Everyone has a theory about when the Detroit Red Wings’ season turned from promising to unsightly. Some believe it was the back-to-back losses to the Ottawa Senators in the Canadian capital that sent the season spinning out of control.
Others believe the downward spiral occurred before the trade deadline when general manager Steve Yzerman traded Filip Hronek, Oskar Sundqvist and Tyler Bertuzzi.
But both of those events came after 6-foot-6 Michael Rasmussen took a shot in the kneecap that put him out for the season. The Red Wings were 28-21-8 when Rasmussen was injured and the Red Wings went 7-16-2 the rest of the way.
“He a huge piece,” Red Wings forward Andrew Copp said. “You lose him and then you lose Bert and Fil in a wee or two span, it definitely hurt our lineup quite a bit.”
Rasmussen met with the media Monday for the first time since the injury, and reports his rehabilitation is going according to plan.
“It’s getting better, almost there to the point where I’ll have no limitations,” Rasmussen said. “I’ll be good to do the usual summer training and continue up with rehab. Everything will be good in the next week or two and I’ll be ready to go in the gym and be 100 percent for camp.”
The timing of that injury couldn’t have been worse. Rasmussen had moved up to play wing on Andrew Copp’s line. He looked quite comfortable in that role.
“I think we had some success early on and I was able to snowball off that,” Copp said. “I think that especially in the beginning of the season I wasn’t playing my best. Got very pass happy, kind of related to the injury, not being able to drive and skate with the puck as well as I would have liked. Having Ras’ forechecking ability really helped kind of get pucks back and we produced really well. That was right around the time I started to feel better.”
Rasmussen said the injury was well beyond “frustrating.”
“Tough with where things were at with the team,” he said. “How well everyone was playing. To kind of get removed from that was really tough, something I haven’t experienced for awhile. It was frustrating and upsetting to watch and not be out there with the guys. Tough to watch some losses and some games where I obviously would’ve liked to be a part of and kept it going.”
Picking Up Where He Left off
Rasmussen, who turned 24 today, said his focus now is “getting myself back to 100 percent and pick up where I left off and where the team left off, how good we were playing.”
None of the rumors of Rasmussen’s knee being broken into many piece were true.
“My kneecap wasn’t in 100 places,” he said. “I just took a shot off the kneecap. Wasn’t able to play. I was on crutches and in a brace for a while. It was tough, because it was one of those injuries where you just can’t go. You can’t play. There’s no possibility of playing. It wasn’t shattered, or in 100 pieces but it just needed some time and I needed to be off of it. That was it.”
It was clear that Rasmussen’s game was coming together this season, which added to the frustration.”
He said the coaching staff’s message during the exit interview was to “keep going.”
“For myself, I think I took some steps in my game. I think the biggest thing is there’s more steps to be taken,” Rasmussen said. “There’s more improvement that needs to be had and can be had. I just gotta have a great summer and keep working on stuff that I need to work on. Keep working on my body, keep working on different things on the ice as far as what’ll make my game go to even another level. ”
Center or Wing?
What isn’t settled is whether Rasmussen’s future is as a winger or center. He looked equally comfortable as a two-way center as he did as big winger on the Copp scoring line.
There wasn’t much talk about center vs wing at the exit interview.
“Just kinda went over the year and talked about different pros and cons to each position,” Rasmussen said. “Kind of more so just being able to do both. It’s good for the team I think that I can contribute in both those ways. Not a whole lot, just more of a general explanation of my play and talking about it. I’ll do my best whether it’s center or wing to contribute to the team. Not too much thoughts on it. I really enjoyed playing wing, especially with Copper and DP and other guys who rotated in there. It was good and it was good to do both.”