DETROIT – When Riley Sheahan scored his first career NHL goal in Detroit’s 3-1 victory over Los Angeles Saturday, Red Wings’ fans cheered with enthusiasm but few celebrated as loudly as the center’s family.
“My mom (Peggy) was just telling me stories about the people dancing around the house and things like that,” Sheahan said. “So it was cool to share that with them and they had a good time with it.”
Although netting the goal was an exciting moment for Sheahan, he didn’t have time to dwell on the accomplishment as the Red Wings and Kings still had two periods of hockey left to play. It wasn’t until after the game when Sheahan picked up his cell phone and read the countless messages of congratulations that the magnitude of his goal set in.
“It was definitely a little bit surreal,” Sheahan said. “But you’re kind of in the moment of the game and you just sort of think about how you can help the team win. It sort of started to build more towards when the game ended and I started checking my phone and saw all the text messages and people congratulating me so that was pretty special.”
Sheahan’s success at Staples Center didn’t end with his goal, as the 22-year-old also assisted on Tomas Tatar’s game-winning goal midway through the final period. But it was the puck that he snuck by Kings goalie Jonathan Quick that Sheahan will carry with him for years to come.
“It’ll be nice to get it framed and maybe with a picture in there or something,” Sheahan said. “But it’s pretty special.”
The St. Catherines, Ontario, native has also recorded three assists in the six games he’s appeared in for Detroit this season. Sheahan was initially called up from the club’s minor-league affiliate in Grand Rapids on Dec. 17, and hopes alleviating the pressure of netting his first NHL goal will help him continue to excel in the league.
“Yeah definitely now since I got the first one I’m just going to keep trying to contribute and keep playing my offensive game,” he said.
Sheahan is one of 11 players from the AHL’s Gapids Griffins who has spent time with Detroit this season as the Red Wings continue to struggle with injuries, and their contributions haven’t gone unnoticed.
“They’re good players,” Wings coach Mike Babcock said. “They can help us. That’s what’s supposed to happen in hockey, they eventually take jobs here. They’ve been real good here when they’ve come up.”
Sheahan attributes the success of his Griffins’ teammates in the NHL to the culture that has been built in Grand Rapids.
“We got a really good system down there, great coaching, a great group of guys down there,” Sheahan said. “So when you go down there it’s a really easy environment to sort of get better. They push you a lot in the weight room, and on the ice during practice is pretty intense so it’s helped a lot for me and I know the other guys as well.”
And the young player are taking advantage of every opportunity they receive to showcase their talents and try to earn a permanent spot on Detroit’s roster.
“They’re getting a huge opportunity because of the amount of people we’re missing,” Babcock said. “Anytime guys can help, guys appreciate it. You’re up here trying to take someone else’s job, that’s what it’s all about.”
HOMECOMING: The Red Wings will return to The Joe after a 26-day hiatus from their home rink when they host Los Angeles Saturday. The last time Detroit played at the arena was in a 3-0 loss to the New York Islanders on Dec. 23.
INJURY UPDATE: Defenseman Jonathan Ericsson participated in his first full practice on Tuesday after suffering fractured ribs against the Islanders before Christmas. Although there isn’t an official timeline for Ericsson’s return, the defenseman hopes he’ll be ready when the Red Wings host the Kings.
"I'm kind of aiming for Saturday myself,” he said. “We'll see what the doctors are saying. We don't want to rush into it. We've struggled with injuries over the year here, so I want guys to be feeling pretty good and not having a setback when they come back. But we'll see what happens."
Johan Franzen (concussion) has been practicing with contact, but still has difficulty focusing and continues to suffer from dizziness. His status will be determined after Wednesday’s practice at City Sports Arena.
Darren Helm (groin) is day-to-day and believes he’s one strong practice away from returning to the lineup.
"I need to get a couple good skates under my belt, one really good one and then I'll go,” Helm said. “I don't know when that's gonna be."
Backup goalie Jonas Gustavsson (groin) skated with the team Tuesday but is unsure when he will return.
“We haven’t talked about Thursday, we’ll see,” Gustavsson said. “For me it’s just about getting better and better now and taking the next step. It’s good to be able to skate a little bit with the team today and that felt good but I don’t know if I’m going to be back Thursday or this weekend or when it is.”
Captain Henrik Zetterberg didn’t skate at practice Tuesday, taking a maintenance day according to Babcock. Daniel Alfredsson (back spasms) and Pavel Datsyuk (lower body injury) continue to be day-to-day and their status to return this week is uncertain.
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