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Cooled off, Brunner is still contributing

First-year NHL star learns to deal with season's ups and downs

Saturday, 03.16.2013 / 4:51 AM ET / News
By Bill Roose  - DetroitRedWings.com
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Cooled off, Brunner is still contributing

Damien Brunner
Center - DET
GOALS: 10 | ASST: 9 | PTS: 19
SOG: 82 | +/-: -5
EDMONTONDamien Brunner is in the midst of his second cross country road trip since joining the Red Wings during the off-season.

In his previous life, the former European star rarely traveled more than three-hours by bus with his team to an opponent’s rink in Switzerland’s top league. Now he’s trying to get acclimated to traveling five-hours by plane to places like Edmonton and Los Angeles.

“Yeah, that's the tough part with the travel and stuff, but you know that's the mental thing you got to work through,” Brunner said. “It's a fun experience and it's a challenge you got to expect. I have to get mentally prepared every game and get the best out of it.”

Brunner certainly was the Wings’ biggest surprise in the first half of the 48-game compressed season. Most hockey folks thought the toughest thing for Brunner to overcome was getting used to the smaller ice surfaces of the NHL. Initially, it looked like Brunner fit into the league without skipping a beat, producing six goals and three assists in his first 12 games.

However, Brunner wasn’t stunned by his fast start.

“You should never be surprised,” he said. “I came over here, had a good half year in Switzerland, had a lot of confidence. I just tried to put not too much pressure on myself. I'm going to go out there and work hard and it worked out.

“I had expectations but by the end of the day, you don't know until you play the first game.”

But since then he’s come back to earth, and he’s scoreless in his last eight games, which the 27-year-old finds a little puzzling.

“Last four years I never had (an) eight-game streak without a goal,” he said. “But I have to get the good memories back in my head and start scoring.”

While Friday’s 3-2 overtime win over the Oilers at Rexall Place represented his ninth straight scoreless game, Brunner did quietly contribute to Valtteri Filppula’s third-period goal. As Filppula skated into the mid-slot off the half wall, Brunner gave Ray Whitney enough of a nudge that knocked the Oilers’ defenseman off balance and prevented him from making a play on Filppula, who scored on a back-hander at 4:27.

“I was able to get the puck, just trying to create enough room so I could get a shot off and Brunner did a good job in front,” Filppula said. “I don't think the goalie saw the puck.''

Coach Mike Babcock likes to measure a play by what he’s done in the previous five games. If a player has three or more points, Babcock calls him a “significant player” for his team. Brunner entered Friday’s game as such a player, with three assists in the last five contests.

“It’s like anything, the season this year with 48 games in 96 or 100 days, or whatever, is a grind, and if you’re coming from Switzerland it’s probably really a grind,” Babcock said. “The mental toughness to be an every-dayer, to keep your confidence, to do it right all of the time is a challenge. Him and I have spoke about that for sure. In saying that, when you go through our group, and you’re saying ‘OK, I’m going to take someone out,’ he’s got 10 goals, and three assists in his last five games. To some guys that’s a home run, three assists in his last five games.”

Follow Bill Roose on Twitter | @Bill_Roose

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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