Steve Yzerman’s prediction about Detroit Red Wings’ Robby Fabbri coming true

Detroit Free Press

Derek Lalonde recalled something Steve Yzerman told him about Robby Fabbri: You’re going to like him.

Video and Yzerman’s word were all Lalonde had to go on for the first three months of the season, while Fabbri rehabilitated from his third major knee surgery. But now the proof is coming in spades, as Fabbri’s return has helped the Detroit Red Wings to a nascent two-game winning streak headed into Saturday’s contest against the Columbus Blue Jackets.

“He’s got bite,” the Wings coach said after Fabbri scored a power play goal in Thursday’s 4-1 victory over the Toronto Maple Leafs. “He was kind of the forgotten injured guy, because it was projected he would be back in the new year. But that was one as a coaching staff, we were anxiously awaiting back. He’s brought energy, he’s brought compete. It helps our depth throughout our lines. He’s got three goals already in his return on a team that struggles to finish.

“Steve has brought up, you are going to like him. I saw glimpses of it in video or playing them in the past, but until you have him every single day — and I’ve experienced that with a lot of players, being new here. But yeah, he’s been as advertised from the management and staff. Hopefully he can sustain it and stay consistent with it.”

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Fabbri played just short of 15 minutes when he made his season debut Jan. 4. He scored the next game, and the one he played in after that, and now he has a three-game scoring streak going.

“Goals are one thing,” Fabbri said. “I’m going off more getting back to my game, getting my legs going and all that. Getting them in wins definitely feels a lot better.”

The Wings came into the season knowing Fabbri would not be available for months after he underwent surgery on his right knee last April. Fabbri began skating with the Wings last month, and was in and out of the blue jersey that signifies no-contact as he edged closer to a return. As eager as he was to join the lineup, it was medical personnel that had final say, and all along, early January had been the target. Fabbri said he “did everything to make sure I was as prepared as possible” to make the third comeback of his career.

“Someone like that maybe has an appreciation of playing in this league, when it gets taken away from you so many times,” Lalonde said. “He worked extremely hard. He was ready when he was ready. I think that’s why he has had this jump with his return.”

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Fabbri’s return has enabled Lalonde to slot other forwards in better spots — most notably putting Lucas Raymond back with Dylan Larkin. Raymond scored off a slick setup from Larkin against the Leafs in the first period Thursday, after having done the same two nights earlier in the 7-5 win over the Winnipeg Jets.

“It allows us to (have) better options,” Lalonde said. “You don’t get stuck with some bad matchups. I was comfortable with every matchup and the flow of the game. I don’t know if I could have said that when we had those four or five forwards out. So it certainly helps with depth.”

Contact Helene St. James at hstjames@freepress.com. Follow her on Twitter @helenestjames.

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Her latest book, “On the Clock: Behind the Scenes with the Detroit Red Wings at the NHL Draft,” is available from  Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Triumph Books. Personalized copies available via her e-mail.

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