Over a dozen Red Wings players and two other NHL players took the ice at Troy Sports Center for an informal practice yesterday morning. Not only were recently signed players Brian Rafalski and Dallas Drake there, but Igor Grigorenko made his first appearance in North America. GM Ken Holland, Assistant GM Jim Nill, and vice president and former captain Steve Yzerman also attended the practice to watch Grigorenko.
Some of his teammates were a bit curious to see him play after hearing so much about him.
"He was a name that was certainly on the radar," Kris Draper said. "We were kind of peeking at him when he was going on the ice.
"He seems like he has a great set of hands, holding onto the puck. Training camp and exhibition games are going to give a pretty good feel of what he's capable of doing. Hopefully, he can step in and be a good surprise, kind of like when (Pavel Datsyuk) came over."
Even Holland wasn't quite sure what to expect.
"You know, he's an unknown for me," Holland said. "In the sense of, how close is he to being NHL-ready? This is a big month.
"Obviously, we're going to give him some time. He hardly speaks the language. ...
"You know, it's a different style of hockey. I know he's got the hands and the head."
After veteran Igor Larionov helped a young Pavel Datsyuk transition to the North American style of hockey and the American lifestyle, Datsyuk will help mentor Grigorenko who doesn't know English (and his only 2 interviews with the press were through his agent who translated).
"My English not well," Datsyuk said. "But I try to help.
"Try to take care of him. Before, everybody help me. Now it's my turn to help."
Defenseman Niklas Kronwall also participated in the informal practice and said that he was pain free and seems to have fully recovered from that fractured sacrum he suffered shortly before the start of playoffs. It sounds like his conditioning isn't quite where he'd like it to be, but he's healthy.
"Things feel good," he said. "Maybe I don't have that edge quite yet, but I feel like it's coming more and more every day I'm on the ice."
John Niyo of the Detroit News also reports some encouraging news on his blog. Henrik Zetterberg had some back and wrist troubles over the summer, but apparently it's no longer flared up.
Holland said Z's midsummer back flareup was brief and minor and that he has been skating and working out without any setbacks since. The wrist is fine, too, apparently. We'll just have to wait and see how long that lasts, I guess.