Red Wings notes: David Perron looks to be ‘difference-maker’ in Detroit

Detroit News

Traverse City − New team, new surroundings. You have to believe it felt kind of weird for new Red Wings forward David Perron.

A popular player in St. Louis, and long a core piece of the Blues’ identity, Perron played many games against the Red Wings.

So putting on the Wings’ jersey Thursday for the first training cap practice, yes, was strange.

“I didn’t get some of my equipment until last week, so I still had the Blues’ gloves on and it was weird to skate with that,” Perron said.

Actually, Perron thought back to his days as a teenager which made Thursday’s practice that much more comfortable.

“When I was 13 or 14 I got some red Sergei Fedorov gloves and it kind of reminded me of that,” said Perron, who has quickly warmed to being a Red Wing, and living in Detroit. “It’s really cool. An Original Six team, I never really had the chance (to play with one). Just getting to know the Detroit area and getting my kids in school and started with hockey, going to the rinks.”

Signed as an unrestricted free agent in July, Perron figures to strengthen the Wings in a variety of ways. Scoring goals, particularly on the power play which has been a Wings’ weakness, defensively, leadership, and just a certain veteran pedigree that is invaluable, especially on a younger team.

“What has been real exciting about David and talking to him through the summer, is he self admitted he evolved within his career,” coach Derek Lalonde said. “His work ethic, his approach, and it’s an unbelievable example of where he is now. He expects practice to be at a high pace and he wants guys to work throughout the entire practice. He’s embracing that role.”

At this stage in his career Perron, 34, is keenly focused on team goals.

“Just help the team move forward,” Perron said. “At this stage of my career, I want to be a difference-maker on the ice, still bring some of the stuff I was doing in St. Louis, and it’s just finding chemistry with guys and finding the right linemates. But team-wise is where I want to make a difference, leadership-wise, kind of being an extension of the coaching staff, kind of preaching the right stuff in the room by talking and my play on the ice, and making sure the staples defensively and throughout our system are there each and every night.”

Perron was a key member of the 2019 Stanley Cup champion St. Louis Blues, along with then-Blues and now Wings’ teammates, goalie Ville Husso, defenseman Jake Walman (both were Black Aces and didn’t get into the lineup), and forwards Robby Fabbri and Oskar Sundqvist.

Having that many former St. Louis teammates now in Detroit has helped the transition.

“It’s made the transition easier,” Perron said. “When I saw Huss (Husso) got traded and signed (with the Wings) a few days before an opportunity for me (to come to Detroit), I got excited, and about the other guys from St. Louis. I’ve been in different situations throughout my career where I didn’t know anyone or knew some guys, but I’m excited to join a group where hearing (general manager) Steve (Yzerman) talk about it, we’re ready to start pushing in the right direction and the dog days are hopefully over and we’re pushing the right way.”

More: Good ‘Newsy’: New Red Wings coach Derek Lalonde takes first practice in stride

Goaltending competition

Husso and Alex Nedeljkovic, on paper, give the Wings potentially one of the better goaltending duos in the NHL.

At least early in the season, expect Lalonde to give both goaltenders plenty of work, with no real No. 1 or No. 2 designation.

“That’s going to be a healthy competition,” Lalonde said. “The only thing I have communicated to them is they both will get the net early on. We feel both goalies have upside in their game. We want both goalies competing with each other, and we want that to be a healthy competition.”

Both Nedeljkovic and Husso have had stretches in their brief NHL careers where they’ve shown top-level ability. But both also struggled the second half of last season, Nedeljkovic with the Wings and Husso with the Blues.

“If one of those two can take that net at some time, great,” Lalonde said. “But early on they’ll both get the net.”

Ice chips

Sundqvist was the lone regular returner not on the ice for the first practice of the season. Lalonde felt it was going to be a day-to-day situation in terms of when Sundqvist could return.

“I don’t think it’s going to be anything too concerning, but he’ll be day to day early on through camp here,” Lalonde said.

… Nedeljkovic had an opportunity to work on the ice with goaltender Sebastian Cossa (2021 first-round draft pick) this summer.

“He’s looked good out there,” Nedeljkovic said. “I skated with him today, he was in our group, and he looked good, sharp. You can tell he’s been working at it and looks a lot better than what he did last year. It’s a great sign for a young kid to come in and show what he’s got.”

… Lalonde will use a variety of forward lines and defense combinations throughout camp and exhibition games, adding not to put any stock into what you see on a given day in practice.

“I wouldn’t look into those lines very much,” Lalonde said. “Tomorrow you’ll see some drastic changes with the line. Eight exhibition games is a lot, so we’ll get a chance to look at a lot of different combinations.”

ted.kulfan@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @tkulfan

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