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Tatar's focused on having a career year

With a new contract in tow and a healthy shoulder, veteran winger poised to produce big numbers

by Arthur J. Regner @arthurjregner /

Traverse City -- For the past few years, several Red Wings forwards have lacked consistency offensively. It has been feast or famine for many of the men in the red and white. 

One player that has managed to buck that trend is winger Tomas Tatar.

Over the course of the last three seasons, a span of 245 games, Detroit's Slovakian sniper has amassed 147 total points, including 75 goals, which has led the Wings.

What makes Tatar's offensive consistency impressive is he has been playing with a gimpy shoulder for quite some time, but he managed to keep playing despite his increasing discomfort.

This offseason he underwent shoulder surgery to repair this lingering issue and after a summer of extensive rehab, Tatar appears to be ready and healthy to hopefully start the season on time.

"This problem was going for a while, it was just getting worse and worse, so we decided to do that (have surgery)," Tatar told reporters at Centre Ice Arena. "I didn't really feel it when I got hit. It was just when I was shooting. It was unexpected move, when you're ready to shoot and like, somebody is pulling you.

"It was just like shooting nerve all the way down to the ribs. I believe more guys experience this, it wasn't just me. I'm glad I got it fixed. Should be all right now."

Tatar is unsure when he injured his shoulder, but since the Wings had a longer layoff than they're used to without a playoff run, he elected to have surgery.

"It was a tough summer, that's for sure. It was long for everybody," Tatar said. "For me personally, I'm glad I had that time to recover to get ready for the season. First few months obviously tough.

"I've been seeing rehab guys. I feel really good now, no issues. Hopefully, I will be cleared to play for season opener.

"This was my first scrimmage (Saturday), I didn't have any issues. I felt good. I think I'll be good to go."

While Tatar was tending to his shoulder, he was also involved in a sticky contract negotiation with the Wings that went all the way to arbitration, something that rarely occurs in the Detroit organization.

"Yeah, it's a business," Tatar replied when asked if he ever thought he may not be back with Detroit. "It was a dream to become a Red Wing for me when I was a kid. It would be tough to say goodbye for sure. You never know.

"I don't think we were that far as media were talking. I was just waking up reading some of the stuff, it was misleading. But I think we had it under control all the time, but the possibility was there.

"But me and Kenny (Holland, general manager) were talking, I didn't see there was any issue. It went all the way to arbitration but it's pretty smooth, it wasn't anything bad. We shook hands after (the arbitration hearing) and talked about it for another 30 hours before we got a deal."

Eventually, the Wings and Tatar's camp hammered out a four-year deal worth $21.2 million with an annual cap hit of $5.3 million.

"So, I'm really humbled and glad I can stay a Red Wing another four years," he said.

With a new contract under his belt and his shoulder near 100 percent, Tatar is determined to elevate his game. Despite being the Red Wings' goal scoring leader last season with 25 tallies, he realizes he needs to be consistent.

In training camp, Tatar has been on a line with captain Henrik Zetterberg and Gustav Nyquist, a combination which has always clicked when they are put together.

Playing with Zetterberg should allow Tatar to increase his numbers significantly, but he's also aware the pairing could be fleeting.

"Hank (Zetterberg) is one of the best in the league. His vision on the ice is just unbelievable," Tatar said. "We had a pretty good finish last year. Coach decided to play us this way, it's totally up to his decision.

"Lines might be changing during the season. If he wants to start us this way, we'll have to accept it and I think the chemistry is there for sure."

He feels the Red Wings are fixated on erasing the disappointment of last year's failure to make the playoffs.

"We have to work hard to bounce back. That's our goal, priority No. 1," Tatar said. "There are a lot of people saying not the most positive stuff about us right now.

"We don't want to listen to that. We want to prove them wrong, that's our goal."

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