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Tootoo looks to make impact in return

by Andrea Nelson / Detroit Red Wings

Jordin Tootoo will be in the Red Wings' lineup Thursday to add energy to the game against the Calgary Flames. (Photo by Getty Images)

DETROIT – After being reassigned to Grand Rapids five weeks ago, veteran agitator Jordin Tootoo will be back in Detroit’s lineup tonight as the Red Wings host the Calgary Flames.

Tootoo was recalled from Grand Rapids Wednesday and was excited to return to the familiar dressing room at Joe Louis Arena.

“It’s great to be back amongst the boys here,” Tootoo said. “Obviously, it’s a positive thing going in the right direction for me personally. I thought I’ve been playing good hockey in GR. It gave me an opportunity to expand on my game and play a lot of minutes. All in all it’s been a positive.”

The forward cleared waivers after falling victim to Detroit’s salary cap, and joined the team’s minor-league affiliate on Nov. 14. Although the demotion may have been difficult, Tootoo was able to log valuable minutes in the AHL, recording one goal and three assists in 12 games.

“You can’t take it as a negative,” Tootoo said of the reassignment. “For me personally I’ve been through a lot of crap throughout my career so this was just another bump in the road. Hopefully this time around I can really make a mark and solidify my spot on this team. That being said, it’s got to be one shift at a time and one day at a time.”

Tootoo joins a host of players recalled from the Griffins within the past week, including Tomas Jurco, Riley Sheahan, Luke Glendening, Petr Mrazek and Patrick Eaves, as the Red Wings currently have eight players sidelined with injuries. Tootoo hopes his energy and physicality on the ice will rejuvenate a Detroit team that is winless in its last five games.

“To win hockey games it’s got to take 20 guys in the dressing room,” Tootoo said. “For me it’s about creating emotion out there, energy and moving my feet. It’s not a lot to ask for, but when you play that role you have to use every shift to your full advantage and try and make a mark right off the bat. The first five minutes, first couple of shifts for me will be key. I need to keep my feet grounded and just get back in the swing of things.”

General Manager Ken Holland couldn’t agree more.

“We’re hoping that Toots brings up physicality and energy and trying to win a game,” Holland said.

With the league's mandated holiday roster freeze now in effect, Tootoo is the last personnel move the Red Wings can make until Dec. 28.

In eight games with the Red Wings this season, Tootoo has no points and was a minus-4 with one fighting major penalty. The 30-year-old has appeared in 50 games with the Red Wings over the past two seasons, recording eight points and 83 penalty minutes.

Although the forward has struggled offensively during his time in Detroit, Tootoo’s love of hockey keeps him motivated to overcome any adversity as he tries to solidify a place in the NHL.

“I love the game so much,” Tootoo said. “Coming to the rink every day for me is fun. When you have a job you can enjoy and wake up every morning and be around the boys it’s a lot of fun. That’s basically it. Self pride, being committed and determined to do whatever it takes to win hockey games.”

Tootoo will have an opportunity to do just that tonight skating alongside Sheahan and Todd Bertuzzi against the Flames, and is more than ready for his return to Detroit’s lineup.

“It’s been awhile,” Tootoo said. “I think I’ve played pretty good hockey in GR to give myself this opportunity. It’s great to be back and a great day to play hockey and be in this dressing room. I definitely miss these guys a lot. I’m raring to go.”

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