DETROIT – With just three days left before the puck drops on the Red Wings’ season, their opening-night roster is beginning to take shape.
Over the weekend, the Wings trimmed their roster to 25 players – leaving them with 14 forwards, eight defensemen and three goalies. Meanwhile they sent forwards Mitch Callahan, Landon Ferraro and Kevin Porter to AHL Grand Rapids. The trio cleared waivers today. Nobody was waived today by the Wings.
NHL clubs have until Tuesday at 5 p.m. EST to shore up their 23-man rosters.
The Red Wings will take their time finalizing the roster based on the opening-night availability of center Pavel Datsyuk, who is on injured reserve after separating his right shoulder in last month’s preseason opener in Pittsburgh.
Datsyuk took another step forward in his recovery, skating today and participated in most drills with linemates Henrik Zetterberg and Justin Abdelkader.
The original prognosis for Datsyuk was 4-5 weeks since Sept. 22, meaning he still could miss the first six games of the regular season. But nobody, including Datsyuk, is counting out a possible return for Thursday’s opener against the Boston Bruins.
“I need to skate more and see how I feel,” Datsyuk said. “I need more contact and see how it feels from contact.”
Coach Mike Babcock was mum when asked about the team’s pending moves. He would not tip his hand on who would replace Datsyuk in the lineup should he remain unavailable.
Detroit still has three young players – defenseman Xavier Ouellet, forward Andrej Nestrasil and goalie Petr Mrazek – left in its NHL locker room. All three have made impressions on the Wings’ coaching and management staffs, but many factors will play into their immediate futures with the Wings.
Mrazek was spectacular in the preseason, allowing just four goals in four games while registering a 2-0-1 record, an 1.43 goals-against average and one shutout.
Ouellet finished the preseason with two goals and three points in five games. He also had a plus-3 rating and 16 shots on goal, both team highs. Nestrasil produced two goals and four points, which was second on the team behind Riley Sheahan’s five points.
“There are some things that I’ve really liked,” Babcock said. “I liked the way our young D played at camp. I think Mrazek has had a fantastic camp. I thought we had good push from our forwards; I think we’ve got real good depth up front. We’re going to have to be a by-committee team, so in other words, a depth team.
“The key for our success is depth up front and getting after the other team and really skating and competing. We do that I think we’re going to have a chance.”
LINES & D-PAIRINGS: The Red Wings practiced with the following line combinations and defensive pairings today at Joe Louis Arena:
Henrik Zetterberg-Pavel Datsyuk-Justin Abdelkader
Gustav Nyquist-Darren Helm-Johan Franzen
Tomas Tatar-Riley Sheahan-Tomas Jurco
Drew Miller-Luke Glendening-Joakim Andersson
Andrej Nestrasil-Stephen Weiss-Daniel Cleary (gray jerseys)
Jonathan Ericsson-Niklas Kronwall
Xavier Ouellet-Kyle Quincey
Danny DeKeyser-Brendan Smith
Brian Lashoff-Jakub Kindl
CAPTAIN’S VIEW: Zetterberg holstered his optimism for a possible early return for Datsyuk, who practiced Monday.
“He’s not in battle mode yet,” Zetterberg said. “I don’t know how many weeks it has been. It hasn’t been four weeks. I think it’s a plus side he was skating on a line today. I don’t think we’re going to get our hopes up that he’ll be in the lineup Thursday.”
TATAR RETURNS: Tomas Tatar practiced Monday with his teammates for the first time since he passed tests for a possible concussion. Tatar took a flying-knee kick to the side of the end when lineman Derek Amell tried to avoid a collision with the Wings’ forward last Wednesday.
“First day was kind of hard but since then I felt it’s good,” Tatar said. “I practiced with the team and it felt good.”
Tatar said last week that Amell’s hit was akin an Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) bout.
“I was kind of scared when it happened because I never get light up ever in my life. Never get hit as hard. I didn’t expect ref to stand there at all, didn’t know what hit me for a few seconds. It was his knee, he tried to jump out of way.”
TIMING NOT THERE YET: Center Stephen Weiss was the only Red Wing to skate in six of the team’s eight tune-up games in the preseason, including four in six nights.
Fully recovered from the two surgeries to repair a sports hernia that knocked him out of the lineup last season, Weiss feels good but needs to get his timing back.
“Some games where I felt like I’ve been off for two years and some games I felt more comfortable with the puck, felt like things were slowing down, not happening as quickly,” Weiss said. “That’s all part of playing games again.”
Weiss finished the preseason with one assist and a minus-4 rating.
“I got to score goals and get points,” he said. “I had some chances and made some plays but nothing is going in. I just got to keep creating. … To be honest I thought it came quicker than I thought it would, than I expected it to come. So that’s a positive sign.”
DRAFT COMPARISONS: On Monday, Ottawa sent Windsor, Ont., native Matt Puempel to AHL Binghamton. The 6-foot forward was selected by the Senators in 2011 with the 24th overall pick that the Red Wings sent to Ottawa for two second rounders that same year.
The Wings picked Tomas Jurco (No. 35) and Ouellet (No. 48) with those second-round picks. It’s possible that the two of them may make the Wings’ opening-night roster.