DETROIT – Stephen Weiss missed a lot of hockey last year, and now that he has to learn a new system with a different vernacular than he was used to in Florida, the veteran center is trying to get up to speed before the season-opener on Oct. 2.
“I'm trying to get my timing back on top of adjusting to the new players and new systems, it's been a challenge,” said Weiss, who had season-ending wrist surgery last March. “But I'm starting to feel comfortable with the systems every day and I think the more games you get into the better off you'll be.”
The Red Wings signed Weiss during the off-season for his playing-making acumen, but he also gives the Wings a second two-way center that can complement Pavel Datsyuk. Once the season begins, it’s expected that Weiss will anchor the second line with Johan Franzen and Daniel Alfredsson on the wings.
Weiss will play in his third preseason game when Detroit host the Boston Bruins tonight at Joe Louis Arena. The former OHL standout with the Plymouth Whalers will center a line with Daniel Cleary and Franzen, who will play in his first exhibition game of the preseason. He missed the first three games with a sore hip flexor. Alfredsson (groin) asked he expects to be available later in the week.
The injuries to Franzen and Alfredsson pose a problem for the development of chemistry among linemates who haven’t played together before this season.
“Sometimes you're thinking too much out there, where to be, what I have to do in terms of the system, instead of just playing,” Weiss said. “That's to be expected coming to a new team and getting to know new linemates. It's been new linemates every game. So we're getting better every day. Just looking forward to these exhibition games, keep trying to get sharper.”
Coach Mike Babcock plans to give backup goalie Jonas Gustavsson extended work tonight. It’s expected that Gustavsson will play the whole game with rookie Petr Mrazek as his backup against the Bruins.
“He's got to stop the puck, he's got to keep it out of the net, got to give your team a chance to win,” said Babcock, who ideally would like Gustavsson to get 20 starts this season. “That's what he gets paid for, that's what he's got to do. I think he's had a good camp thus far. He's got to keep going and earn himself some confidence.”
Gustavsson played in Tuesday’s 2-0 loss at Chicago, where he surrendered two goals on 23 shots. The plan heading into the season is to have Gustavsson giver starter Jimmy Howard nights off on back-to-back games. Detroit has 15 back-to-back games on the regular-season schedule.
“The idea is you know you can put him and he can win the game, not that you're shying away from him,” Babcock said, of Gustavsson. “So back-to-backs, you can go to him.”
Babcock also said that defenseman Brian Lashoff is in a battle to garner a top-six position. Lashoff will be paired with rookie Danny DeKeyser tonight.
“He's a real good penalty killer, he's got good hockey sense, he's just got to keep working on his game and evolving,” Babcock said, of Lashoff. “I've said it a number of times, (Jakub) Kindl and (Brendan) Smith and DeKeyser and Lash, our D isn't going to be determined in the end by (Jonathan) Ericsson and (Niklas) Kronwall, we know what they are. It's what the other ones turn out to be.”
The Red Wings are 2-1-0 in the preseason with wins at Pittsburgh (4-1) and Boston (8-2) earlier in the week. Tonight’s game – the first home exhibition game – will feature the following line combinations and defensive pairings:
Johan Franzen - Stephen Weiss - Daniel Cleary
Gustav Nyquist - Joakim Andersson - Todd Bertuzzi
Drew Miller - Cory Emmerton - Landon Ferraro
Tomas Jurco - Riley Sheahan - Calle Jarnkrok
Kyle Quincey - Brendan Smith
Danny DeKeyser - Brian Lashoff
Xavier Ouellet - Ryan Sproul
Jonas Gustavsson, Petr Mrazek
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