TROY, Mich. – Getting geared up for the start of the upcoming abbreviated 2013 season will be a challenge for everyone, but even more so for guys like Jordin Tootoo, who is starting over in a NHL city.
Tootoo is back in town to participate in informal skates with his new Red Wings teammates at the Troy Sports Arena. He was joined by forwards Justin Abdelkader, Johan Franzen and Drew Miller on Wednesday morning.
After playing 486 games with the Nashville Predators, Tootoo signed a three-year contract with the Red Wings in July. Team chemistry will be a big factor in a shortened season for Tootoo, as well as forward Damien Brunner, defenseman Carlo Colaiacovo and goalie Jonas Gustavsson – all newcomers to the Wings.
“Guys come and go throughout the year and we understand it’s going to be a quick process,” Tootoo said. “We got to make every opportunity count. For me, it’s taking it one day at a time and making sure I’m mentally and physically prepared for whatever’s thrown at me.”
Tootoo spent much of the lockout at home in Rankin Inlet on the northwestern coast of Hudson Bay in Nunavut, and trained off and on with the Kelowna Rockets of the Western Hockey League.
“Physically, I feel great,” he said. “We’ve been in practices here the last four months with the Rockets, so about 10 of us in Kelowna are maybe a couple steps ahead of some other guys that are coming back. You can practice all you want, it’s about being in game shape and I think it might take one or two or three good, hard practices with the big men.”
It’s been reported on some web sites that a short training camp will start Sunday with a 48-game regular-season beginning on Jan. 19.
Getting ready for the season, from learning new systems, whether that means implementing a new penalty-kill or power play, the success of teams will hinge on coaches and players getting onto the same page from the start.
“Chemistry is always a big thing but at the same time you play within your system, guys know where they need to be and where they need to go,” Abdelkader said. “Whoever you play with it’s going to be a quick turnaround, a lot different than what we’re used to with no preseason games and a shortened camp. At the same time I think we’re ready to get things started and get playing games. It’s got its pros and cons. We’ll just have to work hard next week and be ready for the weekend.”
With the year-round nutrition and fitness regiments followed by the majority of players it’s expected that the Red Wings’ players will hit the ice in good shape. For one, Franzen said he hasn’t felt this good in a long, long time.
“Body feels good,” Franzen said. “The knees are good and the body feels good in general. Maybe this was a well needed break. Hopefully it’ll do some good.”
It’s been speculated that those players who played in European leagues during the lockout will inherently have an advantage at the start of the season, which is viewed as a race to the playoffs.
“Guys have been skating here, but the biggest difference will be game shape and playing in different game situations,” said Miller, who played 21 games for Braehead Clan in Scotland. “That’s the big reason I went over there, I wanted to stay sharp and play in game situations. Guys will have an advantage, but guys here won’t be that far behind. They’ve been skating and doing mini camps to try and stay sharp.”
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