TROY, Mich. – The instant that a reporter pointed out a gaping void along the Red Wings’ blue line, newcomer Carlo Colaiacovo wanted to make one thing abundantly known.
“I need to let everyone know I’m not coming in here to be Nick Lidstrom, no one can come in here and replace Nick Lidstrom,” said Colaiacovo, who’s played in 370 NHL games – that’s 1,194 games fewer than the future hall-of-famer amassed.
For the first time Colaiacovo (pronounced koh lee AK uh voh) met his new Red Wings’ teammates Friday for the players’ last informal practice at Troy Sports Center. The team will gather at Compuware Arena in Plymouth, Mich., for Sunday’s first day of a four day mini-training camp.
Colaiacovo’s signing adds needed depth to the Wings’ defense that has seen the departure of three top-four defensemen over the last few seasons, including Brian Rafalski (retirement) and Brad Stuart (signed with San Jose).
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When healthy, Colaiacovo’s a solid puck-moving defender, who can play in a multitude of situations. The 29-year-old has never played a full season in nine NHL campaigns, including the last four with the St. Louis Blues.
“Steady D-man, he has been throughout his career,” defenseman Niklas Kronwall said. “Great guy off the ice as well. Happy to have him on our team. He's always been tough to play against. His stick is everywhere, playing solid defensively, he' got really good skills offensively. It's a real good addition to our club.''
It’s expected that Colaiacovo, who suffered a sprained shoulder while playing for Team Canada at last month’s Spengler Cup in Switzerland, will begin the season as the Wings’ sixth defensemen, re-uniting him with Ian White. The two played three seasons together for the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Besides Colaiacovo and White as the third D-pairing, Wings coach Mike Babcock said they start the season with Kronwall-Jonathan Ericsson and Kyle Quincey-Brendan Smith as the top two pairings with Jakub Kindl as the seventh defenseman.
“Me and Whitey go way back,” Colaiacovo said. “We’re really good friends, we’ve stayed really good friends. We played together in the minors we played together in Toronto. I think we play off each other really well. But to me if I play with Whitey great, but it really doesn’t matter who I play with. I can play with Smitty, you look at with how I played with a young guy like (Alex) Pietrangelo last year. I consider myself a veteran guy that can help out the young guys whether it’s with Qunce, Ericsson or Kronny or Jakub. It really doesn’t matter. At the end of the day this is a team that competes to win the Cup every year and I’m just excited to be a part of that and I’m going to do whatever it takes to help out in that cause.”
Colaiacovo sees himself fitting into the Red Wings’ lineup as a complimentary figure who can play in every situation and help out young guys like Kindl and Smith.
“I’m pretty familiar with a lot of them and they can all pretty much do the same things that I do,’ Colaiacovo said. “At the end of the day we just want to put the puck in our forward’s hands. They’ve got all the skill and are world class players. That’s what I’m ultimately going to try and do.”
He had opportunities to join other clubs, but Colaiacovo decided that Detroit’s lineup, especially with its high-power offensive weaponry up front, was a better fit for the Toronto native.
“Playing with world-class players makes you step up your game even more and probably brings the best out of you,” Colaiacovo said. “That’s what I expect out of myself. To play up to their levels and be ultimately be the best that I can and like I said put the puck in their hands they do what they do for a living because they’re really good at it. Playing against them for a long time I know what they’re capable of doing. At the end of the day I just want to be a good puck mover and make good head’s up plays.”
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