With injured Red Wings returning, difficult roster decisions looming

Detroit News

Detroit — The Red Wings are about to get injured players returning to their lineup, which is a good thing given the caliber of these players.

Jakub Vrana (NHL/NHLPA players assistance program) and Robby Fabbri (knee surgery) are slated to return Wednesday when the Wings play host to New Jersey.

Then, Filip Zadina (foot) and Tyler Bertuzzi (hand) are expected to rejoin the lineup shortly after, likely before mid-January.

Those are four quality, experienced forwards who will strengthen the lineup.

But, with those four coming back, who are some players who might be headed out of the lineup, or headed to Grand Rapids? Vrana was on the 23-man roster currently after leaving the assistance program. But with the Wings at 23 players, someone will need to go in order to activate Fabbri.

It’s going to be an interesting question, indeed, seeing who leaves to make room.

“There’s reality to that,” coach Derek Lalonde said of the upcoming personnel choices. “We’ll probably get through the weekend and have some of those tough roster decisions, but knock on wood, let’s get there. We’ve been here a few times this year where we thought we were getting the wagon back and someone else went down.

“Those (young) guys, we want them to make it tough on us. Hopefully we have some of those decisions after the weekend.”

The “young guys” Lalonde refers to likely mean players such as Jonatan Berggren, Elmer Soderblom and, possibly, Joe Veleno, who also can still be sent to Grand Rapids without the risk of losing Veleno to waivers.

Lalonde, coincidentally, has formed a line with the trio, and though there have been some downside, particularly defensively, the line also has produced needed offense.

“They gave us a spark offensively, (we) loved the offensive confidence,” Lalonde said. “There are still things within their game, two goals against in Buffalo (Thursday’s loss) they had their hands all over (defensive mistakes). Bergie (Berggren) takes the bad penalty (toward end of first period, resulting in Buffalo goal) but they have the ability to make plays and you love that from young players, you love that development.

“We’ll grow them in some of those development mistake areas, but we love how assertive they are with their game.”

Soderblom appears to be a growing possibility to head to Grand Rapids, given there’s been a belief from the start of the season it wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world for Soderblom to get added pro seasoning in the AHL. But Soderbom has two goals and three assists in five games since returning from a broken foot (missing a month), and he’s largely showed he’s an NHL-caliber player.

Berggren, with 12 points in 21 games, has produced offensively and would be a difficult player to lose.

“The thing you love about Berggren is every line he’s been on, he’s helped them offensively,” Lalonde said.

The Wings also are carrying three goalies, with Magnus Hellberg and Alex Nedeljkovic backing up Ville Husso. The Wings are likely to address that situation soon, as well, with the other forwards returning.

Speaking of goaltenders, Lalonde said after Saturday’s morning skate that Hellberg would get start Saturday night against Ottawa. Husso, who was unavailable with a non-COVID illness Thursday in Buffalo, still hasn’t recovered enough to play.

Nedeljkovic will back up Hellberg against the Senators.


Twitter: @tkulfan

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