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Colaiacovo: "Opportunity of a lifetime"

by Bill Roose / Detroit Red Wings
Veteran defensemen Carlo Colaiacovo signed a two-year contract to become a Red Wing. (Photo by Getty Images)

DETROIT – A former first-round draft pick, Carlo Colaiacovo called his new two-year contract with the Red Wings the “opportunity of a lifetime for me.”

Friday morning the Wings announced that they officially signing the veteran defenseman, who spent the last four seasons with the St. Louis Blues.

“I’m just anxious to get going,” Coliaicovo said. “It’s so special, honestly, the fact that it’s close to home too, and being a part of the Winter Classic this year, which is a spectacle that every player wishes to be a part of. … Since the time it’s happened there’s been nothing but excitement coming out of my voice.”

The Wings are scheduled to play the Toronto Maple Leafs – the team that drafted Colaiacovo 17th overall in 2001 – in the 2013 Winter Classic at Michigan Stadium on the campus of the University of Michigan on New Year’s Day. He played his first three-plus seasons in Toronto before he was traded to St. Louis in 2008.

The signing of Colaiacovo gives the Wings seven defensemen heading into training camp. A shutdown-type of player, he has battled numerous injuries throughout his pro career that spans nine seasons.

“Certainly we’re aware that he’s a guy that plays 60 to 65 games because he’s had some injury issues,” Wings general manager Ken Holland said. “But he’s 29 years of age and he gives us depth and he gives us the ability to move the puck and certainly our defense is an area that we need to continually look for ways to upgrade.”

Despite his injuries, Holland believes Colaiacovo can give the Wings’ defense that kind of boost. Despite missing 18 games with the Blues last season, he did garner 19-minutes of even strength ice-time per game.

“As I look at our defense we think there’s going to be good competition,” Holland said. “Somebody’s going to be a top four and somebody’s going to have to play on the penalty-kill, somebody’s going to have to play on the power play, and he’s an established NHL defenseman. He’s played on the power play and there’s an opportunity here for him to grow his game and grow his role.”

While Colaiacovo said his discussions with the Wings’ front office haven’t outlined specific expectations there is a chance for him to capitalize on some openings.

“I think the main thing that they stressed was that there’s opportunity for me to play big minutes, there’s opportunity for me to play in different situations,” he said. “And at the end of the day as a player that’s what you want to hear. You want to play, you want to play in every situation, and you want to play in situations to help the team win.

“Looking at the roster, they have a compliment of guys that I see myself fitting in very nicely with. Together as a unit, I believe we can make it hard for other teams to play against us.”

Getting to know some of his new teammates shouldn’t be much of a problem since he already claims some as friends already, among them Ian White, Kyle Quincey, Niklas Kronwall and Jordin Tootoo.

“Ian and I played together in Toronto and I played with him in the World Juniors, and we’ve been very good friend ever since our time in Toronto,” Colaiacovo said. “I’m more than excited to be joining him as a teammate again.

“Obviously when you know people there it makes the transition easier. And the few people that I’ve talked to so far they’ve had nothing but great things to say about the city of Detroit and the team and the organization. It makes me feel really good about the decision and I really feel good about coming over right away.”

Colaiacovo is very up front and honest when asked about the post-concussion symptoms that have plagued him ever since he fell head-first into the boards in a game six years ago in Ottawa.

“I don’t let that stuff bother me at all,” he said. “The injuries that I’ve had are very freaky, and stuff that’s been out of my control. I don’t focus on those things. I focus on the positive things and the things that will make me a better player.

“At the end of the day, I want to be a player and I want to be a player who plays for the Stanley Cup, and that’s my ultimate goal and the things that I focus on. When those things are out of my control there’s really nothing I can do to dwell on it. I don’t let them beat me up, I don’t let it bring me down. I just focus on working harder to get back in there. I just focus on the future and the better things to come. As long as I stick to that mentality I believe great things will happen for me.”

Follow Bill Roose on Twitter | @Bill_Roose

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