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Lilja is back where he belongs

Monday, 04.19.2010 / 5:04 PM ET / News
By Brian Compton  - NHL.com Staff Writer
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Lilja is back where he belongs
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DETROIT -- Andreas Lilja has recorded 90 penalty minutes or more three times in his NHL career, a strong indication that the Red Wings' defenseman never shied away from dropping the gloves.

But on Feb. 28, 2009, a fight with Nashville Predators defenseman Shea Weber nearly ended his career.

"He knocked me out," Lilja told NHL.com after his team practiced on Monday at Joe Louis Arena.

Weber did more than that. The force from his fists gave Lilja a concussion that kept him off the ice for an entire year. It was so bad that the 34-year-old had no choice but to contemplate retirement.

"In the beginning, I did," Lilja admitted. "I tried to stay positive the whole way. After seven and a half months of headaches, I went to see a guy in Vancouver who really helped me out. He got me symptom-free for three days, so I was like, 'OK ... it's only going to be a matter of time.' It took a year."
He decided he wanted to play and those are tough decisions for him and his family. Any time you're talking about head injuries, those are tough decisions and you hate when it happens. In saying that, you've got to give him credit for his determination and his will and his ability to battle back. - Coach Mike Babcock on Andreas Lilja

Lilja finally returned to the Wings' lineup on March 1 at Colorado. He played the final 20 games of the regular season, notching a goal and an assist with four penalty minutes. He's been in the lineup for all three of Detroit's postseason games against the Phoenix Coyotes and will be again when the teams meet for Game 4 on Tuesday night (6:30 p.m. EDT, TSN).

"There was a bunch of times," Wings' coach Mike Babcock said. "He decided he wanted to play and those are tough decisions for him and his family. Any time you're talking about head injuries, those are tough decisions and you hate when it happens. In saying that, you've got to give him credit for his determination and his will and his ability to battle back."

Detroit is in battle-back mode following a 4-2 loss to the Coyotes Sunday. Phoenix shocked the hockey world by winning 50 games during the regular season, good enough to earn the No. 4 seed in the Western Conference. Lilja, who has appeared in 45 NHL playoff games, thinks this best-of-seven series is primed to go the distance.

"I think it's going to probably go seven games," Lilja said. "But it's awesome. We're playing a really good team, so we have to step it up. They're not going to roll over and die and give it to us. We have to make sure we take care of business ourselves."

Just like how Lilja took care of business off the ice to make sure he could return to action. It was a long year -- probably the longest of his life -- but the former second-round draft pick (Los Angeles, 2000) is finally back to living a normal life and playing the game he loves.

"It's a really good feeling," Lilja said. "It's been quite a while that I've been without symptoms. It's just awesome to be out there and playing with the guys and battling. It's a lot of fun."


SCHEDULE

HOME
AWAY
PROMOTIONAL

STANDINGS

EASTERN CONFERENCE
  TEAM GP W L OT GF GA PTS
1 p - WSH 82 56 18 8 252 193 120
2 x - PIT 82 48 26 8 245 203 104
3 y - FLA 82 47 26 9 239 203 103
4 x - NYR 82 46 27 9 236 217 101
5 x - NYI 82 45 27 10 232 216 100
6 x - TBL 82 46 31 5 227 201 97
7 x - PHI 82 41 27 14 214 218 96
8 x - DET 82 41 30 11 211 224 93
9 BOS 82 42 31 9 240 230 93
10 CAR 82 35 31 16 198 226 86
11 OTT 82 38 35 9 236 247 85
12 NJD 82 38 36 8 184 208 84
13 MTL 82 38 38 6 221 236 82
14 BUF 82 35 36 11 201 222 81
15 CBJ 82 34 40 8 219 252 76
16 TOR 82 29 42 11 198 246 69

STATS

2015-2016 REGULAR SEASON
SKATERS: GP G A +/- Pts
H. Zetterberg 82 13 37 -15 50
P. Datsyuk 66 16 33 7 49
D. Larkin 80 23 22 11 45
T. Tatar 81 21 24 4 45
G. Nyquist 82 17 26 -2 43
J. Abdelkader 82 19 23 -16 42
M. Green 74 7 28 -6 35
B. Richards 68 10 18 4 28
D. Helm 77 13 13 -2 26
N. Kronwall 64 3 23 -21 26
 
GOALIES: W L OT Sv% GAA
P. Mrazek 27 16 6 .921 2.33
J. Howard 14 14 5 .906 2.80