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Lilja is hopeful for return

by Bill Roose / Detroit Red Wings
DETROIT – There is still some concern and speculation on whether or not Andreas Lilja will be ready for the Red Wings’ regular-season opener on Oct. 2 in Sweden.

The Red Wings’ defenseman still experiences residual headaches as an aftermath from a fight with Predators defenseman Shea Weber in Nashville on Feb. 28.

“I still have headaches, yes, but I had -- five days ago -- two days without headaches, so that was very good,” Lilja said. “They’ve been there all summer. Basically, they’re there when I woke up in the morning until I go to bed. It’s not like there’s something that I do to get them going.”
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Lilja, 34, is back in Detroit and participating in player-run practices on the ice at Joe Louis Arena this week before the team’s scheduled Friday departure for Traverse City.

Following Tuesday’s practice, Lilja left JLA for a scheduled MRI.

“In the beginning, it was like somebody hit me with a sledgehammer over my head,” said Lilja, referring to the headaches that he’s been experiencing for the last six months. “Now it’s like a mild hangover.
“It’s concussion syndrome. I will say that I’m ready to play. I just have to go for an MRI today and get everything cleared up from the doctors.”

If Lilja is ready to return to the line-up, it will create a logjam on the Wings’ roster and would likely mean that they would have to make a move with a younger defenseman. With Wings’ veteran pairings are Nicklas Lidstrom and Brian Rafalski; Niklas Kronwall and Brad Stuart. That would leave Jonathan Ericsson with Lilja, if healthy, or either Brett Lebda and Derek Meech.

HOCKEYTOWN WELCOME: When Patrick Eaves entered the Red Wings’ locker room for the first time on Monday, he couldn’t help but pause in front of every large photo that hang above the stales in the spacious room.
“I took my time in here yesterday, seeing all of the pictures was pretty cool,” Eaves said. “I’ve always been a fan of the Red Wings, I think everyone has; they’re kind of the Yankees in baseball. Steve Yzerman, you can’t go wrong with players like him. You just go around the room and say, ‘I’m a fan of him, him, him.’ It’s just a great organization to be a part of.

“This is a stellar organization that has a great history of winning that you can see when you walk around the rink with all of the championship banners. To be a part of that is a very special thing and I jumped at the offer.”

Eaves, 25, signed with the Wings in July. Yet while he says he doesn’t know what his new role with the Wings will be, he’s hopeful that he’ll play a bigger part than he did in Carolina last season.

“They had a very deep group of forwards and I didn’t really fall into their plans, and I was used on a fourth line, checking role last year,” Eaves said. “Different teams use different line combinations than others and so, we were successful as a checking group, but I would like to participate more.”

A former finalist for the Hobey Baker Award and first-round pick of the Ottawa Senators in 2003, Eaves hasn’t lived up to expectations. In four NHL seasons, he has amassed 90 points in 242 career games.

His hope is to follow new teammate Dan Cleary, another former first-round, who had a re-birth in Detroit.

“They have a history of doing that with players,” Eaves said. “(Cleary’s) a prime example and I would love to be a part of that category if I can.”

After an impressive rookie season, where he scored 20 goals for Ottawa in 2005-06, Eaves has since faltered and dealt with shoulder injuries, which have affected his productivity.

The injuries are now in the past and future is looking much brighter, Eaves said.

 “They’re bringing me in to play the way that I know that I can,” he said. “I’m not sure where that fits in with this squad. I would like to participate and be a part of the winning success here, so they didn’t give me a specific thing, but every line here is very lethal in their own right and you can’t go wrong play anywhere here.”

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