DETROIT -- It was 11 months and a day ago that Evgeny Svechnikov saw his 2018-19 season come to an end.
On that day, Dr. Kyle Anderson performed reconstruction surgery on Svechnikov's anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in his right knee.
Tonight against the Chicago Blackhawks, Svechnikov will play in his first game since injuring his knee last preseason.
"I'm so excited," Svechnikov said after the morning skate at Little Caesars Arena. "I was so excited when I got to know that yesterday driving in the car. It just brings a lot of stuff in my head and what I went through. This is it. This is the day. I was counting for this day all year. I'm super excited, super pumped, also tired but that's really nothing that matters now. The camp was real tough but it's all behind and now it's fun time to go."
Every player said that training camp was very hard this year, not just a player coming off of a major injury.
"I feel pretty tough out there, to be honest with you. It's not easy," Svechnikov said. "It's a little bit, I wouldn't say not in shape but I can feel that I was not on the ice for all season. It's kind of double work for me, I feel. It's conditioning-wise and just feeling the game again. I feel it's gonna take a little bit of time but it's coming. Every day it's better and better and it feels like it's gonna be getting better. I'm looking forward to it feeling better."
Wings coach Jeff Blashill understands what Svechnikov is going through and does not expect to see a completely ready player quite yet.
"I think it's a long time to be out and super hard, no real high expectations, let him go out and feel his way into this thing," Blashill said. "It's super hard. Your body, No. 1; two, you got to get used to how your leg feels. It'll be different. It's never going to be the same. Anyone who's had any kind of injury knows it's never the same. That becomes your new normal but it takes time to become your new normal.
"It's hard at the beginning of any year to have all your habits ingrained and be able to play without thinking, but it's really hard for a guy who's missed tons of time to play without thinking. That's the way you have to play to be faster. So it'll be a marathon, not a sprint."
Svechnikov has talked to other players who have gone through the same surgery.
"(Matt) Lorito went through it. I played with him," Svechnikov said of his former Grand Rapids Griffins teammate. "I talked to (Niklas) Kronwall. Everybody takes different times. Lorito, it takes a while. He said he's just feeling after 16, 17 months, he's just feeling normal. Kronner said he was playing after six months. So it's everybody different but we'll see how I feel. Like I said it's still sore, still process."
Although many of the Wings have spent their summers working out at Barwis Methods, Svechnikov had not done so until executive vice president and general manager Steve Yzerman brought Mike Barwis in as the team's director of sports science and human performance.
"First time. It was different, very different," Svechnikov said. "I was having to go to the workout place like 30 minutes before and stay more after. Driven before and after. The workouts for me were a little bit different for my lower part of the injury. He was doing more for my knee, getting stronger in the quad and glutes and hamstrings. So it was a little bit different but at the same time, I was trying to do everything with the guys."
There is added pressure on Svechnikov this season as it is the final year of his three-year, entry-level contract.
"For sure. It's big. Every year is big, like I said before but this is the most one," Svechnikov said. "When I do good and when I feel good on the ice, when I feel my knee good, I'm just good. We will talk about it it but I have to do it."
Because the Wings have had so many draft picks the last few years, there is more competition than ever for spots and for contracts.
"It's a big year for him for sure, especially after missing a full year," Blashill said. "The league always has room for great players, so just play great. He tends to put lots of pressure on himself. He can't, he's just got to relax and just go play and understand it's a marathon and not a sprint. He's going to have good moments, he's going to have bad moments. He's just got to keep working through it."
INJURY UPDATE: Forwards Dylan Larkin, Andreas Athanasiou and Darren Helm are all fighting through a few nagging things following training camp.
Blashill said there was nothing really new on them.
"Again, like I said the other day, I don't want two days to turn into two weeks," Blashill said. "It's a lot of soft tissue stuff. So we'll take our time with it. I don't anticipate any of those guys necessarily being in tomorrow but we're looking at Friday as potential so we'll see, but nothing big."
Defenseman Mike Green, who missed the Red and White Game along with Larkin and Helm, could be ready a little sooner.
"Mike could potentially play tomorrow," Blashill said. "I'm looking at him potentially for tomorrow, maybe Friday."
The Wings play Wednesday in Chicago against the Blackhawks and then host the New York Islanders Friday.
LINEUP FOR FIRST GAME: Here were the Wings forward lines and defense pairs from Tuesday's morning skate:
Taro Hirose-Michael Rasmussen-Svechnikov
Turner Elson-Chase Pearson-Matt Puempel
Chris Terry-Dominic Turgeon-Mattthew Ford
Luke Glendening-Jacob de la Rose-Christoffer Ehn
Patrik Nemeth-Filip Hronek
Dennis Cholowski-Madison Bowey
Joe Hicketts-Dylan McIlrath
"It kind of is the way it worked out with some of the injuries and stuff like that," Blashill said of the Nemeth-Hronek pair. "Could have Nemeth with Green and DeKeyser with Hronek. We'll let their play speak for where they sit together."
Blashill said goaltenders Jimmy Howard and Calvin Pickard would split the game.