– Ruslan Salei is ready to bring some positive energy to the Red Wings this season. The veteran defenseman, who signed a one-year contract with the club in August was at City Sports Arena to skate with his new teammates Tuesday morning.
“It’s a legendary team. I’m proud to be here. I’m proud to have a chance to play for this organization,” said Salei, a 13-year veteran, who has played with Anaheim, Florida and Colorado
“It wasn’t too hard to make the decision to come here,” he said.
A former first-round draft pick of the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim, Salei has logged 842 NHL games, but a back injury limited him to 14 games with the Avalanche last season.
Salei, 35, is a two-time player of the year for Belarus, his home country. He has been the squad’s captain at three different international events, including the Vancouver Olympics.
While the Red Wings’ locker room provides some new scenery, he is quite familiar with the team’s style, having once played two seasons for coach Mike Babcock in Anaheim.
“We had great success together in Anaheim,” said Salei, who was with the Ducks when they lost in Game 7 of the 2003 Stanley Cup finals to New Jersey. “I really respect him as a coach. We had good times and bad times when we worked together, but I think that’s how you build a relationship. I think we have an understanding of what he wants and what I can do for him.”
At 6-foot-2, Salei is an aggressive defenseman, who packs a pretty good shot from the point and should be a positive influence for Jonathan Ericsson
, whom he’ll likely be partnered with on the blue line.
“I play a solid D and a pretty good PK,” he said. “I’ll play as physical as I can, and I think that would be my role on the team.”
He was asked Tuesday about playing together with Wings center Mike Modano, a player that he has a slight history going back to a 1999 game between the Ducks and Dallas Stars. Salei was suspended 10 games by the NHL for pushing Modano face-first into the end-boards. Modano suffered a concussion and a broken nose from the incident.
The two new teammates spoke with one another on the ice following Tuesday’s practice, but did not discuss the 1999 hit, Salei said.
“I think it’s more of a personal thing between me and him and not for media to discuss,” Salei said. “I don’t think it will be any distraction in any way for us. It won’t be a big deal.
“We really haven’t spoken to each other. It’s probably the highlight that we have with each other. We’re all competitive people and obviously when you play for the same team you want to be best teammates as you possibly can, and that’s what I will try to do, and I’m sure Mike is thinking the same way.”