|Jakub Kindl will be in Friday's lineup when the Red Wings host Ottawa. It will be Kindl's first NHL opening night game. |
– Jakub Kindl
has logged 51 games with the Red Wings over the last two seasons. But this Friday is something that he’s been looking forward to for a very long time.
“I’m really excited. I’m not going to lie,” said Kindl, who will play in his first NHL season-opener when the Wings host the Ottawa Senators at Joe Louis Arena.
Out of minor–league options last year, Kindl spent must of his time in Detroit as a healthy scratch, playing behind sixth defenseman Ruslan Salei. However, Kindl was called upon after the season-opener and played in the next 11 games when back spasms sidelined Jonathan Ericsson
While sitting out for stretches at a time was frustrating, Kindl was OK with paying his dues. But he also chose to do something about it, challenging himself to get bigger and stronger, particularly in the off-season. Instead of returning to his native Czechoslovakia for the entire summer, Kindl stayed in metro Detroit, where he worked out regularly with Mike Knight, a well-known personal trainer in the area.
“I feel stronger,” said Kindl, who now weighs 214-pounds. “I just have to use my body more and play aggressive. That’s about it.”
One such measureable that shows Kindl’s increased strength, he said, is in pull-ups. Last year he consistently was in the 12-13 repetitions range. Now he’s up to 24.
“This is the moment that I’ve been waiting for for a year,” he said. “I’ve been working on it and now I’ve got the opportunity and I just have to show everyone that I can play. … That’s it.”
The Wings signed veteran defenseman Mike Commodore last July to battle for the sixth spot on the blue line. Even before they signed Commodore to a one-year deal, Kindl wasn’t taking anything for granted. And now that Commodore (MCL) will miss at least the first two games of the season, Kindl will be partnered with Ericsson on the Wings’ third pairing.
Still, Kindl knows what he must do to stay in the lineup beyond this weekend.
“It’s important, just like everyone else on this team,” he said. “Everyone has their own role, as do I, and now I’m in the lineup and I just have to show that I can play. I have to be solid defensively.”
There is some familiarity with Kindl and Ericsson. They once patrolled the blue line together in Grand Rapids for the Wings’ American Hockey League affiliate. But as far as the NHL is concerned, Ericsson – who has played in triple the number of league games as Kindl – believes they’re will be a very short learning curve.
“It’s going to be learning on the fly,” Ericsson said. “We’ve been playing better and better ever since training camp started. It always takes times. No matter how long you are in the league. There are always things you’re learning about each other, like communication and all that.”
And while the two were partnered together throughout much of the exhibition season, Kindl says it’s time to toss that experience out, because the regular-season is played at a far higher intensity.
“We played all through the preseason and training camp, and I thought we did a pretty decent job,” Kindl said. “But that was early in the season, and now we’re going to find out if it’s going to work or not. We’ve just got to be good, solid defensively, and play good defense. That’s it.”
Both Kindl and Ericsson are big, strong puck-movers with a world of potential. But now they have to put that skill in motion, said veteran defenseman Brad Stuart
“I think people think Jonny is young, but he’s 27 now, so it’s kind of time for him to take on a veteran role,” Stuart said. “Kindl is looking to get a good full-year in him so this will be an important year for him. I think it’s time for both of them to take on these different responsibilities.”Follow Bill Roose on Twitter | @RooseBill