Alex Chiasson relishes Red Wings chance: ‘I’m trying to make the most of this opportunity’

Detroit News

Detroit — Alex Chiasson didn’t really expect it, but it’s obvious listening to him that he appreciates this.

Chiasson was in the minor leagues, with the Grand Rapids Griffins, when the Red Wings signed him to an NHL contract Friday, a one-year contract worth $750,000 for the remainder of this season.

Chiasson, 32, had been without an NHL job until joining the Griffins in late November. Returning to the NHL, you could tell this meant a lot.

“I didn’t see it coming,” Chiasson said of the promotion. “I was trying to just focus on my stuff. But these last four days have been quite the ride for me emotionally. It’s been a long road this year to get here. This is Year 11 in the NHL for me and I took a step back a little bit to start the year, and to come here, it’s a big accomplishment for myself and definitely something I’m really proud of.

“I’m trying to make the most of this opportunity.”

The Wings recalled Chiasson on Friday afternoon after the trade deadline. They needed depth after trading forwards Tyler Bertuzzi, Jakub Vrana and Oskar Sundqvist, and seeing Michael Rasmussen (lower-body) go down for the season after taking a slap shot near his knee.

Chiasson got the news from Shawn Horcoff, a former teammate in Dallas and currently the Wings’ assistant general manager and Griffins GM.

“I was new to the league and Shawn was a guy that helped me around and helped create good habits (in Dallas),” Chiasson said. “It caught me by surprise a little bit (Friday), but I just got ready in 15 minutes, got my stuff together and we had a game the next day at 12:30 p.m. (on Long Island on Saturday, against the Islanders), so it’s been a quick turnaround,” Chiasson said. “It’s nice this week to be here for the week and get a little settled in for the rest of the season and spend some more time with the guys,

“It’s not too bad of a locker room, too, and a nice building to be in.”

Chiasson had nine goals and 11 assists (20 points) in 29 games with the Griffins. He was playing every role and contributing on and off the ice with his experience.

“They were very happy with him in Grand Rapids,” coach Derek Lalonde said.

Chiasson’s versatility will be important for the Wings these final weeks, being able to fill roles on both special teams along up and down any of the forward lines. But also the veteran experience and savvy he can impart on younger players could be invaluable.

“I’ve played for a while, I won a (Stanley) Cup (2018 with Washington), I have experience, my day-to-day habits have helped me throughout my career,” Chiasson said of his attributes. “This is a fairly young group, and you mix in with older guys, good veterans that can help, that’s definitely something I can bring to the group as far as my game.

“A lot of my goals in my career have been around the net, so I can bring a little bit of that. I’ve had a lot of seasons over double-digit goals (six times, with high of 22). I can help on the special teams as well. It’s kind of been the story of my career, just kind of move up and down the lineup and help out anyway I can. I’ve played a lot of roles.”

The time in Grand Rapids helped Chiasson in different ways.

“I needed to get playing and that was my road to get back to the NHL,” Chiasson said. “I needed to get playing and it was a great opportunity for myself to go down there. I played a lot of minutes, played the power play, penalty kill, four-on-four, three-on-three, a lot of things I haven’t really done throughout my career and it gave me confidence in my games.

“It was great. It makes you appreciate when you’re here a lot more, I’ll tell you that.”

Having played 633 games in the NHL, beginning in 2012 with Dallas, Chiasson wasn’t ever the type of player who took it for granted. But what he went through this season solidified how special the NHL is.

“I never took it for granted, never took it for granted,” he said. “I always worked for my opportunities, I’ve had a lot of one-year deals in my career and I’ve had to prove myself year after year. I’ve always said the NHL is a privilege. It’s one thing to make it but to stick around and stay, it’s a tough league to be in and to play a lot of years.

“I’m trying to squeeze everything I got out of me and make the most of this opportunity.”

Chiasson played on a line with Pius Suter and Adam Erne against the Islanders and Philadelphia Flyers, saw some power play time, and generally impressed Lalonde.

“I liked him in practice today, he looks like an NHLer,” Lalonde said. “He’s reliable. He had a good weekend for us. I really didn’t know what to expect, and he did what we asked of him. He managed the puck, and he was fine on the power play. I Iiked that line. It gave us some push, it never hurt us. He had a couple of opportunities to make plays.”

Blackhawks at Red Wings

▶ Faceoff: 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Little Caesars Arena, Detroit

▶ TV/radio: TNT/97.1 FM

▶ Outlook: The Blackhawks (22-36-5) barely resemble last year’s team, never mind the three-time Stanley Cup champs from 2010-15. … Chicago is coming off an impressive 5-0 victory Monday over Ottawa, ending a four-game losing streak. … The Blackhawks defeated the Wings 4-3, in overtime, in October. … D Seth Jones (10 goals, 31 points) is a rare remaining veteran.

Twitter: @tkulfan

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