TROY, Mich. There were a few new faces joining the Red Wings Thursday at the Troy Sports Center.
Henrik Zetterberg, Valtteri Filppula, Kyle Quincey and Brendan Smith were back with their teammates for the first time in a long time.
Zetterberg was playing for EV Zug in the Swiss League, Filppula was playing for Jokerit in the Finnish League and Smith was playing for the Grand Rapids Griffins in the AHL.
"I packed up, went back to Sweden for a couple of hours and then I came back here late last night," Zetterberg said.
Said Filppula: "Its fun. I missed it a lot. It was good to play back home, too, but I was definitely hoping that we could get back soon and now we get to play back here and Im really happy about it."
Quincey, who has a house in Denver and spent time skating with his friend's expansion team, was also happy to return.
"It was good to just to see the boys again," Quincey said. "We only had five-six guys skating in Denver."
Smith, who was told to find a permanent base in the metro Detroit area, was downright giddy.
"Im ecstatic," Smith said. "Every time I get to come up here and play with these guys and just to share the ice with them Im always happy. I think Im more excited so I can finally get up here. As a young kid this is your goal to being up here and now that we got the lockout done its great."
The great news for the Wings is that Filppula, who suffered a knee injury playing for Jokerit, has been skating and expects to be ready for the season.
"Tuesday was two months exactly (since the injury)," Filppula said. "I just run into a guy and it was kind of a situation that happened lots in the game and I guess it was back luck that I twisted my knee a little. But nothing that looked too serious, but obviously it hurt.
"It feels good enough. Ive been skating for a week, a week and a half now and I feel pretty good."
No one knows quite how to predict how good the Wings will be this season.
But to start, coach Mike Babcock will be going with an old favorite, reuniting the Euro Twins by putting Zetterberg on a line with Pavel Datsyuk and Zetterberg's EV Zug teammate, Damien Brunner.
"He's obviously a goal-scorer, but he's got more qualities than that," Zetterberg said of Brunner. "He's a good skater, sees the ice very well and he wants to win. That's a good quality to have."
Filppula will be back at center, playing with Johan Franzen and Mikael Samuelsson.
"I still played more center than a wing," Filppula said. "Im comfortable playing center, I like it a lot, so I dont think that way it will be a big difference."
Darren Helm will center the third line, playing with Danny Cleary and Todd Bertuzzi. Justin Abdelkader will center Drew Miller and Jordin Tootoo.
On defense, the Wings will have to find a way without Nick Lidstrom.
Niklas Kronwall and Jonathan Ericsson will be the top pair, Quincey and Smith will play together and Ian White and Jakub Kindl will be a pair. Carlo Colaiacovo will be added to the mix when his sprained shoulder allows.
"I think we have seven great D," Quincey said. "Whoever I do get paired with its going to be great. Smitty is a great skater and puck mover. Well complement each other really well."
Quincey and Smith have been paired together before.
"He was my D partner and I played the second power play with him a bit," Smith said. "I played my off wing a lot, even when I was in Grand Rapids. Im very familiar with that. I think he likes his strong side. He understands the game real well and I think he complements my game a lot.
:If Im jumping up in the rush hes right there or vice versa. Im excited to play with him. Hes a big body, too, I kind of like how hell finish the check and Ill come in and pick up the puck nice and easily."
But the defense is not expected to be as good without Lidstrom and Brad Stuart, who is back with the San Jose Sharks and reunited with his family.
"I cant replace these guys," Smith said. "Especially a guy like Brad Stuart. He was phenomenal for our team last year, just the things that he did. He blocked so many shots and played so hard. He was always matched up against the top lines.
"As for Nick, I dont know if there is anyone in the league that could step in and replace him. We can do as a whole D corps and do the best we can to replace. Were just going to have to give it our all. They want me to play my kind of style, not be passive and play like I played in Grand Rapids and bring it here."