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Stuart returns with mixed emotions

Former Red Wings' D-man is looking forward to first game back

Wednesday, 04.10.2013 / 9:19 PM ET / News
By Bill Roose  - Managing Editor | DetroitRedWings.com
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Stuart returns with mixed emotions

Brad Stuart
Defense - SJS
GOALS: 0 | ASST: 5 | PTS: 5
SOG: 34 | +/-: 1
DETROIT – Nearly a year has passed since Brad Stuart walked out of Joe Louis Arena for the last time as a Red Wing.

On Wednesday, the veteran defenseman returned to Hockeytown – for the first time since joining the San Jose Sharks during the off-season – to the site of the 2008 Stanley Cup championship that he helped acquire.

“It’s nice to be back. I’ve got a lot of good memories here, but it’s a little strange at the same time coming into the other side of the locker room,” said Stuart, following the Sharks’ practice on Wednesday. “I’m sure tomorrow night will be a little different, fun, but I’m looking forward to it. It’ll be a fun experience and I’m sure it will be fun to come back and play here.”

Thursday’s home game against the Sharks is Stuart’s only visit to Detroit this season, and the third and final game of the season series between these two Western Conference rivals. The first two games this year were at HP Pavilion, where the Sharks managed to earn three points in a shootout loss (Feb. 28) and a win (March 28) over the Wings.

Last spring, Stuart requested, and was granted, a trade to the Sharks so that he could be closer to his wife and young boys, who live in northern California. A custody issue with her teenage daughter from a previous marriage prohibited Stuart’s wife from relocating to Michigan during his four years with the Red Wings. So the Wings would often allow him to miss occasional practices so he could fly home to visit his family.

Being away from his family was painful for Stuart. He was a favorite among the Wings’ coaching staff and his teammates, which made his decision to return to a team on the West Coast even more difficult.

The Red Wings definitely miss Stuart’s steadiness along the blue line and in the defensive zone, but the Sharks are certainly glad to have the 33-year-old, who is one of two defensemen to play in every game for San Jose this season.

Veteran goalie Antti Niemi appreciates what Stuart’s calm demeanor means to the Sharks.

“He’s good in both ends with the puck and great at making the break out passes, blocking shots and pretty good in front of the net,” Niemi said. “He makes all of the right plays. He’s definitely a goalie’s defenseman.”

While he didn’t run into any former coaches or players on Wednesday, Stuart knows that this visit isn’t about fraternizing with old friends as much as it is adding two-points with a win. The Sharks currently reside in the No. 5 spot in the conference playoff standings, and he’s fully aware that the points are probably a little more important to his former teammates, who are clawing to hold onto a 22nd straight playoff berth.

“It’s going to be a good game, and they’re still a good team,” Stuart said. “They still have a lot of elite-caliber players and a lot of desperation to go along with that. That’s a dangerous combination and as a group we have to be ready for that, and be aware of the guys that can hurt you.”

The Sharks had been riding a pretty good crest until Tuesday when they began a four-game road trip in Columbus, where they were shutout, 4-0, by the surging Blue Jackets.

“We didn’t have the desire, I don’t think, to get in and cause havoc on the forecheck, and made it easy on the other team,” Stuart said. “It was 1-nothing after the first and we were in a good position, I thought. Then we made a couple of mistakes and it was 3-nothing. They hadn’t done anything spectacular, we kind of handed them a couple of goals, but give them credit, they were opportunistic and we couldn’t get anything going in the third.”

But expect the Sharks to return to their physical nature and make the Red Wings earn every inch of space on Thursday, especially with their big forwards, led by 6-foot-5 defenseman Brent Burns, who has been used on a forward line with center Joe Thornton and Marty Havlat quite often this season.

“As we were playing better that’s one thing that was standing out, our forecheck and how our guys were using their size and their speed to get in and cause turnovers,” Stuart said. “We need that again tomorrow. If you can get guys who are 6-4, 6-5, getting in there and using their body, good thing are going to happen. So we need that tomorrow. We didn’t have that last night and you saw the results.”

Follow Bill Roose on Twitter | @Bill_Roose

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EASTERN CONFERENCE
  TEAM GP W L OT GF GA PTS
1 p - NYR 82 53 22 7 248 187 113
2 y - MTL 82 50 22 10 214 184 110
3 x - TBL 82 50 24 8 259 206 108
4 x - WSH 82 45 26 11 237 199 101
5 x - NYI 82 47 28 7 245 224 101
6 x - DET 82 43 25 14 231 211 100
7 x - OTT 82 43 26 13 232 208 99
8 x - PIT 82 43 27 12 217 204 98
9 BOS 82 41 27 14 209 201 96
10 FLA 82 38 29 15 198 213 91
11 CBJ 82 42 35 5 227 248 89
12 PHI 82 33 31 18 212 223 84
13 NJD 82 32 36 14 176 209 78
14 CAR 82 30 41 11 183 219 71
15 TOR 82 30 44 8 206 257 68
16 BUF 82 23 51 8 153 269 54

STATS

2014-2015 REGULAR SEASON
SKATERS: GP G A +/- Pts
H. Zetterberg 77 17 49 -6 66
P. Datsyuk 63 26 39 12 65
T. Tatar 82 29 27 6 56
G. Nyquist 82 27 27 -11 54
J. Abdelkader 71 23 21 3 44
N. Kronwall 80 9 35 -4 44
R. Sheahan 79 13 23 -3 36
D. Helm 75 15 18 7 33
D. DeKeyser 80 2 29 11 31
S. Weiss 52 9 16 -2 25
 
GOALIES: W L OT Sv% GAA
J. Howard 23 13 11 .910 2.44
P. Mrazek 16 9 2 .918 2.38

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