Fans and NHL insiders are eager to get another glimpse of the new-look, Anthony Mantha-less Detroit Red Wings.
Everyone will get their chance tonight when the Red Wings face the Chicago Blackhawks at Little Caesars Arena. Opening faceoff is 7:30 p.m.
Hours after Monday’s trade deadline news broke of Mantha being jettisoned to the Washington Capitals for forwards Jakub Vrana and Richard Panik and two high draft picks, the Red Wings passed their first test by frustrating the Central Division-leading Carolina Hurricanes, 3-1.
Now comes the test to see where Vrana and Panik fit into the rebuild.
“I’m going to do my best to fit in as quick as possible.”
– Jakub Vrana
Both practiced with Red Wings on Wednesday and are slated to debut tonight. Vrana skated on the second line with Michael Rasmussen and Valtteri Filppula. Panik worked out on the third line with Vladislav Namestnikov and Sam Gagner, according to MLive.com.
During a post-practice press conference, Vrana presented a verbal scouting report.
“I’m a strong skater. I got speed. I got a good shot. I can create offense, create some momentum, just help the team at the important moments,” he said via Red Wings TV. “I’m going to do my best to fit in as quick as possible.”
Translation: He will try to avoid his tendencies of playing invisible hockey.
Red Wings Newcomer Has ‘Mixed Feelings’
Since Monday’s trade was announced and hit a fever pitch with fans once they realized what GM Steve Yzerman accomplished, much has been made of how Vrana’s talent trajectory matches Mantha. Both possess electric offensive abilities but often get lost in their defensive liabilities.
With the Red Wings, Vrana, who reportedly engaged in verbal scraps with Capitals coach Peter Laviolette, will try to rehabilitate his reputation as a team player. After experiencing an unexpected role in the Capitals’ 2018 Stanley Cup run, collecting eight points in 23 playoff games, his progression has proven slow. He is pointless in his past 15 postseason appearances.
Of the transaction, Vrana said he had “mixed feelings.”
Watching him tonight for the first time, some Red Wings fans will share similar emotions.
“This is a great historical club,” he said.
Tonight, Vrana can start making his own history with the club.