“It was a long summer. A lot of rehab,” Kopecky said.
Kopecky got a jump on his return to the ice a few weeks ago in Slovakia, skating three times a week with several fellow NHLers that included his newly minted Red Wings teammate Marian Hossa.
“I told him this is the best team and the best chance to win the Cup,” Kopecky said. “He’s all about winning, and that showed when he turned down a big deal with Edmonton. I think he’s going to fit in really well with this team.”
Kopecky hopes to be healthy enough to fit in the Red Wings’ opening night lineup.
“Last week I skated four times with the gear and trying to get used to it again,” he said. “It feels better, but it’s not there yet.
“I’m shooting for the start of the regular-season, so maybe one or two exhibition games. I haven’t had any setbacks or anything. I feel it more in my donor leg (right) than in my bad leg (left). It’s just the tension. I don’t feel it in the leg that I had operated on; just the leg that they took a graph from.”
Kopecky’s surgery required a graph from his right knee be inserted into his damaged left knee. The April 22 surgery was performed by Dr. William Clancy in Birmingham, Alabama. The original prognosis included a 4-6 month recovery period.
Kopecky took part in the second optional skate at Joe Louis Arena with Wings teammates Darren McCarty, Brian Rafalski, Nicklas Lidstrom
, Kirk Maltby, Kris Draper and Ty Conklin
“I feel like I’m 90-95 percent,” Kopecky said.
More players are expected back in town as the week progresses. The optional skates have become commonplace for players as they prepare for training camp. The Wings will again hold camp in Traverse City from Sept. 20-23.
By Kopecky’s calculations, his recover is ahead of schedule. “I feel like I’m 90-95 percent,” he said. But he’d like to be in the opening night lineup alongside Hossa.
“We’ve known each other for a long time,” said Kopecky of the Red Wings’ big free agent acquisition. “We grew-up about five minutes from each other. We’re really good friends. I have lots of great memories of him when he was still playing in Trencin (Slovakia) and I was still a young guy.
"I’ll pick him up on Friday from the airport and he’ll stay at my house. We’re really good friends and I think that will help especially for a new guy coming into a new environment and everything. I’ll do my best to help him.”
The Wings signed Hossa to a one-year contract on July 1.
“He called me right after he spoke to Kenny (Holland),” Kopecky said. “ It was 3 o’clock in the afternoon when he told me that Detroit had got him an offer, and I told him what I think. I told him when he was ready to sign with Detroit or somebody else to call me right away. He did and he gave me the great news.
“After the finals, he said he’s so excited to play in front of our D – Raffi and Nick, and Kronner. He’s really offensive and really competitive. I think he’s anxious to play good hockey. Here, every time he played, he liked our puck-possession and our style of play. He loves it.”