DETROIT – Like many of his teammates, this extra time off for Wings defenseman Brad Stuart was needed.
“It was long, but it was good,” Stuart said after taking part in an informal skate for the first time this season at Joe Louis Arena on Monday morning. “Compared to the last two years, I feel more refreshed that’s for sure.”
Since being traded from Los Angeles to Detroit at the trade deadline of the 2007-08 season, Stuart has had some very short summers.
Each of his first two years with the Wings they made it to the Stanly Cup finals, winning it his first season in six games over Pittsburgh and then falling in seven games to the Penguins the following year.
“It’s really kind of amazing how different you feel after that extra time off,” Stuart said. “Obviously, it’s not what you want. You’ve got to try and use it the best you can and prepare for the upcoming season.
“We should all be feeling that way and I get the sense that is the case in this locker room,” Stuart added. “Everybody looks ready to go and there’s no doubt we’ve had enough time off this year, both physically and mentally.”
On the physical end of things, Stuart had to strengthen his knee after suffering an MCL strain during Game 4 of the Wings’ Western Conference semifinal series with San Jose, which the Sharks wound up winning in five games.
“It took about seven or eight weeks and then it was back to 100-percent,” Stuart said.
Stuart, who had two goals and 13 assists in 67 games last season, didn’t require surgery to have his knee repaired, just rest and some basic rehab.
“I started getting the itch for hockey to start a little while ago,” said Stuart, who still spends his summers in San Jose. “That’s probably something I haven’t had these last couple of years. You’re mentally prepped, but not refreshed.”
Stuart also likes what the Wings were able to do this offseason, mainly the addition of Mike Modano.
“Adding a guy like that can only help,” Stuart said. “Not just on the ice, but he’ll be a good leadership presence for us in the locker room.
Stuart is entering his third full season with the Wings.
After this year he has one more year left on his deal that pays him $3.75 million a season before becoming an unrestricted free agent prior to the 2012-13 season. That is also the same year his defense partner, Niklas Kronwall, becomes an unrestricted free agent.