Filip Zadina ‘so happy’ to be back with ailing Detroit Red Wings. Here’s why

Detroit Free Press

Helene St. James
| Detroit Free Press

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Amid a rising number in positive COVID-19 tests around the NHL, the Detroit Red Wings are regaining players from pandemic protocol and trying to regain confidence.

Filip Zadina took part in his first practice in two weeks Thursday at Amalie Arena, where the Wings will take on the Tampa Bay Lightning on Friday for the second time in three days.

“I felt good,” Zadina said. “I was sick for two, three days and I didn’t feel OK, but right now I am feeling really good and excited to be playing again. I’m so happy.”

Fellow forwards Adam Erne, Robby Fabbri and Sam Gagner and defenseman Jon Merrill returned to play in Wednesday’s 5-1 loss.

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Zadina’s return gives the Wings more options up front, especially with Tyler Bertuzzi sidelined at least through Feb. 9 because of an upper body injury.

“It’s a cautious boost,” coach Jeff Blashill said. “I think the boost will come in time, for sure, but as you saw, your first game back is not easy. It’s hard enough when you’re coming out of training camp and you’ve been going, and then to take a pause, it will take Filip some time to get going at full speed. But it’s just the situation we’re in, where guys have to get back to full speed as fast as they can.

“The one thing I’d say with Filip is, he appears to be feeling good, so hopefully he can hit the ground running.”

Goalie Jonathan Bernier, out with an upper body injury since Jan. 28, also practiced, but Blashill wasn’t sure Bernier would be available by Friday. The Lightning chased Thomas Greiss after scoring three goals in five minutes Wednesday, but the Wings’ offense offered Greiss little support before that — and that is a major focus headed into the rematch.

“We have to do a better job slowing them down, so we have to check better than we did, for sure,” Blashill said. “And then we have to have the puck more. It’s a combination of the two — you have to check to win. You have no chance in this league if you don’t check. But the best way to check is to have the puck a lot. When you have the puck a lot, you’re not tired trying to change and then they’re jamming it back down your throat, like what happened on the first goal. So let’s have the puck more and then let’s do a better job checking.

The Wings appeared to open the season with two solid lines when the season began: Dylan Larkin centering Bertuzzi and Anthony Mantha and Fabbri with Zadina and Bobby Ryan. Blashill moved Fabbri to wing Wednesday, though, to ease his return after two weeks off.

Zadina’s availability allows more flexibility at even strength and on power plays. Taro Hirose, who has two even-strength points in six games, was reassigned to the taxi squad, though that doesn’t rule out an appaearance Friday. But Zadina is the fourth member of the power play units returning this week, and Hirose does not kill penalties. About the only positive Wednesday was holding the Lightning scoreless on four power plays.

The Wings have gone 0-5-2 since losing Zadina.

“I was losing kind of my head at home watching the games when I couldn’t play,” he said. “It was tough.”

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It has been a tough stretch for the league, with 40 players listed as unavailable due to the COVID-19 protocols. The outbreak hit the Wings after their season-opening series against the Carolina Hurricanes on Jan. 14-16. By Jan. 18, Fabbri and Erne tested positive, and three days later, three more players were idled.

“Carolina had guys that ultimately played with COVID,” Blashill said. “That’s just the reality of the testing being delayed. I’m quite certain that’s where our guys got it. It’s really hard to avoid that. But our guys got it and then it didn’t spread within our team any more than that. So I think our medical staff did an excellent job. We’ve enforced the protocol that’s been in place to make sure we mitigate any further spreading. Our staff and our players did a really good job of that. You have to do it the best you can.

The NHL revised its virus protocols in response to the surge, mandating the removal of glass panels behind benches to allow for better air flow. Players and coaches are not allowed at arenas until 1 hour, 45 minutes before the game unless they are getting treatment. All meetings must be virtual.


Blashill: Healthy Filip Zadina a “cautious boost” for ailing Detroit Red Wings

Jeff Blashill interview, Feb. 3, 2021.

Helene St. James, Detroit Free Press

Team personnel undergo daily PCR tests, which are more reliable than rapid daily tests — but results can take 24 hours.

“The problem in ice hockey is we play in a rink where the humidity is dry and the air is cool, and my understanding, with the research I’ve done, is that potentially lets the virus sit right there in the air, and it doesn’t dissipate,” Blashill said. “So when one team has it and you play a game, it’s hard.

“We are in this situation we are in. We have to do the best we can. The fact games are getting postponed is unfortunate, but from our perspective we just have to keep doing things the best we can.”

Contact Helene St. James at Follow her on Twitter @helenestjames. Read more on the Detroit Red Wings and sign up for our Red Wings newsletter. Her book, The Big 50: The Detroit Red Wings is available from AmazonBarnes & Noble and Triumph Books. Personalized copies available via her e-mail. 

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