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Notebook: Important time for Sproul; Larkin arrives

Wings get visit from special fan; Larkin arrives at camp

by Dana Wakiji @Dwakiji /

TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. - It was an important day for Ryan Sproul Friday.

The young defenseman signed a two-year contract, the first year a two-way deal at $600,000 and the second year a one-way deal at $650,000.

It also marked the first day of training camp in Traverse City, Sproul's first time without options.

"It's very important this year," Sproul said. "They're looking for guys to step up in this camp. My goal is to step up and make it hard for them to send me down and put me on waivers."

The Wings selected Sproul with their third second-round pick, 55th overall in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft.

Red Wings coach Jeff Blashill coached Sproul when both were in Grand Rapids with the AHL's Griffins.

"His best attributes are his ability to skate and get up the ice and his ability to shoot the puck, so if that's your best attributes, you got to produce offense, 5-on-5 and on the power play," Blashill said. "So when he gets those opportunities in the preseason he's going to have to be dynamic. He's been at that different times for me when I coached him and I know he's been that at different times when I watched him in Grand Rapids. He'll have to do that for us in preseason."

Sproul knows that the one thing people question about him is his defense.

"That's obviously been a hit on me the last couple of years," Sproul said. "I've worked on that solely, but I don't want to get rid of the offense either so a little bit of defense, a little bit of offense and it all comes together."

Blashill recognizes the effort Sproul has put in to work on his defense.

"I think over time he's gotten better at his defensive play," Sproul said. "Probably the No. 1 thing is getting back as hard as you can for pucks so we can be out of our zone and we don't have to defend."

Sproul said he doesn't have to look too far in camp for inspiration.

"My favorite player growing up was Mike Green all the time," Sproul said. "I loved watching him. He's a kind of player I want to be like. Shea Weber is another guy I like to model my game after but Mike's been the one guy I watched growing up and I love the way he plays."

SPECIAL GUEST: Former Red Wings forward and current television analyst Mickey Redmond met a very special fan at Centre ICE. Friday.

Lucille Otis, 94, is not just a Wings fan. She's also a World War II veteran who was a corporal in the Marine Corps.

"We were at war so I wanted to do my bit so I decided to join the Marine Corps," Otis said. "I got in on the ground floor. I had four brothers that were in the service, three in the Army and one in the Marine Corps. The youngest one was in the Marine Corps and being that I was closest with him, he was the one I kind of went after."

Redmond, Kris Draper and Kirk Maltby all had the chance to meet Otis and thank her for her service to the country.

"It's hard that (some) people don't believe in serving their country," Otis said. "But if they went someplace else, they'd find out that this is one of the greatest countries in the world, the greatest country in the world, That's the way I feel about it."

The Wings invited Otis to drop the ceremonial first puck before the first special teams scrimmage of camp.

Otis said she became a Wings fan because of her husband, Ray.

"I married a man that was a Wings fan," Otis said. "He was a real good hockey player. He liked to go down to the Olympia and play down there. So I learned hockey from him."

Otis was hard-pressed to pick her favorite part of being a Wings fan.

"The whole thing. I can't say there's one thing, I like it all," Otis said. "I have no favorite players, they're all favorites, and I look forward to the young ones coming up and learning who they are."

LARKIN LANDS: Blashill said before camp that all the Wings participating in the World Cup would not have to report to Traverse City.

Dylan Larkin, was on Team North America, got the memo but apparently ignored it.

Larkin arrived at Centre ICE near the end of Friday's activities.

General manager Ken Holland said Larkin intends to join the team for practice Saturday

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