Jakub Vrana missed the Detroit Red Wings’ first 56 games of the 2021-22 season. But the talented Czech winger will return for Game 57 against the Arizona Coyotes.
“I am in tonight,” Vrana said after the morning skate Tuesday. “I haven’t played a game in a year. I’m trying to get back to my game-day routine. I’m super excited, you know? That’s all I can say. Huge excitement to join the team again and get back at it tonight.”
Jakub Vrána returns to the lineup tonight. pic.twitter.com/19PU5STO8h
— Detroit Red Wings (@DetroitRedWings) March 8, 2022
The Detroit Red Wings put Danny Dekeyser on waivers — on his birthday Monday — to make room for Vrana on the active roster.
— Tony X (@soIoucity) March 7, 2022
Vrana has been out since September after injuring his shoulder 10 minutes into the team’s first training camp session of the season. On September 30, the Red Wings announced that Vrana would have major shoulder surgery and be out at least four months.
Vrana returned to the ice for practice on January 28 and after five weeks of on-ice training with his teammates, he finally got the green light.
“I was training on the line yesterday,” Vrana said. “I really wasn’t sure (if I’d play). Today I was in the lineup for the pregame skate. I talked to the coach, talked to the doctors, and I’m ready to go.”
Vrana admitted he had anxiety regarding his injury and returning to his top form.
“The hardest part is being mentally strong,” Vrana said. “The thing is when you’re a long time away from something you love, you start having doubts in your mind, you know? If you stay strong mentally, you will believe you’ll be able to come back and hold your confidence where it is. I feel great today. I’m going to play tonight.”
The two-time 20-goal scorer and 2018 Stanley Cup champion promised to play conservatively, at least at first, after missing so much time on the ice.
“It’s my first game after a while so I hope after first shift everything go back together,” Vrana said. “But I’m going to have to watch a lot of video before game to get used to the system again. Just trying to simplify my game. I don’t want to do too many things in my mind. I just want to play the best game I can play.”
“I’m just gonna jump in and try to help the team as much as I can with my game,” he added. “I’m really excited to play with them.”
Vrana skated on the second line with Pius Suter and Tyler Bertuzzi during the morning skate, but it was unclear if that’s where he’ll stay long term.
Ok, new look for the Red Wings in line rushes this morning:
— Max Bultman (@m_bultman) March 8, 2022
“It’s a huge unknown where Jakub’s at,” Red Wings head coach Jeff Blashill said. “He hasn’t played all year so it doesn’t matter the level of player, it’s really difficult to jump right in. You’re not engrained in the system, all that stuff, so we’ll have to play with that a little bit to see where the best fit in the lines will be in the short term and the long term.”
Vrana is coming off a successful stint in Detroit where he scored eight goals and tallied 11 total points in 11 games. Four of those goals came in the same game against the Dallas Stars, his second career hat trick. The Red Wings signed Jake to a three-year, $15.75 million extension in August, hoping for a career season.
Vrana was traded from the Capitals to the Red Wings ahead of the trade deadline last season after being healthy scratched and benched by current coach Peter Laviolette. Anthony Mantha, who the Capitals got in return, has also missed most of the 2021-22 season due to a shoulder injury he suffered in November.
As he prepared to make his season debut, Vrana stressed the support he has gotten from Detroit.
“They’re here for me,” Vrana said. “Anytime I was feeling like down, I could talk to anybody on the team. We have a great group here. I’m really excited to join them.”
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