TRAVERSE CITY — Tonight marks the end of what has been a long off-season for the Red Wings as they travel to Pittsburgh to play their first of eight preseason games.
The evaluation process of training camp will continue through the preseason schedule where each player will get the opportunity to prove they belong in the NHL.
“I think most guys came to camp in real good shape,” coach Mike Babcock said. “We got two teams. We think we got two reasonable teams. Everyone gets an opportunity and we’re just going to watch them.”
The 55-man roster released Monday morning is split into two teams that the Wings will use to divvy up minutes in preseason action. One major area of focus is on special teams. Coaches will look to see what players are able to pick up on the new power play and penalty kill systems put in place by Babcock’s new staff that includes Jim Hiller and former Penguins assistant Tony Granato.
“We’re going to give lots of guys a chance on the power play,” Babcock said. “We basically have 12 D and we’re playing, and we’re just going to let them play and they can figure it all out.”
The preseason gives both players and coaches a chance to figure out a lot about the NHL level and caliber of play that is expected.
“If you’re a top-six forward you got to play 200 feet and you got to do it every night and you got to be mentally tough," Babcock said. "If you’re a bottom-six forward maybe you don’t have to be dialed in as much. But those guys, even in the bottom six, they’re working, so it’s a tough game.”
Among those facing off against the Penguins at Consol Energy Center tonight are forwards Pavel Datsyuk, Tomas Tatar and Darren Helm, defensemen Niklas Kronwall and Jonathan Ericsson as well as goalie Jimmy Howard. They will be accompanied by a handful of Red Wings prospects in addition to veterans Daniel Cleary and Drew Miller.
The Red Wings will face a Penguins' roster void of many of their stars, including Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and free-agent defenseman Christian Ehrhoff, who was acquired in the off-season to quarterback the power play.
The Penguins scheduled to play against the Red Wings are forwards Nic Spaling, Patric Hornqvist, Brandon Sutter, Blake Coreau, Beau Bennett, Bobby Farnham, Josh Archibald, Scott Wilson, Anton Zlobin, Oskar Sundqvist, Jean-Sabastien Dea, Jayson Megna. Defensemen Rob Scuderi, Paul Martin, Reid McNeill, Robert Bortuzzo, Taylor Chorney, Simon Despres, and goalies Marc-Andre Fleury and Matt Murray.
The Red Wings' second preseason team will travel to Chicago Tuesday where they will face the Blackhawks.
RED WINGS REASSIGNED: Here is a list of players that did not make the 55-man roster and were either reassigned to their respective junior teams or were released Monday:
Reassigned: Tyler Bertuzzi, LW, Guelph (OHL); Zach Nastasiuk, C, Owen Sound (OHL); Dominic Turgeon, C, Portland (WHL); Marc McNulty, D, Prince Albert (WHL); Mitchell Wheaton, D, Kelowna (WHL).
Released: Hayden Hodgson,RW; Jerome Verrier,RW; Brandon Robinson,LW; Darby Llewellyn, LW; Blake Clarke,LW; Ty Stanton, D; Lucas Peressini, G.
DeKEYSER’S DEAL: Last week, Danny DeKeyser agreed to a two-year contract worth $4.375 million. The 24-year-old defenseman said he was happy to get the deal out of the way and focus on the start of the season.
“I didn’t want to miss any days of training camp,” he said. “I think it’s really important for everybody to be here. I was just happy to get that out of the way so I can play.”