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Working his way Back

by Bill Roose / Detroit Red Wings

Brett Lebda (23) played five seasons with the Red Wings, including the 2008 Stanley Cup run. He's now in Columbus trying to re-establish his NHL career with the Blue Jackets. (Photo by Dave Reginek)
Brett Lebda had plenty to be thankful for during his five seasons with the Red Wings. Playing along side future hall of famers like Steve Yzerman, Nicklas Lidstrom and Chris Chelios, not to mention getting his name engraved on the Stanley Cup.

“This is where I learned everything, just playing alongside Nick and Cheli all those years,” said Lebda, now a defenseman with the Columbus Bleu Jackets. “It was just an opportunity that I will cherish forever. … It was an unbelievable time here.”

Saturday morning, Lebda was back at Joe Louis Arena for just the second time since he left the Wings’ organization for a lucrative contract with Toronto following the 2009-10 season.

Now with the Blue Jackets – his fourth NHL franchise in seven years – Lebda was signed from Springfield on Thursday, and still hasn’t made his season debut. He did not play Saturday against his former teammates.

“The goal from the beginning of the year was to get back in the league,” Lebda said. “I went down and played in the American League for awhile, I got a good opportunity there so I’m excited to be back now.

“They seem to have a great group of guys here and I’m looking forward to getting to know them over the next few days. We go on the road here for a bit. I’ll get to know everyone and get my feet wet.”

In 26 games in Springfield, Lebda has made the most of his first minor-league experience in five years, collecting a goal and nine assists for the Falcons.

“It was tough. At the same time that’s what was presented to me at the time,” said Lebda, who is trying to re-establish his NHL career. “It was tough to take, but you’ve got to swallow your pride and work as hard as you can to try and get back here.

“I got a good opportunity (in the minors), played a ton of minutes and I think that’s going to help me coming back here.”

Ironically, Lebda last skated in an NHL game with the Leafs in a 4-2 loss at Detroit last March. In 376 career games, he has 19 goals, 53 assists and a plus-17 rating.

“If you ask anyone in the league if they like to watch another team the answer would be Detroit,” said, Lebda, who still maintains a home in metro Detroit. “They play the game the right way and they play it hard. Even when they lose guys like Kris Draper and Kirk Maltby they find guys like Darren Helm and Justin Abdelkader to kind of take over that role.”

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