Filip Zadina returns, Jakub Vrana stays in Detroit Red Wings’ lineup. Here’s why

Detroit Free Press

Lucas Raymond’s continued absence helped Filip Zadina return to the Detroit Red Wings’ lineup.

“I really wanted to get Zadina back in,” coach Derek Lalonde said Thursday evening. “He played well previous to the scratch the other day.”

The Wings’ didn’t have a morning skate, unusual after being off Wednesday, but blame that on a situation Lalonde didn’t have to deal with during his four years as an assistant coach with the Tampa Bay Lightning: The ice storm that blanketed the Detroit metro area. The Wings are used to skating on ice, but driving on it in the morning was deemed unnecessary in a joint decision by Lalonde and general manager Steve Yzerman.

“Steve and I talked last night and we thought it might be an option,” Lalonde said. “Better safe than sorry. It was the right thing to do.”

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Raymond hasn’t played since suffering a lower-body injury in a collision with teammate Ben Chiarot on Feb. 10. Lalonde sounded encouraged Raymond could be available Saturday, when the Wings play the Lightning.

Vrana played his first NHL game in four months Tuesday when he suited up against the Washington Capitals. He played the first two games of the season, then was placed in the NHL and NHLPA players assistance program. He was reinstated Dec. 16, loaned to the Grand Rapids Griffins on a conditioning stint Dec. 28, placed on waivers Jan. 3, and assigned to the minors Jan. 4 after clearing.

After a slow start in the minors, Vrana was on a six-game point streak when he was recalled Feb. 15. He was a healthy scratch for three games before finally getting an opportunity again.

“The other day it felt like the right opportunity, let’s see what we have,” Lalonde said. “He looked good. He did some good things. Was he caught in some turnovers he probably wants back, was he caught in a couple missed defensive reads? Yeah, and that’s probably a little bit of the rust. But he did some good things, had a couple backchecks that got our group very excited, and he got some pucks on net, looked very dangerous. So he’ll get another opportunity.”

Vrana has 22 goals in the 40 games he has played with the Wings since being acquired at the 2021 trade deadline. The Wings risked losing him for nothing by placing him on waivers. Now he’s back with the team, just ahead of the March 3 trade deadline. This late in the season, most of his salary has been paid, and the Wings can retain as much as 50% of next year’s salary if an offer materializes. They could also keep him, in the hopes he can help their efforts to advance to the playoffs for the first time since 2016.

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That’s Yzerman’s decision. Lalonde’s is to get the best out of Vrana when he is in the lineup.

“We want him managing his game like everyone else’s, too,” Lalonde said. “I think the average hockey person can see he may leave some things out there on the defensive side for that offense, which, players are like that. I dealt with many of those in Tampa. It’s kind of the reality of the league.”

It was a bit of a surprise that Zadina was scratched Tuesday, because he was playing well, and had only just returned after missing three months recovering from a leg injury. Lalonde said at the time he “didn’t love” making that decision, and explained why it wasn’t made twice.

“You could see him consciously make an effort to be connected with our group,” Lalonde said. “He was managing his shift, he was managing his puck, you didn’t see those turnovers that have been part of his DNA a little bit in his past. He created some offense.”

Contact Helene St. James at 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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