Jakub Vrana said he doesn’t feel a need to share the details of time in the NHL/NHL Player Assistance Program. But he made it clear the program had a significant impact.
“There’s bigger things than hockey and life and you have to get it in order,” Vrana said Friday in his first day back with the team. “You have to deal with some things that are bigger than hockey. It’s important to make that decision … you have to make some decisions that are important in your life and then hockey goes.”
Vrana seemed upbeat, excited, like a student coming back to college after a summer away.
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“I feel awesome and I’m so happy to be back and see the guys,” Vrana said. “It’s really positive. Just happy to be back here.
Detroit coach Derek Lalonde isn’t offering a timetable, or a projection, for his return to the lineup. He’s a proven scorer and the Red Wings’ need for 5-on-5 scoring is critical. The Red Wings have lost four in a row and didn’t score more than two goals in any of those losses. They have scored one goal in their last 120 minutes of action. When Vrana is in game-condition, he can add a spark to the offense. With Tyler Bertuzzi injured, the need for Vrana’s goals is even more crucial.
Red Wings Need Vrana’s Touch
“I mean he’s a natural finisher,” Lalonde said. “His numbers prove that out. Even his goals per game, his goals per 60, he’s one of our top guys. When you look back, he only had a couple of games and it was early on
but I think the New Jersey win was a perfect example. I think we’re sitting 2-1, we’re losing and he gets one chance, goes bar down. 2-2 and then took the game over.”
Vrana hasn’t played since Oct. 15. “I’ve been trying to stay in shape as much as I could. I felt really good on the ice. Now it’s just a matter of time. Obviously, it’s not my decision. I’ll follow the orders and do the best I can every day to stay in shape.”
He skated a few times after leaving the team, but he didn’t provide any details. Vrana also wouldn’t put a timetable on his return, although he seems like someone who wants to be back yesterday.
“To be honest with you, I feel as best I can,” Vrana said. “This decision is not my decision. I was out there today. I didn’t really have a lot of reps on the lines. It’s up to other people to make the decision. I just come here and work hard and see where it takes me.”
Patience is Critical
The decision about when a player is ready to return to the lineup is always challenging to explain. It’s more of a feel than analysis. It’s when you think a player has both his conditioning and his timing.
It’s hard to say,” Lalonde said about what indicators he’s looking for “Maybe a number of practices. I think today we went a little longer and an extra one. We need the reps. It was an opportunity to get a quality practice in with an afternoon game tomorrow. But a little bit of it was to see how our bodies responded, too with a little extra practice. We thought maybe we would push them a little harder and make the reps a little different for them. Those individual reps we’d have post practice if we think he’s close to being ready. That’ll probably be a day by day type feel.”
The Red Wings want to be patient.
“With all the bodies out it would be probably intriguing,” Lalonde said. “But with that said, we want to put him in the best position to be successful when he’s game ready. When is that going to be? I don’t know.”
Whenever that is, it won’t be soon enough for Vrana. He seems fired up about returning. Vrana said his teammates have been supportive.
“It’s really positive and a lot of energy to see the guys, just be here,” Vrana said. ” I missed them.”