How Detroit Red Wings will cope after losing Robby Fabbri (ACL tear) for rest of season

Detroit Free Press

Robby Fabbri’s season is over, and the Detroit Red Wings are left to hope a young player can help fill the void.

Saying he “feels horrible” for Fabbri, coach Jeff Blashill announced Friday, hours before the Wings left for western Canada, “we suspect Fabbs tore his ACL. We’re consulting with another specialist just to get a second opinion, but the expectation is he’ll miss the remainder of the season.”

Fabbri had 17 goals, 13 assists and a minus-23 rating in 56 games. He has manned the second line, and the first power-play unit. He injured his right knee during Thursday’s 6-5 shootout loss to the Minnesota Wild. He tore his left ACL in February 2017, when he was with the St. Louis Blues, and re-injured the knee the following fall, causing him to sit out the entire 2017-18 season.

“I feel absolutely terrible for him,” Blashill said. “Not only has he had to grind through multiple ACL injuries in the past, he’s also had to grind through and did an unreal job, of getting himself back to a spot where he played without any fear of injury and played with that relentless nature that he has to play with to be successful. For this to happen on a pretty innocent play — I felt terrible for him.”

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Taro Hirose, who made a splash when he joined the Wings out of Michigan State in the spring of 2019 and went on to produce seven points in 10 games, was called up from the Grand Rapids Griffins. The Wings will also be without top-six forward Tyler Bertuzzi during their trip to Calgary, Edmonton and Vancouver because Bertuzzi’s decision not to get the COVID-19 vaccine means he cannot travel to Canada under current border regulations. The Wings are not paying Bertuzzi while he is absent from team activities because of his unvaccinated status. Blashill indicated Bertuzzi will join the Wings at the end of the trip, which finishes March 19 in Seattle.

The Wings just gained the services of forward Jakub Vrana, who has three goals in two games after missing the first 56 games recovering from shoulder surgery. The hope is young forwards Filip Zadina and Joe Veleno can further help ameliorate being without both Fabbri and Bertuzzi over the coming week.

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“I think most players feel like, if given more opportunity, they’d excel more,” Blashill said. “That’s not always the case but that’s what the feeling generally is. That’s great. Here’s the opportunity.

“The thing about this league is, you have to do it every night. Certainly when you lose two guys that have been a big part of your offense all year, as we will for the next three games, you need other guys to step up and play great hockey. I think Zadina, Joe Veleno, Michael Rasmussen — all those guys need to continue to step their games up and then you can absorb the losses a little bit better.”

Wings general manager Steve Yzerman acquired Fabbri on Nov. 6, 2019, sending Jacob de la Rose to the Blues in return. Fabbri scored two power-play goals in his debut, and, while his defensive game needs work, he impressed with his commitment to regain a foothold in the league after being derailed by knee injuries early in his career. 

“The good thing is he knows what it takes to come back and hopefully comes back better than ever, stronger than ever, more determined than ever,” Blashill said. “But just from a human perspective, I feel terrible for him.”

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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