DETROIT – There was another fresh face in the Red Wings locker room this morning, as center Riley Sheahan was recalled from the Grand Rapids Griffins to make his season debut when Detroit hosts the Anaheim Ducks.
The 22-year-old is the latest addition to the Red Wings roster from their minor league affiliate due to a host of injuries currently plaguing the team.
“You kind of get to know each of the guys a little bit during training camp and you never want to see anyone go down hurt, but for us in Grand Rapids, you’ve just got to be ready for the opportunity that’s there,” Sheahan said. “That’s all we’re going to try to do right now.”
Sheahan was called up on Monday to replace Johan Franzen, who left the game Sunday night against Tampa after being hit in the face by defenseman Radko Gudas early in the second period.
In just his second full AHL season, Sheahan has continued to do just that, recording six goals and eight assists through 23 games. The center also helped the Griffins to a Calder Cup championship last spring, producing 25 points in 72 games, and tied for the AHL rookie lead in the playoffs with 16 points in 24 games.
“We’ve talked to him, he’s played well in the American League, he’s been their best player there the last little bit and we expect him to come in and do what (Tomas) Jurco did and take over,” Red Wings coach Mike Babcock said. “When you look at the kids we’ve called up from the minors, where they didn’t start in the lineup, (Tomas) Tatar wasn’t in the lineup, Gus (Nyquist) we called up, Jurco played great the other night. Everyone we’ve called up has played great so why wouldn’t he.”
In just his third career game with the Red Wings, Sheahan joins a few of his teammates from Grand Rapids, including Jurco, Luke Glendening and Patrick Eaves, who have all been called up from the Griffins within the last four days. Sheahan also split ice time with Nyquist and Tatar during their time in the AHL, and feels a heightened level of comfort knowing he’s among many friends in the Red Wings locker room.
“There’s a lot of familiar faces and a lot of guys we shared the Calder Cup with last year,” Sheahan said. “That was a special group and some of them are close friends so that definitely helps.
“Last year I played some with Gus and then this year a little bit with Jurcs, even Tats a little bit, too. They’re awesome players and they’re all capable of making plays so being on the line with them was awesome. At the same time seeing them around in the locker room makes you feel a little more comfortable.”
Sheahan, Jurco, Glendening and Eaves were recalled from Grand Rapids to help an injury-ridden Red Wings team that is currently without Henrik Zetterberg (back), Darren Helm (shoulder), Nyquist (groin), Justin Abdelkader (concussion), Stephen Weiss (groin) and Franzen.
Although the addition of several players from Detroit’s minor-league affiliate may have its challenges, it gives every player the opportunity to contribute and leave a lasting impression.
“When you come from down there, you're playing a lot and now, all of a sudden you're here, and it's so different,” Tatar said “You're a little shaky, so maybe you're not playing as much minutes, like down there. You just have to lose it a little bit and try to play a little more confident. But it's pretty hard. The best players in the world just know how to calm down and in certain situations don't put any pressure on yourself and that's the best players in the league."
And Sheahan is more than ready to take advantage of every chance he’s given to play at this level.
“You know you wait for this time throughout the season and just try to play your best at the level you’re at,” he said. “We’ve been fortunate enough to be winning some games and playing with some players in Grand Rapids so yeah I’m really looking forward to starting the game tonight.
“I’m just going to go out there and try to play the same way I’ve been and hopefully it goes well.”