Detroit — Pius Suter made his NHL debut last season as an undrafted player with the Chicago Blackhawks. It wasn’t an easy transition.
Starting over with the Red Wings hasn’t seemed to be a big adjustment for Suter. He carries a six-game point streak into Thursday’s game against the St. Louis Blues.
“I was kind of more ready, more than last year,” Suter said, noting there was a true training camp and exhibition season unlike the previous pandemic-shortened campaign. “I know a few teams (having played against them) and how the game is played. I felt more comfortable starting here, than last year.”
When the Blackhawks declined to sign Suter, making him an unrestricted free agent, the Wings jumped at the opportunity.
Detroit gave Suter a two-year contract worth $6.5 million ($3.25 million salary cap hit, per season). It’s been a shrewd move.
Suter has rebounded from an uneven start, playing the all-around game the Wings anticipated.
“It’s a slow way up,” Suter said. “Points are good and I can still create a bit more the last few games and create chances. There are always places to improve. But every day I get more comfortable and now it’s kind of the middle part of the season and you have to kind of grind it out.”
Having played junior hockey with Tyler Bertuzzi and Robby Fabbri, Suter was familiar with some of the Wings’ roster. He faced Detroit eight times last season. He found the potential of the young Wings’ roster intriguing.
“The age group (of the players), they’re all the same age so there are opportunities to play and get ice time,” Suter said. “You kind of show you can be part of the future.”
Some wondered how effective Suter would be with a new team.
“With a guy who has been in the league one year, I wasn’t totally certain how good he was going to be,” coach Jeff Blashill said. “I knew he played good hockey against us last year, played well to start this year, then dipped a bit (specifically on a four-game road trip through the East Coast earlier this season). Since then he’s played real good hockey. He makes smart decisions with the puck. He’s smart, good defensively. He has great hockey sense, both offensively and defensively. He’s around the opponent’s net and is real good in that area with his stick. That’s where he scores his goals.
“He’s met the expectations.”
The Wings received a scare late in Tuesday’s game when defenseman Moritz Seider was injured.
Seider’s shoulder and head took the brunt of a hit along the boards by Nashville’s Tanner Jeannot. Seider went to the locker room with eight minutes remaining.
He was back at practice Wednesday and is set to play Thursday against the Blues.
“We got in this morning, and just like anything, you’re patient and evaluate,” Blashill said. “He went through practice. We’re confident he’ll be good to go.”
As good as the Wings have been at Little Caesars Arena (9-3-2), they’ve struggled on the road.
Detroit is 4-7-1 away from LCA. With games at St. Louis and Colorado this week, it would be a good time to begin turning things around.
“We have to kind of get emotions from somewhere else instead of the fans, and just play the right way,” Suter said. “Don’t panic, and just play our game. That’ll help.”
Both the Blues and Avalanche have a bevy of offensive stars. That makes things difficult for visiting teams.
“It’ll test us, certainly defensively,” Blashill said. “Certainly our puck management has to be better than it was (against Nashville). You have to find your way, kind of grind it out, and find a way to win it at the end.”
Defenseman Filip Hronek didn’t practice Wednesday, with Blashill calling it a maintenance day, but adding Hronek has been dealing with a physical issue.
“He has a little bit of a nagging deal, so we’ll see (about Thursday’s availability),” Blashill said.
… Defensemen Marc Staal (COVID-19 protocol) and Gustav Lindstrom (upper body) will not play on the two-game road trip, nor will Bertuzzi (COVID-19 protocol).
… Blashill tried forward Vladislav Namestnikov on the power play during Wednesday’s practice. It’s a look that will likely stick in the coming days.
“He’s somebody who has played on the power play in the past and done a pretty good job,” Blashill said. “We haven’t given him much opportunity here. He’s probably earned it as much as anybody, and he’s been playing real good hockey and found the back of the net. He looked excellent on it today.”
Red Wings at Blues
►Faceoff: 8 p.m. Thursday, Enterprise Center, St. Louis
►Outlook: The Blues (13-8-4) are decimated with injuries and COVID-19 issues, notably missing C Robert Thomas (upper body) and both goalies Jordan Bennington (COVID protocol) and Ville Husso (lower body). … C Jordan Kyrou (23 points) and LW Brandon Saad (10 goals) are sparking the offense.