There’s really only one thing that the Detroit Red Wings can say for certain regarding the status of forward Jakub Vrana.
“He will not be in our lineup (Wednesday against the Tampa Bay Lightning),” Detroit coach Derek Lalonde was confirming following Tuesday’s practice.
Where and when will Vrana be playing next? That’s an ongoing discussion between the club’s braintrust, GM Steve Yzerman and Lalonde. It’s also a question currently without an answer.
“Steve and I will meet again . . . and (decide) what’s the best route,” Lalonde said. “We’ve talked about putting him in a game for us. Is (AHL) Grand Rapids (on a conditioning assignment) an option? He’s been out 2½ months, I don’t think it’s fair to anyone with where he’s at. We’ll evaluable where he was in practice and discuss it again.”
Jakub Vrana: “There’s bigger things than hockey in life. … You’re gonna deal with some things that is sad, that is bigger than hockey.” pic.twitter.com/BCcWn6f8j1
— Nolan Bianchi (@nolanbianchi) December 16, 2022
Vrana hasn’t seen game action since October 15, Detroit’s second game of the season at New Jersey. He scored a goal in that game, a 5-2 Red Wings victory.
A few days later. the club was announcing that Vrana was entering the NHL/NHLPA Player Assistance Program, designed to offer players treatment for mental health and ranging to substance abuse.
On December 16, Vrana was reinstated from the program, rejoining the Red Wings at practice.
Lalonde is pushing Vrana hard in practice, giving him plenty of reps in order to get him as close to game shape as possible before putting him into a game.
Vrana Facing Different Comeback
Last season, Vrana was injured early in training camp, ultimately undergoing shoulder surgery. He was out of action until March.
This scenario, however, is a completely unique situation. Vrana was skating regularly and around the team last season, his condition easily monitored.
“Obviously, very different,” Lalonde admitted. “Going into the program, I don’t know what his day to day was, but I don’t care who you are, it’s tough to replicate skating and game situations.
“He can stay in good shape off the ice, which I’m sure he did. He looks great, looks in great spirits. But when you literally don’t touch the ice for two-plus months . . . we just want to put him in the best situations to be successful when he does return.”