Brunnstrom to make Wings' debut
Swede to play on line with Eaves, Emmerton vs. Caps
Signed by the Wings in early October, Brunnstrom played his first 99 NHL games with the Dallas Stars. He scored 17 goals as a rookie and accumulated 40 points over the course of two seasons before spending the second half of last season in the AHL with the Toronto Marlies and the Texas Stars.
Although his last NHL game was more than 18 months ago, Brunnstrom isn’t worried about the time spent in the minors. “It doesn’t matter,” he said. “I mean, I’ve played in NHL games before, but now I’m going to play for the Red Wings and it’s going to be special. I just want to take advantage of the moment.”
Brunnstrom earned that opportunity by proving he deserved a roster spot at last month’s training camp. His performance in his professional tryout (PTO) was enough to get him back in the NHL, where he’ll toil Saturday night on the fourth line with forward Patrick Eaves and rookie center Cory Emmerton.
Brunnstrom’s value increased when forward Jan Mursak fractured his ankle in late September, an injury that could sideline him for three months. After beating out 35-year-old center Ryan Johnson for a spot, the Wings signed Brunnstrom to a one-year, two-way unrestricted free agent contract.
Coach Mike Babcock is positive about Brunnstrom’s future with the team.
“I think Brunnstrom’s a top-six forward; he’s going to play a lot on this team,” Babcock said. “He’s a real good player. We’ll just work that out.”
Brunnstrom is well-aware of what it takes to maintain that status.
“To be a top six forward on this team it’s going to be pretty hard with guys like Zetterberg and Datsyuk,” Brunnstrom said of Babcock’s affirmation. “But at the same time it’s a lot of fun to be able to practice with them every day and pick up a thing or two, and try to be better in something that I try to do every day.”
While the Wings picked up their first four wins of the season, Brunnstrom was busy getting physical off the ice.
“When you’re not playing you have a lot more energy and you can work in the gym or work after practices,” he said. “You do small stuff to make yourself better and to take advantage of the extra time.”
At 6-foot-1 and 206 pounds Brunnstrom is capable of playing a physical game while protecting the puck and scoring goals. The Wings are hoping he can revitalize his career in the same way that Andreas Lilja, Mikael Samuelsson and Danny Cleary did when they came to Detroit prior to the 2005-06 campaign.
It doesn’t hurt that the 26-year-old has six other countrymen on the team to mesh with and find a comfort zone in the locker room and on the ice. And who better to start his career under than Lidstrom.
“It’s going to be pretty special,” Brunnstrom said of the milestone Lidstrom is projected to hit on Saturday night. “I mean, 1,500 games – that’s pretty cool.”
With 99 games under his belt, he’s only a several hundred games away from the elder Swede’s mark.
“I’m trying to be the best player that I can be, and I’m just 26, so I think I have a lot of years to go,” Brunnstrom said. “I’ll just continue to work hard every day and see how good I can be.”