Notes: Red Wings ready for start of training camp
Healthy Nielsen is wearing a new number this season; veteran defensemen feeling goodby Dana Wakiji @Dwakiji / DetroitRedWings.com
TRAVERSE CITY -- Before heading out to the golf course for the 21st Training Camp Golf Classic, many of the Detroit Red Wings decided to hit the ice at Traverse City's Centre Ice Arena for an informal skate.
The players were just getting warmed up before things really get started Friday morning.
Red Wings coach Jeff Blashill said he is dividing the group into three teams -- Team Delvecchio, Team Howe and Team Lindsay.
The first two will be comprised of those who have already played for the Wings or those who are closer to playing for the Wings while the third is mostly players who are a little further away.
Executive vice president and general manager Steve Yzerman has made it clear that there are jobs available and they will have to be earned.
There are many young players who are hoping to earn those jobs.
"I hope those young guys push and make a real strong statement that they're ready to help our team win," Blashill said. "That's the biggest thing. Both myself and Steve, it doesn't make any sense to put guys on the team just to be on the team. We want guys that are going to help us win. So, if those guys are ready to make us a better hockey team, then that's awesome.
"Ultimately, we've said this lots, our growth has to come from that group. It's how quick are they ready to do it and how good are they going to be. Those are two unknowns that we can't answer. But they get a chance to answer every time they play in exhibition and every time they keep playing through exhibition."
Veteran forward Frans Nielsen has watched the development of several of the youngsters and knows they will be pushing the veterans for both jobs and ice time.
"We feel it and we see it, especially with Joe (Veleno) and Z (Filip Zadina)," Nielsen said. "You can see they're good players. If not this year, for sure next year they're gonna be here. But they're really close. They probably should play, so it basically comes down to what they think is best for their development. It's exciting to see those young guys come up. I think it helps our older guys, too. They push us every day."
At the same time, the preference would be to have those young players like Moritz Seider, Zadina and Veleno playing alongside veterans.
"When you get to two teams, it does present some difficulties," Blashill acknowledged. "I certainly want Seider to be with a D partner that's a vet, Zadina when possible, Veleno. The problem is when you get to two teams, it just shows how hard it is, you have to beat certain guys out. We'll put them together. The biggest thing I'd say is literally, it's for two days, maybe three. My explanation to players today is it's a start, it's not where we finish. Their play will dictate where we finish."
One change from previous camps is there won't be daily scrimmages.
"For me, the scrimmages are just OK," Blashill said. "Ken (Holland) liked them. Steve, it didn't matter as much. This gives us a chance to have two good practices and then play a Red-White game. We play nine exhibition games, so I didn't think we needed a whole bunch more scrimmages. We are going to play some small games and some three-on-three in the second half of practice. It just gives us a chance to get a little more practice time in."
Although there are nine exhibition games, players won't play more than they need, whether that is three, four, five or more games.
What each player needs to do is make an impact when he is playing a preseason game.
"We're going to start there by making sure we have a great mentality and work ethic and competitiveness, that probably is the No. 1 thing we want to get out of Traverse City, that we know we're going to work and we're going to compete," Blashill said. "Training camp is hard and we're going to make sure guys can leave training camp and they know they put that time in.
"Once we get in the exhibition season, give guys opportunities to earn jobs. Earn jobs on the team, earn jobs on special teams, earn jobs in certain lineups and on D pairings, which guys make the best impact on the game, who makes more positive plays than negative plays, which guys have taken steps in the stuff we wanted them to take steps in."
Although the Wings have missed the playoffs the last three seasons, Nielsen believes there should be some optimism heading into this year.
"I think we made some really good additions," Nielsen said. "I think Stevie coming in, you can see guys are really on their toes around here right now. He brings a lot of respect. And then I think Larks (Dylan Larkin) and the young guys, I'm sure they're gonna build and get even better from last year. It's just up to us other guys. We gotta keep it going, too. But we got some really good pieces. It's a tough division we're in but I think talent-wise we're really strong."
NEW NUMBER FOR NIELSEN: It might be a bit of an adjustment for fans this season to figure out which Wing it is wearing No. 51.
That's because Frans Nielsen has given his old number to Valtteri Filppula, who originally wore 51 for the Wings from 2005-13 and also wore it while playing for the Tampa Bay Lightning, Philadelphia Flyers and New York Islanders.
"He asked," Nielsen said. "Fil really wanted it and he had it for I don't know, seven, eight years that he was here. I had no issue doing that. It doesn't matter to me."
Generally when such a thing is done, the player receiving the number compensates the player giving up the number.
"We haven't figured it out yet," Nielsen said, laughing. "There might have to be some kind of gift."
Nielsen will now wear No. 81.
"There wasn't too many numbers available," Nielsen said. "They retired a lot of numbers here in Detroit. There was a list and it was one of them. It looks a little bit like 51."
PROSPECT TOURNAMENT: Blashill was there when the Wings prospects won the NHL Prospect Tournament Tuesday night, beating the Dallas Stars prospects, 6-5.
"First of all, Game 4 is always a tough game in terms of the guys are real tired, it's four games in five nights, so I don't know that that's the best evaluation in that game," Blashill said. "I was here for Game 1 as well. I had an event on Saturday and an event on Monday back in Detroit so I couldn't be here for those. I thought our guys played well, obviously winning the tournament means that they had to do a lot of things right. I thought a number of players showed pretty well. Let's extend that now into camp and keep going."
CAMP HEALTH: There seem to be no lingering concerns about the health of veteran defensemen Mike Green, Trevor Daley and Jonathan Ericsson on the eve of training camp.
"I've talked to all three of those guys, they all feel real good," Blashill said. "So I anticipate them all being healthy and ready to go. Green has had no setbacks at all., he's felt good all summer, he's trained hard. He feels like he's in a good spot. Talked to Dales, same thing. Dales had a little bit of a tough year, probably went unnoticed last year in terms of he was in, he was out, he was in, he was out. He feels great. He thought he had a great summer and the same things would go for Johnny. I think all those guys are in healthy spots, now hopefully they can have great camps."
Nielsen, who missed the last five games of last season, said he is also fully healthy.
"It wasn't bad," Nielsen said. "It was one of those where we were out of it and we weren't sure about it, so for safety reasons we just kept me out. I started working out two weeks after the season ended, so I had no issues all summer. I had a good summer. I went through my routines like always. It's been good."
There is only one player expected to miss camp.
"Right now I anticipate everybody," Blashill said. "The only guy that will not be ready for camp is Alec Regula is out, he's out with a concussion."
Regula was hit by Toronto's Giorgio Estephan in the first period of Monday's 7-4 victory over the Maple Leafs.