Red Wings’ Andrew Copp excited about facing former Winnipeg Jets teammates

Detroit News

Detroit — There was a steady stream of media heading toward the lockers of Andrew Copp and Ben Chiarot after Tuesday’s morning skate.

It was predominately Winnipeg media, touching base with former, popular Jets players who are now key Red Wings.

Chiarot was a 2009 fourth-round draft pick of the Atlanta Thrashers and came to the Jets when the organization moved to Winnipeg. Chiarot spent five seasons with the Jets before being traded to Montreal in 2019.

For Copp, the departure remains fresh with Jets fans.

Copp spent the first eight years of his career in Winnipeg, growing into the team’s leadership and core group, before being dealt at last season’s trade deadline to the New York Rangers. Copp (Ann Arbor/Michigan), then signed a free-agent contract with his hometown Red Wings in July.

Copp has yet to play in Winnipeg, and that, no doubt, will be an emotional game. Copp faced the Jets when they came to Madison Square Garden late last spring, and Tuesday faced them for the second time, the first as a Red Wing.

“A little of bit,” Copp said of whether it’s still strange playing against Winnipeg. “A lot of my close friends are on that team. Being there for eight years, so there’s a lot of familiarity. The core is still there. It’ll be fun, just as it was in New York last year.”

He’ll notice who is on the ice against him a little more than usual in a situation like this, Copp said.

“I remember going up against Paul Stasny (a former Jets player, since traded) last year and he was one of my closest friends, and we were battling in the faceoff circle,” Copp said. “A lot of guys, in the corners. I don’t talk much on the ice, but with those guys it’ll be a little more talking here and there.”

At one point in Winnipeg, Copp was teammates with Connor Hellebuyck (Commerce Township), Kyle Connor (Shelby Township/Michigan) and Jacob Trouba (Rochester/Michigan). All four were major keys in the Jets reaching the 2018 Western Conference Finals.

All four grew up within an hour of each other, and became NHL regulars on the same organization.

“The four of us were there for a while,” Copp said. “I don’t know what the drafting plan was for those few years, but it ended up working out. It was fun.”

Much has been made of those frigid Winnipeg winters, but Copp feels it was overrated.

“You just don’t go outside,” said Copp, who could only remember one story about the mind-numbing cold. “Chasing Troubs’ (Trouba) dog around the block my first year after a game when it was negative-30 outside. I told him I love his dog, but from now on, it’s up to you.”

Practice hard

Coach Derek Lalonde has had a few longer-than-usual practices, especially this late in the season, but Lalonde says there’s a method to it.

Especially after a tough loss like Saturday’s in Toronto, the Wings went close to an hour Monday, which at this point of an NHL schedule, is a bit unusual during a busy schedule.

“Correcting things, habits, we’re developing young players,” Lalonde said. “It’s the reality of probably needing more reps. But I want the guys to understand (to expect a tough, certain kind of practice). In Tampa (where Lalonde was an assistant) when we had things rolling, we rarely went past 33 or 35 minutes. But I want the guys when they come to the rink, to expect to practice hard.

“(Monday) was a perfect example. Toronto was a tough loss. You take that first period, a really tough back to back and you give up two shots in the first period, one was a questionable at the buzzer from the goal line, so our guys competed. It would be easy to be dejected after a third straight loss and sometimes it’s a little tougher to come to the rink.

“But when they came to the rink, they knew we were going to practice and practice hard, and part of that is establishing a culture we are trying to build here.”

Ice chips

Adam Erne was the healthy scratch with Tyler Bertuzzi re-entering the lineup. Erne was a healthy scratch for a game last week, too, as the Wings’ roster crunch began.

“Same situation, he was kind of the odd man out,” Lalonde said. “We wanted to get him right back in and he played some pretty good hockey on Saturday (against Toronto). There’s a lot of factors, but we want these tough decisions.”

Jakub Vrana has one point (an assist) in six games in Grand Rapids, with a minus-six rating.

“He’s trying to build his game,” Lalonde said. “I got the question the other night, ‘You’re not scoring goals, wouldn’t it be great to have Vrana?’ Of course it would, on potential, and right now all it is is potential.

“It’s going to take some time. This young man has been out of hockey for almost two full months (NHL/NHLPA players assistance program). Hopefully he’ll continue to build on some things and get his game in order and contribute to that potential for us.”

Twitter: @tkulfan

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