After disappointments, Detroit Red Wings’ Evgeny Svechnikov finally to face brother in NHL

Detroit Free Press

Helene St. James
 
| Detroit Free Press

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The Svechnikov brothers have dreamed of this day since they were children.

When the Detroit Red Wings take on the Carolina Hurricanes on Thursday, all signs point to Evgeny and Andrei Svechnikov finally facing one another in a game.

The chance has been there since the Hurricanes drafted Andrei with the second pick in 2018, three years after the Wings drafted Evgeny at 19th. But where Andrei has enjoyed a meteoric rise in the NHL, Evgeny has struggled to gain a foothold, and for various reasons hasn’t been in the lineup when the teams have met over the last few seasons.

The expectation is that finally will change.

“It’s been a while waiting for the moment, for the game,” Evgeny Svechnikov said Wednesday. “I just talked to my parents before practice, they are super excited. It’s going to be special day, special game. When I talked to my Dad, I said, can you imagine, it’s been almost 20 years we’ve been coming to this day.

“I’m just very proud of my parents, how much they put in for us to be in position we are, to live our dream. I am very happy for them. It’s going to be pretty special.”

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When the brothers were kids growing up in Kazan, Russia, they couldn’t see NHL games on TV no matter how much they fidgeted with the antenna. Now there’s satellite TV at their parents home. It will be 3 a.m. when the game starts, but that should not curtail celebrations.

“They are going to watch this one for sure,” Svechnikov said, “and I hope they are going to have lots of wine or beer.”

Coach Jeff Blashill doesn’t like to reveal his lineups and wouldn’t confirm Svechnikov is playing, but he practiced on a line with Luke Glendening and Darren Helm. Blashill said everyone who played in Tuesday’s 4-1 loss at Columbus practiced. Scratches in that game included veteran forwards Frans Nielsen and Valtteri Filppula. Filppula was placed on waivers Wednesday, a roster management move to that enables assigning him to the taxi squad if, as expected, he clears. Nielsen cleared waivers last week.

Blashill acknowledged there’s an emotional element to Thursday’s lineup decision.

“I think Evgeny is an awesome person,” Blashill said. “One of the very best I’ve been around. So I’m certainly aware of how much it would mean to him. I know how much his family means to him, how much his brother means to him, but in the end … my job is to put the 20 guys out there I think give us the best chance to win.”

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That the Wings question if Svechnikov can help them win in the long run was evidenced when he was placed on waivers before the season began, even though there was room to protect him. He has been hampered by injuries, including knee surgery that cost him an entire season, but to be willing to lose a former first-round pick for nothing was a damming indictment.

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Jeff Blashill: Red Wings forward Evgeny Svechnikov is an awesome person

Detroit Red Wings coach Jeff Blashill, March 3, 2021.

Helene St. James, Detroit Free Press

When Svechnikov cleared he wasn’t even assigned to the taxi squad, which eliminated a chance to play in the season-opening series against the Hurricanes. It was disappointing for Svechnikov, but he was used to it: In 2019-20, he was demoted two days before the Wings were to travel to Carolina for a Nov. 1 game that would also have enabled Svechnikov to celebrate his birthday, Oct. 31, with his mother, who was staying with Andrei at the time.

An opportunity opened for Svechnikov last weekend when Dylan Larkin was sidelined by an upper-body injury. Svechnikov, 24, responded with back-to-back goals and an assist.

“I feel very good and comfortable,” he said. “I feel I have confidence with the puck and know what I am doing. I just have to get better and better and continue to produce offensively and get some pucks in, get some rebounds.”

The brothers talk every day, sometimes twice. The two spent the offseason training together. Andrei, 20, scored 20 goals as a rookie in 2018-19, and 24 goals last season. His brother couldn’t be prouder.

“I’m amazed, especially first year, how big of a jump he made, how he became a star in this league,” Svechnikov said. “The goals he has scored, he’s fun to watch. I’m just very proud. He’s such a humble kid. Wants to do his teammates well and his team well. I hope he continues his journey.”

It’s been a tremendous journey for both brothers, who didn’t give the NHL much thought until they were teenagers.

“I think maybe when we got to America,” Svechnikov said, “we started to realize it could be reality.”

Contact Helene St. James at hstjames@freepress.com. 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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