TROY, Mich. – Four more familiar faces, including Henrik Zetterberg and Valtteri Filppula, surfaced at Troy Sports Center on Thursday morning where a handful of Red Wings have been holding informal skates – sans the team’s coaching staff – since the NHL and the players’ association reached a tentative deal on a new collective bargaining agreement last weekend.
Filppula, who was one of three Wings to suffer hockey-related injuries during the 113-day lockout, said he doesn’t anticipating having to miss any games once the abbreviated season starts. He sprained his right knee while playing for Jokerit in his native Finland on Nov. 13.
“It feels good enough,” said Filppula, who has developed into a top-six forward and was a key offensive contributor for the Red Wings last season. “I’ve been skating for a week, a week and a half now and I feel pretty good.”
Cory Emmerton (broken finger) and Darren Helm (fractured cheekbone) also injured hockey-related injuries during the lockout. But it was Filppula’s sprained knee that was the most serious.
“I just run into a guy and it was kind of a situation that happened lots in the game and I guess it was back luck that I twisted my knee a little,” Filppula said. “But nothing that looked too serious, though it obviously hurt.”
Originally diagnosed as a sprained MCL, the injury prevented Filppula was skating for nearly nine full weeks after he had collected six goals and nine assists in 16 games in the Finnish Elite League.
But now the 28-year-old is looking forward to getting his NHL career back on track.
“I missed it a lot,” he said. “It was good to play back home, too, but I was definitely hoping that we could get back soon and now we get to play back here and I’m really happy about it.”
Last season, Filppula was moved to center where he played most of his time on a line with Henrik Zetterberg. The move paid dividends then as Filppula produced career-highs in goals (23), assists (43) and points (66), and he’d like to duplicate those numbers.
“I’m excited and hopefully I can continue on that way and help the team out more offensively,” Filppula said. “But we’ll see. It’s a new season, but I prepared really well, I think, except the knee hurt a little, but I don’t think it will be a big thing once the season gets started.”
It’s expected that the Red Wings line combinations will start out a little differently from where they left off last spring. Anticipate a Euro-twin reunion with Pavel Datsyuk centering a line with Henrik Zetterberg and new Swiss import Damien Brunner. The other lines are shaping up this way: Filppula, Johan Franzen, and Mikael Samuelson; Todd Bertuzzi, Darren Helm and Daniel Cleary; and Drew Miller, Justin Abdelkader and Jordin Tootoo.
Like everyone else, Filppula is anxious to see what Brunner will bring to the Wings.
“I only played against him once, I think, and really haven’t seen him play that much,” Filppula said. “But practicing with him a little bit before we thought the season was going to get started, he’s a real good player. He’s really well, has a lot of skill, so I’m excited to see how he does.”
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