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Conklin is excited to be back

by Bill Roose / Detroit Red Wings
DETROIT – Having played for six different hockey clubs can be rather stressful, which is why veteran goalie Ty Conklin is excited to be back in familiar surroundings for the start of his ninth NHL season.

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Conklin, who played for the Red Wings in 2008-09, signed a one-year contract to return to the Wings for the upcoming season. He was among a handful of NHL players who participated in an informal skate Monday morning at Detroit’s City Arena.

“It’s good and it makes it a lot easier, knowing how to get to and from the rink. Knowing where the grocery store is. Knowing people and familiar faces, it makes it easier,” said Conklin, who compiled a 25-11-2 recorded with the Wings.

Conklin, who began his career in Edmonton in 2001, and has also played for Buffalo, Columbus, Pittsburgh and St. Louis, was joined at Monday’s skate by Wings teammates Nicklas Lidstrom, Tomas Holmstrom, Danny Cleary, Drew Miller, Patrick Eaves, Jakub Kindl, Jan Mursak, Chris Conner, and Doug Janik.

Also participating in the informal skate were Edmonton Oilers captain Shawn Horcoff and former Wings goalie Manny Legace, as well as a pair of NHL prospects – Buffalo Sabres center Shawn Shawn Szydlowski (St. Clair Shores, MI) and Tampa Bay Lightning goalie Pat Nagle (Bloomfield, MI).

But being back in familiar territory is a luxury, Conklin said.

“You generally make camaraderie wherever you play and the other goalie, or at least you try to,” he said. “Coming back to people and knowing what they expect, and what type of work ethic is expected. Hard work is expected wherever you go, but knowing the routine makes it nice.”

Though he only started 41 games of the last two seasons with the Blues, Conklin has stayed relative injury-free. But it was in Detroit where the Anchorage, Alaska, native had his best statistical season, playing in 40 games and collecting six shutouts.

“I was pretty healthy, by and large, last year,” Conklin said. “But I actually feel real good.”

RIGHT PLACE, RIGHT TIME: Last season, Chris Conner took advantage of a few unfortunate injuries to key players in the Pittsburgh Penguins’ line-up, including Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin.

Conner, who prepped at Livonia Churchill High School prior to leaving metro Detroit for the Chicago Freeze in the North American Hockey League, eventually finished last season with seven goals and nine assists in 60 games for the Penguins. Now, the 27-year-old forward hopes to make a similar impact for the Wings.

“When I came up there weren’t as many injuries then I was able to get an opportunity and I was able to stick for the reason of the season,” Conner said. “I just have to keep going. Obviously, it’s a new organization, so I want to prove that I can play, and play in the NHL. That’s what I have to do in training camp.”

One of Conner’s highlights from last season came against the Wings when he scored on a penalty shot that helped Pittsburgh to a 4-1 home win.

 “Obviously, you grew up a Wings’ fan, and it’s a great opportunity,” he said. “But that penalty shot was exciting, because people were watching back home in Detroit. It was fun.”

But Conner doesn’t expect that he’ll get caught in the excitement of trying to make the Wings’ roster, just because he grew-up in Hockeytown.

“I’m not looking at it as my hometown team,” Conner said. “It’s an organization that I want to help win hockey games and that’s what I want to do.”

DANNY THE BOBBLEHEAD: Two weeks ago, Cleary received 90 percent of the vote in a contest where fans were asked to select the Wings’ players, who will be immortalized with their own bobblehead this season. The contest, which ran for five weeks, was used to determine the last four bobblehead recipients.

Cleary, won the Week 3 balloting on the team’s Web site, and its Facebook page.

The Cleary bobbleheads will be a part of a season-long promotion called Bobblehead Thursdays. Each Thursday home game will feature a new Wings’ player, and the first 7,500 fans in attendance will receive a 6 ½ inch polyresin figurine.

Cleary, who’s bobblehead will be distributed as part of the Wings’ Jan. 12 game against Phoenix, is excited about the promotion.

“I’ve never had one,” he said. “Is it special? Yeah, I think it’s pretty cool. “I’m going to bring it home and give it to kids back home for the hockey school and stuff.”

Follow Bill Roose on Twitter | @RooseBill

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