DETROIT – Disappointed with the way his first NHL training camp experience went last September, Red Wings prospect Teemu Pulkkinen says he’s better prepared now for his return to Traverse City later this week.
“I wasn’t ready. I was in good shape but … it’s a different game in Europe then it is here,” said Pulkkinen, who was named to the American Hockey League’s All-Rookie team. “I wasn’t ready for the American game, there’s more rink, the speed is higher. But now I think I’m going to be ready.”
The 22-year-old Finnish sniper was at Joe Louis Arena Monday morning skating for the first time this month at the team’s voluntary practice.
Known primarily for his offensive prowess – he led Grand Rapids in goals (31) and points (59) – Pulkkinen worked diligently at home on improving his defensive skills.
“Playing in both ends of the game, defense, offense, that’s what I have to improve,” he said. “But still, I have to do better with the little things with what I can do like shoot the puck more and make the plays. That’s what I have to do.”
Pulkkinen made his NHL debut March 14 in the Red Wings’ 2-1 win over Edmonton. He played in three games while collecting two hits and four shots on goal.
“Yeah, it was a great experience to sit here with the older guys, guys who have played many, many, many games in the NHL, so it was a great thing for me,” Pulkkinen said. “I hope I’m going to play more games this year but nothing comes easy so you have to work hard and work every day. I’m ready for that, so it’s just the every-day work.”
Pulkkinen will be among a slew of forwards competing for a couple of bottom-six roster spots at camp, which begins Friday at Centre Ice Arena.
“We have a lot of good players here, so it’s a battle,” said Pulkkinen, who likely will begin the season with the Griffins. “Everybody wants to play and nothing comes easy. You have to work hard. You have to be better than the other guys. It’s just about yourself. You have to work.”
HEADING NORTH: The Red Wings are scheduled to begin their annual migration to northern Michigan on Wednesday. But will Danny DeKeyser be on the bus?
The young defenseman, who has been a restricted free agent since July, believes he will be on the ice for the first day of camp Friday. If a contract is not completed he can not attend camp.
“I’m kind of anxious,” DeKeyser said. “Hopefully something gets done here soon with camp a few days away.”
The 24-year-old DeKeyser has been seeking a multi-year contract but he’s not ruling out anything.
“To be honest, I’m not really 100 percent sure,” he said. “I think pretty much all options are open.”
ON A MISSION: A multitude of pro, college and Olympic athletes have improved speed, stamina, strength and agility through training sessions at Mike Barwis Methods in metro Detroit.
The former strength and conditioning coach at the University of Michigan, and an advisor to the New York Mets and Miami Dolphins, Barwis earned a new believer this summer.
“When I first walked in there I could barely walk,” veteran forward Daniel Cleary said. “When I left I was jumping, running. Kudos to him. Real smart guy, real passionate guy. Certainly changed the way I view training and he’s really helped me on the ice.”
Cleary has battled knee problems that have effected his productivity and sidelined him for significant stretches over the past 3-4 seasons.
A three time 20-goal scorer during his nine-season stint with the Red Wings, a debilitating knee injury caused Cleary to stumble during the 2013 lockout shortened season. He’s had fluid drained countless times while undergoing a series of anti-inflammatory injections. Still, he was held to just 13 goals in the past 100 games.
Now healthy, Cleary says he has something to prove as the team heads to training camp.
“You want to play well,” he said. “For me it’s just getting healthy, staying healthy, playing well and earning your keep.”
Competition for the few forward positions available will be intense, but Cleary says he’s prepared to fight.
“You go and do your thing,” he said. “Obviously, there’s a lot of players that are going to play, that’s always how it is every year, but certainly there’s completion. The way it’s been around here is whoever is playing the best will play, that’s it. No politics.
“I’m healthier. That’s one thing that’s going in my direction that’s important.”