PLYMOUTH, Mich. – The Red Wings used Tuesday night as their lone dress rehearsal for the upcoming NHL season, where they will play a compressed 48-games in 99 days.
Detroit opens the short season this Saturday in St. Louis.
The Wings and players from their AHL-affiliate in Grand Rapids mixed squads to play a Red-White scrimmage before a jam-packed crowd of 4,000 fans at Compuware Arena in suburban Detroit.
On goals by forward Drew Miller, newly minted team captain Henrik Zetterberg, and two Griffins’ players, the Red Team coasted to a 4-2 victory.
“It was nice to have a little game-like action,” said Zetterberg, whose second-period goal was the game-winner. “It's as close as we can get to a game. It was a lot of fun to see all the fans come here. Real loud out there. It was a little taste of coming back and playing in The Joe.”
The Red Wings’ home opener is next Tuesday against the Dallas Stars.
Despite being on the losing end, White Team goalie Jimmy Howard liked the pace of the exhibition game.
“It was good to be back out there," Howard said. "Definitely, that game served its purpose of getting the rust off. As the game went along I felt more and more comfortable, and more and more at home out there, which is a great sign for me.”
Through two periods, Miller was the only Wings’ player to score, giving the Red Team the equalizer early in the second period. Griffins players Trevor Parkes (White), Jeff Hoggan (White) and Louis-Marc Aubry (Red) also tallied in the first two periods.
The White Team grabbed a 1-0 lead when Parkes scored in the final minute of the first, picking the pocket of center Riley Sheahan in the neutral zone before cruising in alone and beating goalie Jonas Gustavsson through the pads.
“It was fun to be out there, for sure,” said Gustavsson, a free-agent signing in July. “First period, maybe feel rusty, maybe the timing isn't there. But as the game goes, you feel more that you can read the play, see the players and so on. I felt better and better.”
Miller scored the equalizer for the Red Team, beating Jimmy Howard on a rebound off a shot by new Red Wings forward Jordin Tootoo. The two squads exchanged goals in the middle of the second period. Hoggan, the Griffins captain, gave the White Team a 2-1 lead when he knocked in a rebound off of Kyle Quincey’s shot.
Aubry’s tip in goal off of Jonathan Ericsson’s shot from the point, tied the game at 2-2. Zetterberg’s goal gave the Red Team a 3-2 lead when he punched a rebound past Howard, who made the initial save on Swiss rookie Damien Brunner.
Howard said afterward that he was impressed by the Swiss import, who will begin the season on the Wings’ top line with Zetterberg and center Pavel Datsyuk.
“He’s got some great skill and it’s going to be fun to watch him this year, especially if he’s going to be playing with Z,” Howard said. “He knows how to get open, he knows how to find that soft area, and Z’s good at finding people, so it should be a good connection.”
The lone goal in the third period came when Griffins defenseman Nathan Paetsch, who has NHL experience with Buffalo and Columbus, scored for the Red Team.
Forward Patrick Eaves played in his first competitive game since suffering a broken jaw nearly 14 months ago, which has resulted in reoccurring concussion-like symptoms. He was symptom-free during the game and in the locker room afterwards, which he viewed positively.
“When the puck dropped out there it was like, ‘We’re back at it.’ So it was exciting,” Eaves said. “We’ll see how tomorrow goes. We have the day off tomorrow, so we’ll see how Thursday goes. Just not trying to look too far ahead.”
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