Filip Zadina seeks fresh start to this season as return to Red Wings lineup nears

Detroit News

Detroit — Filip Zadina has been out of the lineup since early November, and with that much time without hockey, there was time to kill.

So, Zadina and his girlfriend got a puppy, a terrier named Jack. That’s been a fun distraction from not being on the ice. He also changed the curve on his stick.

Pretty simple reason for that.

“Nine games without a goal, so….,” said Zadina, talking about the only nine games he’s played this season. “I’m excited to shoot the puck again.”

When Zadina (lower-body injury) does return soon, and judging by the way Zadina and coach Derek Lalonde were talking Monday it could be any day this week before the All-Star break begins this weekend, it’ll be like the start of a new season.

Or, at least that’s the way Zadina is treating it.

“I would say so,” Zadina said after Monday’s practice. “I played the preseason and I believe I did pretty well, and a little step back my first nine games when it didn’t go well (no points). I don’t think I was on the ice (when) we scored or gave up a goal, but I don’t know what was happening, and all of a sudden I got this (injury) and I’ve been just working on myself to get back as soon as possible.

“It’s a fresh start for me and that’ll be my first game of the season when I get the chance to play.”

Zadina hasn’t been cleared yet by the Wings’ medical staff, but the way he was participating during Monday’s practice, he’s awfully close.

“You saw today we banged hard, we had some drills specifically designed to offensively get to the inside and he was part of it,” Lalonde said. “He’d be really close, in that day-to-day (category) for now.”

When Zadina does come back, it’ll be interesting to see where and how Lalonde will use him.

Zadina was a healthy scratch the opening two games of the season, returned to play those nine games, and then hasn’t played since the Nov. 5 game against the New York Islanders.

The expectations for Zadina going forward will be the same as they’ve been, Lalonde said, for the rest of the roster.

“I want to hold him accountable like the rest of the guys,” Lalonde said. “We’re playing well defensively, very well, we’re not giving our opponents much space and ice, and we’d ask the same of him. Be connected with our group, with what we’re trying to do right now. We’re flowing four lines, we’re playing well defensively, and we’re getting looks.

“We’re just asking him to join the party, if you will, with the way we’ve been playing.”

Zadina could see himself anywhere in the lineup, from a scoring line to a defensive, energy role in the bottom-six forwards.

But Lalonde does continue to see some of the offensive potential Zadina has shown on occasion.

“You love the potential and the fact he scored at lower levels, obviously he has not in the (169) games here (25 goals), but he can skate, and a little of it is confidence,” Lalonde said. “If he was a shoot-first mentality guy, it would help his overall game. When he’s skating, he has some offensive confidence. He’s a guy who can push some offense. Statistically it hasn’t been there yet, but you see flashes of it.”

A 2018 first-round draft pick, sixth overall by the Wings, Zadina was expected to be an elite goal-scorer but has yet to consistently show that trait.

With the Wings’ depth up front, and some more recent draft picks arriving from Europe in the next year or two, Zadina isn’t feeling any more pressure this season than he’s felt in the past.

“No, not really,” Zadina said. “There’s been pressure since I got here. I don’t think there’s any pressure. When I come back I’ll enjoy that and play my hockey.”

Zadina enjoyed being back in a real practice setting Monday, away from individually getting ready.

“This was one of the easiest, actually,” Zadina said of Monday’s intense practice compared to what he’s been through. “I got into a few drills where we played together (as a team), so that was fun. I was excited to come back and do some drills with them again.”

The process of returning to full health and playing hockey has been difficult.

“It’s been tough,” Zadina said. “But it’s part of hockey. Injuries, stuff like that, it’s kind of why we play hockey, and once you get an injury you have to get back as soon as you can. That’s what I’m working on, and when I get the chance to play and be cleared from the doctor, I’ll be 100% ready and good to go.”

Ice chips

Tyler Bertuzzi (lower body) didn’t practice Monday, so he’s out for Tuesday’s game against San Jose. Lalonde believes there’s a chance Bertuzzi could play either Thursday or Friday. He said Bertuzzi is day to day, but concedes it might be best with a week-long break coming next week to possibly wait after the break.

… Goaltender Ville Husso will get the start Tuesday and one of the two starts before the break. Magnus Hellberg is scheduled to get the other start, but Lalonde said if Husso doesn’t face a lot of work in his games, the Wings would consider Husso playing all three games.

Ben Chiarot didn’t practice Monday. Lalonde called it a “personal day” and Chiarot would be ready for Tuesday’s game.

Sharks at Red Wings

▶ Faceoff: 7 p.m. Tuesday, Little Caesars Arena, Detroit

▶ TV/radio: BSD/97.1 FM

▶ Outlook: San Jose (14-25-9) has lost two straight games and only won three of their last 10 (3-5-2). … The Wings defeated the Sharks, 7-4, in San Jose earlier this season. … D Erik Karlsson is enjoying a comeback season (15 goals, 47 assists, 62 points) after battling injuries in recent seasons, and RW Timo Meier (27 goals) has been a consistent goal-scorer.

Twitter: @tkulfan

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