Red Wings’ Jakub Vrana ‘super excited’ to make season debut

Detroit News

Detroit — Jakub Vrana was visibly excited, and for good reason.

Vrana was scheduled to make his season debut for the Red Wings on Tuesday against the Arizona Coyotes after a long, difficult season.

Vrana injured his shoulder 10 minutes into his first training camp practice, which ultimately led to surgery. After approximately five months of grueling rehab, Vrana was back on the ice Tuesday.

“I haven’t played a game in almost a year,” Vrana said. “I’m trying to get my routine, game-day routine, and I’m super excited, that’s all I can say. Huge excitement to join the team again and get back at it.

“I’m a little bit nervous about just haven’t been playing for a while. But at the same time, I want to feel like it’s another game for me. I just want to come in and don’t have much on your mind and just come in and enjoy the game of hockey.

“That’s what I’m going to do.”

This was the longest Vrana had ever been away from playing the game. Vrana broke a tendon in his wrist which kept him away from games for three months, but this surgery forced him away for a longer time, and kept him away from teammates on a day-to-day basis.

“I’ve been used for something for a long time and now kind of off it, the mental side is the hardest (part of it),” Vrana said. “I was on a different schedule, my practicing and everything was different time, and I wasn’t able to be with the team while they were playing. I was out there watching, so it was probably the mental side that was the hardest.”

Vrana was scheduled to be on a line with Pius Suter and Tyler Bertuzzi, though coach Jeff Blashill mentioned line combinations would be fluid Tuesday as he attempts to find combinations that work.

“(We’ll see where) Jakub is at; he hasn’t played all year,” Blashill said. “It doesn’t matter the level of the player, it’s really difficult to jump right in. You’re not ingrained in the systems. We’ll play with that (combinations) a little bit and see where the best fit is short term and long term for the rest of the year.”

Vrana was excited about the prospect of joining Bertuzzi and Suter.

“They’re great players and they’ve been showing it,” Vrana said. “I’m just going to jump in and try to help the team as much as I can with my game, and I’m real excited to play with them.”

With the Wings gradually slipping out of the playoff chase, and the Wings simply attempting to rectify a recent slump, there are no expectations of Vrana saving or turning around this season.

The Wings just want Vrana to play, prove he’s healthy, and begin being an offensive factor for the team.

“I don’t think he has any expectation he has to be the savior,” Blashill said. “He just wants to play and be part of it. A savior for us would be our hockey team. There will never be an individual player to push us over to a better spot; it’s going to be our team in totality. He can be a piece of that. He could be a unique piece in the sense he can score.

“But he just has to come in and play and have fun playing hockey. He’s been out a long time, and it’s harder than people realize when you’re in that long-term injury situation. It gets super lonely.”

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DeKeyser clears waivers

Tuesday’s deadline passed and Danny DeKeyser cleared waivers, as expected.

DeKeyser was waived multiple times last season, and was not claimed by teams.

The Wings are likely to assign DeKeyser to minor-league affiliate Grand Rapids, although an exact course of action has yet to be announced.

The Wings placed the veteran defenseman on waivers Monday to create a roster spot for Vrana. The Wings also claimed defenseman Olli Juolevi off waivers Sunday, and want to see if Juolevi, 23, can be a building block for the future.

DeKeyser, 32, has been struggling to recapture his level of play after having major back surgery two seasons ago.

Blashill has been in regular contact with DeKeyser.

“Listen, I don’t think anybody likes being waived, and Danny has been an excellent pro here,” Blashill said. “He’s done an excellent job for the Detroit Red Wings over a long period of time. Very, very underrated, even within our own fan base in the impact he’s had here from when he first got here as a defenseman out of Western Michigan to now.

“He’s worked extremely hard at trying to get his back, back to a spot where he could play to the level where he was prior to that (surgery). He’s in the weight room longer than anybody before and after (practice). I’ve got the utmost respect for Danny as a person and player. Unfortunately, he had major surgery that has affected him. He’s still, at times, been an effective player for us. (But) we’re in a business where you have to make hard business decisions and that one has been made. But I have a ton of respect for Danny.”

Twitter: @tkulfan

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