Red Wings forward Jakub Vrana reinstated by NHL/NHLPA player assistance program
detroit — It’s unclear when Detroit Red Wings forward Jakub Vrana will return to the lineup, but right now, that’s not what matters to him or anyone else in the team’s locker room.
He is happy to be back with the boys.
Vrana, 26, returned to practice with the Red Wings (10-13-6) Friday in a blue non-contact jersey after the NHL and NHL Players Association announced that he has been removed from the NHL Training Program. Player Assistance.
“I feel amazing. I’m very happy to be back, to see the guys. It’s really positive and I’m happy to be back here,” Vrana said.
Vrana has been out of the team since October 19, when she joined the program indefinitely. He was cleared to play after receiving treatment and “has entered the follow-up care phase” of the program, according to the statement.
Vrana answered questions from the media on Friday but declined to speak in detail about her experience on the show. The Player Assistance Program is extensive. It is designed to give players the right to a confidential experience, if they so choose, to encourage them to seek help when necessary.
“There are bigger things in life than hockey. You’re going to put it in order. You’re going to deal with some things that are sad, that are bigger than hockey, or whatever,” Vrana said. “It’s important to make that decision and, (before) it’s too late, or whatever, you have to make some decisions that are more important in your life.
“And hockey goes in addition.”
Vrana, a native of Prague, Czech Republic, said he’s been skating “a little bit” but doesn’t know when he’ll be physically fit to get back on the ice for a game.
“I’ve been trying to stay fit as much as I could and I felt really good on the ice. Now, it’s just a matter of time. Obviously, it’s not my decision. I just follow orders and do my best.” I can every day,” said Vrana. “…It’s up to other people to make that decision, you know? I just come here and work hard and see where it takes me.”
Red Wings head coach Derek Lalonde also offered no clarity on that front, but said he wants to make sure the team is “really patient” with Vrana integrating back into things, especially “with all the bodies out.” “. According to Lalonde, “it will be a day-to-day type of process with Jakub.”
“It’s great to have him back… Now the next step is when we think he might be ready for the game. Obviously, he’s been out for more than two months,” Lalonde said. “…We want to put him in the best position to be successful when he’s ready for the game. When will that be? I don’t know.”
However, the Detroit coach didn’t hesitate when asked what Vrana’s skill set brings to the lineup: “Goals,” he said.
Vrana, the 13th pick in the 2014 draft, was acquired by the Red Wings at the 2021 trade deadline in a deal that included former Red Wings first-round pick Anthony Mantha. Since joining the Red Wings, Vrana has 22 goals and 10 assists in 39 games over parts of three seasons. Shoulder surgery kept Vrana out of the lineup until Game No. 58 for Detroit a season ago; He played two games this season — he had a goal and an assist in the team’s second game — before entering the Player Assistance Program.
“He is a natural finisher. His numbers show it. His goals per game, his goals per 60, (he is) one of our best players,” Lalonde said.
The Red Wings got some good news on two of the top six forwards on Friday, as captain Dylan Larkin also returned to practice, wearing a no-contact jersey. Larkin came out of Tuesday’s loss to Carolina after being shot in the hand and missed Wednesday’s loss at Minnesota, but is expected to be a “gametime decision” for Saturday’s game against the Senators. Ottawa (1 p.m., Little Caesars Arena).
Still, the fact that Larkin gets a chance to return on Saturday is a hugely positive development for the Wings. There were reasons to worry that Larkin would miss extended time with the injury, especially after Tyler Bertuzzi made his second trip to injured reserve this season, both times after blocking a shot with his hand. Lalonde said the matinee puck drop, and lack of morning skate, in Saturday’s game against Ottawa (13-14-2) could cloud the process of whether Larkin is ready to play.
“It was encouraging. Going into practice, I didn’t know if I was going to be able to practice. Obviously, a lot of reps today,” Lalonde said. “We’ll see how he responds in practice. Unfortunately, we don’t have a morning skate tomorrow, so there will be a lot of gray areas on a lot of guys.”
“And (Larkin will) probably be a game time decision, which is a positive, obviously, from where we were a couple of days ago.”
back on the blue line
Defender Filip Hronek, who was enjoying a year of recovery (six goals and 18 assists in 29 games) before taking a terrifying blow from Wild forward Ryan Reaves on Wednesday, looks set for Saturday. He fully participated in Friday’s practice.
Olli Matta returned to practice for the Red Wings on Friday after pneumonia that has kept him out of the lineup since a Dec. 6 win over Tampa Bay. Maatta said he has had the disease four or five times in his life and takes antibiotics.
“It was pretty bad. It didn’t feel like a regular flu at all,” Maatta said. “It took a couple of days to figure it out and luckily we have great medical staff here so we finally figured out what it is… but it wasn’t fun.”
Lalonde included Maatta in the “grey area” players mentioned above, noting that the Red Wings freshman defenseman was “working” through practice, “which is certainly understandable.”
“He’ll probably do warm-ups tomorrow and it’ll be a post-warm-up decision on how he feels,” Lalonde said.
Red Wings vs Senators
Confrontation: 1:00 p.m. Saturday, Little Caesars Arena, Detroit
Panorama: Since closing out November with a four-game winning streak, the Red Wings have lost seven of their last nine (2-5-2), including four in a row (0-3-1). The Senators aren’t stepping up like many thought they would this year, but they won three straight coming into Saturday and have won seven of their last 10 games.