GLENDALE, Ariz. – Of the celebratory cannon fire, howling wolves and triumphant rock anthems that permeate every NHL building when each home team scores, Carlo Colaiacovo’s least favorite used to be the screaming horn blasts from underneath the center-ice scoreboard at Joe Louis Arena.
But after hearing it three times in his Red Wings’ home debut on Monday, the veteran NHL defenseman had a change of heart.
“As an opponent you never liked hearing that horn go off. It’s usually not a sign of a good night,” said Colaiacovo, who returned from a shoulder injury on Monday. “But being on the home side of things, having the fans behind you on the plays that you make and the goals that you score, it’s an awesome feeling.”
A solid puck-moving defenseman, Colaiacovo missed 33 games with a sprained left shoulder that he sustained during the second game of the season at Columbus.
Just being back in the lineup is an astonishing sensation, said Colaiacovo, who signed in September to add depth to the Red Wings’ young defense.
Frustration doesn’t begin to explain the emotional merry-go-round that Colaiacovo has been on this year. Originally, it was believed that the Wings’ defenseman would be sidelined for a few weeks. But that diagnosis was quickly scrapped with one setback after another.
And now that it seems he’s back to 100 percent, coming to the arena every day without having to think about hours and days of rehabilitation and skating on his own has been a lot more fun, Colaiacovo said.
“I think that’s been my mindset for the last couple of days, just getting back to being a hockey player again,” he said. “It’s been an unbelievable feeling.”
The Red Wings begin the final push to the playoffs with the last quarter of the regular-season kicking off tonight in Glendale against the Phoenix Coyotes, who like the Wings, are fighting to secure a postseason spot.
Every point matters, and Colaiacovo, who has only played three games all season, understands that he must play smart, play responsibly in the defensive end, and move the puck up to the forwards.
“It’s one of the strong points of my game. I play with my head up and always look to make a clean play out of our end, tape to tape,” he said. “The puck is the hardest thing to get back when you lose it. When you get it, you don’t want to just keep giving it back to the other team by dumping it out. You want to make a possession pass. Knowing what you’re going to do with the puck before you go back and get it is a big thing for me. That’s one of the things I focus on all of the time.”
What he’s not concerned with is playing time. The Wings are getting guys back from injury, and soon will carry nine defensemen on the roster once defenseman Kyle Quincey is cleared to play. Brian Lashoff was recalled from the minors on Wednesday, and undrafted rookie free agent Danny DeKeyser is also in the mix.
“Depth is never a bad thing to have on defense. If you look at the unfortunate turn of events we’ve had this year, we’re going to need every guy going into (the playoffs),” Colaiacovo said. “It makes guys stay on top of their game, because there’s guys pushing to get into the lineup.”
Follow Bill Roose on Twitter | @Bill_Roose
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