– While his teammates had the opportunity to sleep in, Kirk Maltby was wide-awake and hard at work Sunday morning at Joe Louis Arena.
Maltby, who had shoulder surgery last month, has been skating with the Black Aces this week in an attempt to get healthy before the end of the Red Wings’ playoff run.
After skating Saturday with the Wings’ reserves, Maltby said he is feeling “pretty good”, and gradually building towards a return this spring.
“It’s coming along, just like any injury or anything like that,” the 37-year-old veteran forward said. “It takes time to get your soreness gone and rehab it and get it to where you can get out and start practicing, which is what I’m doing. So it’s a process, and right now I’m still working on it.”
Maltby was placed on long-term injured reserve in late February and then it was determined that surgery was necessary, which he underwent days later. He missed the Wings’ last 21 games, of the regular-season. He finished with the year with four goals and two assists with a plus-1 rating in 52 games.
The Wings have missed Maltby’s scrappy presence in the first two games of the Western Conference quarterfinals against Phoenix; his hard-nosed, grinding style has been invaluable during their string of playoff success. Maltby is one of four Red Wings who have been on all four of their Stanley Cup championship teams.
The veteran winger hopes his teammates can keep winning so he can get a chance to play again this season. Maltby said he is still a few weeks away from being considered for the game-day roster.
“It’s kind of week-by-week to see how far I progress,” Maltby said. “Sometimes it’s a little bit more than we thought maybe it would be and I’m able to do a little bit more. I’m still a few weeks away, and hopefully the boys just keep playing well and keep moving on in the playoffs.”
Maltby said that while he can’t be contributing on the ice right now, he is doing whatever he can to help the team as they work towards another long playoff run.
“It’s always hard,” he said of watching the game from the stands, “but at the same time, you cheer the guys on. You help out in any aspect you can, whether it’s helping them with things you see or whatever, but it’s just a matter of working hard in the gym, practicing hard, and being ready when the opportunity comes.”
He also said that he is enjoying his time with the Black Aces, which features young prospects like Thomas McCollum
, Daniel Larsson
, and Jakub Kindl
, along with a veteran like Brad May.
“They’re all good guys,” Maltby said. “Obviously I’ve been there before. We had a big shootout today … it’s always fun and guys work hard, and everyone has to work hard to be ready because during a course of a series, you never know what could happen, and someone could get the call to go in.”