STOCKHOLM, Sweden -- Being here just to watch isn't easy for Andreas Lilja, but Detroit's other Swedish defenseman has remained in good spirits despite knowing he might be missing his one and only opportunity to play an NHL game in his home country.
Lilja is practicing with the Red Wings, but he has not been cleared to play due to post-concussion symptoms stemming from a hit delivered on him by Nashville's Shea Weber back in February. He hasn't played since.
"Of course it bothers me, not only not to play here but to not play at all right now," Lilja told NHL.com. "Every year you get ready for a big season, so of course now it's frustrating. It feels weird not to be able to play."
Lilja thought by now he would surely be back in the lineup, but the headaches haven't subsided totally yet and the doctors are fearful of what another blow could do should he return to the lineup too soon.
"It's like I'm on hold," he said, still sweating from a morning workout this week. "I don't know what to say. It's been frustrating since February. You figure you get a concussion and you're out 10-14 days, but I'm still there so you just have to wait it out."
The entire process has given Lilja time to appreciate what he does for a living.
"Sometimes you maybe feel it's a little bit boring with practices and stuff, but I'd give everything to be back playing," he said. "I think you learn to appreciate your position in life and the different things that can happen to you when you play. I think it's awakened me a little bit."
Even though he won't be in the lineup Friday or Saturday, Lilja said interest back home is still strong. He has 19 people coming to Friday's game and another 14 heading here for Saturday's game.
It's not like it's an easy trip either.
Lilja's hometown of Helsingborg is on the southwestern tip of Sweden, near Denmark. He said it's nearly a six hour drive from Stockholm.
"It's fun for them even if I'm not playing," Lilja said. "They love this team and my parents, especially my dad, he knows almost all the players. It's fun for them to come watch."