This wasn’t a phone conversation that defenseman Mark Pysyk was looking forward to making.
Pysyk had just signed a one-year free-agent contract worth $850,000 with the Detroit Red Wings in July, when, approximately 10 days later, Pysyk tore his Achilles tendon.
Now, just suffering the injury, Pysyk had to call and tell general manager Steve Yzerman about it.
“I was definitely pretty nervous,” Pysyk said of the call to Yzerman. “But, when I talked to Steve, he was great. He understands injuries happen and he relayed that to me. He was super good about it.”
Pysyk, 30, had the surgery in July and has been gradually building his skating for the past month. The timetable for a return is approximately January 1, which would give coach Derek Lalonde another veteran presence on the defense, who also provides the versatility to play wing.
Pysyk can’t wait, given the Wings were a team he was excited about joining.
“It’s a young team on the way up,” Pysyk said. “Good free-agent signings, and there’s definitely a passion, a desire here, for things to get moving in the right direction. To be part of something like that, on the way up, and get things moving in the right direction, it’s a good challenge, and it’s fun to be part of a young team that loves coming to the rink and having fun.”
Pysyk suffered the torn tendon while training and getting ready for training camp.
“I was just doing a little side shuffle-sprint thing and I thought I rolled my ankle,” Pysyk said. “I had an MRI and it showed it ripped, so it was pretty gross.”
Pysyk was part of a trend around the NHL last summer of players suffering long-term injuries while training, and being forced to miss the first few months of the season.
“We have to stop training and stick to golf in the summer,” Pysyk said with a large smile. “I’m not going to do any side-shuffle sprints (next summer), I’ll tell you that much.”
Pysyk believes January 1 is a realistic target date for a return but “that’s pretty fluid. Everything will depend on how it goes on the ice, but somewhere around there.”
Though mainly a defenseman, Pysyk has been used on the wing, and it’s that versatility and skating ability that has made him a dependable 10-year NHL veteran with 521 games played.
“I just like to make the good first pass, don’t do anything crazy, pretty defensive-minded, and that’s about it,” Pysyk said. “I’m always open to anything (ability to play forward), and whatever happens and comes my way, I’ll take.”
Pysyk said playing on the wing started “with low expectations at the start, and it wasn’t too difficult to skate as hard as I could playing forward. But once there are some expectations that you need to do the right thing and do certain things, it’s a little more difficult. But like I said, simple, defensive-minded, and just trying to do the same things playing forward, pretty similar.”
Pysyk has only rejoined the entire Wings roster in recent weeks, so the difficulty of joining a new team has been compounded in his situation, recovering from a long-term injury.
Luckily, Pysyk has been able to rehabilitate with forward Robby Fabbri (knee surgery), which has been a positive for both players.
“It’s a challenge,” said Pysyk of training away from the team. “Thank God I’ve had Fabs (Fabbri), who is sort on the same timeframe as me. I’ve been skating alone, which would have been really bad, but the guys have been awesome. I’m just doing my best to hang out at the rink and be around as much as possible, and not be a distraction.”
Lalonde feels Pysyk will bring another stable, efficient defenseman to a position group that can’t have enough of them during a long season.
“I don’t want to put undue pressure on him because Olli (Maatta) is playing so well right now, but similar, right shot, minute-eating, safe defender, kind of where we want our entire game to be,” Lalonde said. “That was our vision of signing him (Pysyk). Unfortunately, we haven’t been able to see him yet. But it was more of the defensive predictable, simple, defend-first mentality (that attracted the Wings).”
Forward Tyler Bertuzzi (broken hand) was expected to return to the lineup Tuesday in Anaheim. Bertuzzi was injured the second game of the season in New Jersey and hasn’t played since. Bertuzzi was expected to return to the lineup playing with Dylan Larkin and Lucas Raymond.
… Elmer Soderblom and Gustav Lindstrom are both day-to-day because of undisclosed injuries. Jake Walman (shoulder) could replace Lindstrom, and make his season debut, on defense.