DETROIT – Training camp is tryout camp for Jordin Tootoo.
The veteran forward, who signed a three-year contract with Detroit prior to the NHL lockout, knows what’s at stake. The Red Wings have 16 forwards signed to pro contracts and only 12 available playing spots.
“Every year is a tryout camp for me. That’s how I take it mentally,” said Tootoo, who had three goals and five assists in 42 regular-season games last season. “I just have to prepare myself the best that I could as there are hundreds of other guys that would love to be in your spot. I’m coming into camp with the mindset for fighting for a spot on the team and that’s the bottom line.”
According to coach Mike Babcock, the only secured roster spots are at center – with Pavel Datsyuk, Stephen Weiss, Darren Helm, Joakim Andersson and Cory Emmerton – and wingers Henrik Zetterberg and Johan Franzen on the first- and second-line, respectively.
However, there are six winger positions up for grabs.
“This is where I want to win a Stanley Cup,” Tootoo said, “and when you have other guys that want your spot you have to make sure that you bring you’re A-Game every day.”
Tootoo is likely to face an uphill fight when the Wings open camp on Thursday. The agitating forward plays with a tremendous amount of passion, however he’s often viewed as one-dimensional, a grind-line contributor, who doesn’t play on special teams. His nine-minutes per game of ice time last season was the lowest among Wings’ players.
It’s expected that Tootoo must compete for a spot against Mikael Samuelsson, Todd Bertuzzi, Drew Miller, Patrick Eaves, Gustav Nyquist and Tomas Tatar.
“For me it’s about having the opportunity to play in the NHL,” Tootoo said. “I’ve got to worry about my game and take it one-day-at-a-time … and just come in every day with the right mindset.”
Recently, Wings general manager Ken Holland alluded to a plan he has to shape the team’s roster without having to trim salary or waive players. It’s possible that Helm will start the season on injured reserve as he continues to recover from a lower back injury that sidelined him last season. Helm is also battling through a sore groin, which he sustained while skating with teammates last week. The Wings also have options with Nyquist, who could begin the season in Grand Rapids.
But Tootoo isn’t concerned with what other teammates may or may not need to do to make the Wings’ opening night roster. He’s focused on what he needs to do.
“Physically and mentally I did everything that I could to make sure that I give myself every opportunity to make this team,” Tootoo said. “The game evolves every year and you’ve got to re-adjust to minor things here and there. I’ve worked on a few things here and there over the summer … and when you’re asked to bring a certain role, you have to work on the little things that make you the best you can be.”
Follow Bill Roose on Twitter | @Bill_Roose