nyquist - David Legwand - Johan Franzen
Tomas Tatar - Riley Sheahan - Tomas Jurco
Justin Abdelkader - Joakim Andersson - Daniel Alfredsson
Drew Miller - Luke Glendening - Todd Bertuzzi
Niklas Kronwall - Jonathan Ericsson
Kyle Quincey - Danny DeKeyser
Brendan Smith - Brian Lashoff
Scratched: Jakub Kindl
Injured: Henrik Zetterberg, Pavel Datsyuk, Stephen Weiss, Darren Helm, Mikael Samuelsson, Daniel Cleary