Zadina, an underperforming first-round pick from 2018 who hasn’t played in three months, was sent to the Grand Rapids Griffins on Thursday. It was an expected move, given his long recovery following surgery, after he incurred a lower-body injury in a Nov. 5 game against the New York Islanders. That was Zadina’s ninth appearance of the season, and he had no points and a minus-3 rating.
The Wings are on their bye week and next play Tuesday when they host the Edmonton Oilers. The Grand Rapids Griffins play Friday and Saturday, at the Texas Stars.
Zadina joins fellow Wings Jakub Vrana and Alex Nedeljkovic, who landed in the minors in January. Both Vrana and Nedeljkovic were originally sent to the Griffins for conditioning stints (Vrana after spending two months in the players assistance program; Nedeljkovic after struggling in Detroit), were waived, and then assigned there. Both have done what was asked — get their game in order — with Vrana overcoming a slow start to post four goals among five points in his past five games, and Nedeljkovic posting a 2.40 goals-against average and .919 save percentage in 10 games.
Jonatan Berggren is also with the Griffins, assigned there Jan. 29 to keep him playing while the Wings are on break. That freed up the roster space to activate Zadina, as he still counts against the 23-man roster while in the minors on a conditioning stint.
A conditioning stint can last as long as two weeks. It’s an ideal opportunity for Zadina, 23, to build confidence before returning to the Wings. He has struggled to establish a role over several seasons, unable to show he belongs in the top six, and is not suited to being a grinder. In 169 games dating to 2018-19, Zadina has 25 goals among 61 points and a minus-49 rating.
Speaking in late January, Zadina said he was excited to resume playing, citing a new curve on his stick, and the love of a Staffordshire Bull Terrier puppy he and his girlfriend acquired around the time he got hurt, as sources of renewed optimism.
Contact Helene St. James at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @helenestjames. Read more on the Detroit Red Wings and sign up for our Red Wings newsletter. 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.