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Brunnstrom hopes to beat the clock

by Bill Roose / Detroit Red Wings
Photos from Red Wings Training Camp
TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. – Though he’s only 26-years-old, Fabian Brunnstrom knows that his NHL clock is ticking.

“I don’t have much time to show what I can do, so you have to take advantage of all of the ice-time,” said Brunnstrom, who was invited to the Red Wings’ training camp on a professional tryout (PTO). “It’s very important. But at the same time, hockey is fun, and I’m going to have fun out there.”

Brunnstrom had a lot of fun when he first joined the league, especially in his NHL debut when he scored a hat trick with the Dallas Stars. After his shining start though, things went a little sideways for the Swede, who was held to 16 goals in his next 98 games.

As an undrafted free agent in early 2008, Brunnstrom was in high-demand with several NHL suitors, including the Wings. He eventually signed a two-year entry level deal with the Stars, but sputtered in his development and confidence.

Now, he’s fighting for his hockey life, and hoping to land a spot on the Wings’ roster. But there’s one problem: Brunnstrom is among a slew of forwards competing for a spot, along with guys like Ryan Johnson, who’s also a PRO invitee, Jiri Hudler, Chris Conner and Cory Emmerton.

“With Ryan Johnson and with Brunnstrom, and all of these guys, they are legitimate hockey players, and we brought them here for a reason, and we’ll see what they can do,” Wings coach Mike Babcock said. “We’re real fortunate that we’re in a situation, cap-wise, that if you’re good enough to play on the team, then you can play on the team. It should be a real competitive exhibition series, and we’ll continue to watch and see what happens.”

There was plenty to like about the way Brunnstrom played Sunday in the club’s first training camp intra-squad scrimmage at Centre I.C.E. Arena. The 6-foot-1, 200-pound forward netted the game-winning goal in Team Delvecchio’s 2-1 win over Team Howe.

“I thought he played real well in his first year in Dallas, and then he was traded to Toronto, and I don’t know if he got any chances there,” captain Nicklas Lidstrom said. “He’s looking for an opportunity to prove himself and to earn a contract. I thought he played well today out there. You can tell that he’s a skilled player.”

While the goal had team officials talking Sunday, Brunnstrom, who skated on a line with Johnson and Hudler, knows that more work is ahead.

“Hockey is about scoring,” he said. “A goal is good, but (training camp) it’s about everything, and making small good plays. I think I need to show them everything, all over the ice. Play good defensively, offensively, make smart decisions. Play well.”

Something that favors Brunnstrom is his commitment. He arrived in Detroit early this month and participated in most of the team’s informal practices at Joe Louis Arena. And that certainly goes far with other players and coaches.

“I think that was huge,” said Brunnstrom, about participating in the informal practices. “To get to know all of the guys and skate with them was a lot of fun, and to get ready for the camp.”
And Brunnstrom’s pledge isn’t wasted on other players and coaches.

“He has the skill and the size, and I think he’s a strong skater,” Lidstrom said. “I think that we saw that down in Detroit before we came up here. … It will be interesting to see what he can do this week.”

Time is ticking, and Brunnstrom understands that, but Sunday was a good first day.
“I would love to make this team and as I’ve said before, the Red Wings have been my favorite team since I grew-up,” he said. “This is why I want to play, and I will do everything that I can to make the team.”

For the first time, Lidstrom skated with his new defensive partner Ian White in Sunday’s straining camp scrimmage.

Essentially, White, a six-year NHL veteran, replaces Brian Rafalski, who announced his retirement last May. Rafalski had been Lidstrom’s blue line partner for the last three years.

“He’s a good puck-mover,” said Lidstrom, a seven-time Norris Trophy winner. “He seems to be open most of the time, trying to find himself in an open spot. He can move the puck and I think we saw that out there today. He can find the open lanes and he as a good shot, too. I think it will be a learning curve for the both of us to learn about each other better, especially on 3-on-2s coming down on us, how we play in our zone. Little things like that that we have to sort out.”

Follow Bill Roose on Twitter | @RooseBill

Author: Bill Roose | Managing Editor

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