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Kindl ready to compete for bigger role

by Bill Roose / Detroit Red Wings
DETROIT – It’s been years since NHL training camps were last viewed by players as the time to get into season-shape. For most current players and prospects, the league is a year-round job.

If a player is serious about cracking a NHL lineup or logging increased minutes, they need to focus on the things that will help them improve.

With training camp in Traverse City still 2 ½ weeks away, Jakub Kindl is one such example of how most NHL players prefer to keep up on conditioning. Instead of heading back to his native Czechoslovakia – where he could easily have relaxed for three months – the Red Wings’ 24-year-old defenseman summered in metro Detroit, where he worked out daily at the Art of Strength in West Bloomfield.

“I went home for about a month,’ said Kindl, following Tuesday's informal shake at City Sports Arena. "But then I came back here to train.”

Kindl played in 48 games last season as the seventh defenseman. Mostly, he cracked the lineup as an injury replacement. And it’s possible that this season could be filled with more of the same for Kindl, but he’s not prepared to concede, and is ready to compete for a top six spot in the preseason.

“I’m at a different level now, which means that it’s time for me to become a regular player in the NHL,” Kindl said. “I have to do whatever it takes, that’s why I decided to take the time to come down here and workout in a group.”

The top two defensive pairings are spoken for with Nicklas Lidstrom and newcomer Ian White, and the reunion of Niklas Kronwall and Brad Stuart. Jonathan Ericsson, who signed a three-year deal in July to remain in Detroit, will likely be part of the second or third pairing. And that leaves newcomer Mike Commodore and Kindl to vie for the sixth spot.

At the team’s pro scouting meetings that led up to the amateur draft and free agency, Wings coach Mike Babcock was very positive and upbeat in his praise of Kindl’s development on and off the ice last season.

Now it’s Kindl’s turn to convince the coaches that he’s reached a new level of his development and prepared to log more NHL minutes.

“Obviously, I have another year’s worth of experience,” he said. “I’m coming here, like every player, and fighting for a spot. Hopefully, I’ll have a bigger chance, and be a regular Red Wings’ player.

“I think I got stronger as the season when on last year, too. I felt that on the ice and I was competing harder than I was. But at the same time I want to get to a higher level and keep competing every night and work hard out there.

“Slowly, I’m going to find out if the summer work helped. I’ve only been on the ice twice, basically. We’ll find out with the preseason games how I feel out there. So far I feel pretty good.”

MILLER’S TIME: Returning to the Red Wings was an off-season priority for Drew Miller. But for the East Lansing native and former Michigan State standout, landing his first multi-year contract – that wasn’t on a two-way basis – was just as important.

“It’s the Detroit Red Wings, they’re a good organization, and they have a good team with a chance to go after the Cup every season, so that was a big part of the decision,” said Miller, agreed to a two-year deal worth $1.765 million with minutes to spare before the start of July’s free agency period.

“I feel that I have a good role and get a chance to play each and every night, and contribute, whether it’s fourth line or killing penalties, or if I get a shot at (the) third line,” Miller said. “We got the deal done before noon. … I wanted to stay and be a part of this team, so I have to work hard and do everything I can to stay in the line-up every night.”

DAY 2: For the second time this week, the Red Wings and a few other NHL players, participated in an informal workout at City Sports Arena near downtown Detroit. Joining the group for the first time was Wings forward Justin Abdelkader.

However, Wings forwards Danny Cleary and Jan Mursak, who skated Monday, were not at Tuesday's on-ice get-together. Either were Edmonton Oilers captain Shawn Horcoff, Buffalo prospect Shawn Szydlowski or former Wings goalie Manny Legace.

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