| The Detroit News
The Red Wings are getting one more piece that’s been missing into the lineup Friday, and it potentially could be an important one.
Filip Zadina, who has been on the COVID-19 protocol list and missed seven games, practiced Thursday and is expected to be in Friday’s lineup against Tampa Bay.
Make no mistake, the Wings could use all the help they can get, especially from an offensive standpoint.
Zadina had two assists in the four games he played before catching the virus, and his offensive ability certainly gives coach Jeff Blashill more offensive options.
“It was tough,” Zadina said of watching games during Thursday’s Zoom chat with media. “I was losing my head watching the games. It was tough. But I’m back and I’m glad it didn’t take that long, and I’m back to help the team.”
Zadina has been skating for about five days with the other Wings who were on the COVID protocol list, and returned for Wednesday’s 5-1 loss in Tampa — forwards Robby Fabbri, Adam Erne and Sam Gagner, and defenseman Jon Merrill.
Blashill, speaking Thursday with reporters, was excited to get Zadina back, but cautioned people about oversized expectations.
“As you saw last night, your first game back is not easy,” said Blashill, noting the impact Wednesday of the Wings’ returnees. “It’s hard enough when you’re coming out of training camp and you’ve been going and to take a pause, it will take Filip some time to get back to full speed.
“But it’s the situation we’re in, and guys are trying to get back at full speed as fast they can.”
Zadina was never “serious sick,” as he put it, but didn’t feel good for “two or three days, didn’t feel OK.
“But right now I’m feeling real good and I’m excited to be playing again. I’m happy.”
With the skating he’s done, and a certain amount of conditioning work, Zadina feels confident he’ll adjust to the speed of the NHL again quickly.
“It’s going to be different obviously, but I’ve been trying to get in shape again as soon as I can and I’m ready to go,” Zadina said. “I’ll be a little bit tired (Friday) but I’ll be fine.”
After watching Zadina during practice Blashill, too, was optimistic.
“Filip appears to be feeling good, so hopefully he can hit the ground running here,” Blashill said.
Zadina had been part of an effective line with Fabbri and Bobby Ryan to begin the season, but whether that line is put together for the Tampa Bay game is unknown.
“We’d been playing good, but now the lineup has changed a little bit, so we’ll see,” Zadina said. “It was great (playing with Fabbri, Ryan). What’ll happen, if we’re together, we’ll see.”
A little support
Goaltender Thomas Greiss has probably deserved a better fate overall this season.
Greiss was hardly to blame for Wednesday’s debacle, as it was the Wings’ defensive play in front of him that led to Tampa Bay scoring three quick goals and Greiss being replaced by Calvin Pickard.
But, ultimately, Greiss remained winless on the season, seeing his record drop to 0-6-2, with a 3.46 goals-against average and .885 save percentage.
Especially early in the season, Greiss was playing well but not getting any offensive support. Blashill doesn’t feel the difficult start has affected Greiss.
“I’m not worried about Greiss at all,” Blashill said. “Mentally, he’s in a great spot. He’s been through the rigors of the NHL. He’s an even-keeled person. He knows games like last night will happen and he’ll move on.
“He started out playing real good (this season) and he just didn’t get much offensive support. He should have wins on the board, he’s certainly played well enough, good enough, to have wins.
“Like the rest of our team, all of our games’ have slipped a little bit and confidence is a factor. We have to grind through it and get our confidence back.”
Goaltender Jonathan Bernier (upper body) practiced lightly Thursday but Blashill wasn’t sure about Bernier’s availability for the Tampa game.
…With Zadina returning, the Wings assigned forward Taro Hirose to the taxi squad, although that doesn’t mean Hirose couldn’t return to the Wings’ lineup in time for Friday.
But with forwards Darren Helm and Frans Nielsen keying a fine penalty killing effort Wednesday, and the Wings’ deep on the power play flanks, Hirose might have to wait to return to the lineup.
…Forward Anthony Mantha has scored a goal in three consecutive games, but Blashill clearly feels there’s still more to get out of Mantha.
“I don’t think you can judge a player just on offensive output,” Blashill said. “There are moments in the game he’s done what needs to do, and that’s skate, and there are moments where he hasn’t done enough of it, and we’ll continue to work on it.”
Red Wings at Lightning
► Faceoff: 7 p.m. Friday, Amalie Arena, Tampa, Florida
►TV/radio: Fox Sports Detroit/97.1 FM
► Outlook: The Red Wings (2-7-2) and Lightning (6-1-1) complete the two-game series in Tampa and second of eight games between the teams this season. … Tampa Bay won Tuesday’s opener, 5-1. … The Wings have lost 15 straight games in Tampa.