DETROIT – Ruslan Salei is going to do whatever he is asked to do to make the Detroit Red Wings a contender for the Stanley Cup.
“I will do whatever they tell me to do,” said Salei, after taking part in his first informal practice with the team Tuesday. “It’s probably going to be more killing penalties than power play time. As you probably know it’s pretty much loaded on that side.
“I’m just going to play my game, play physical and play good defensively,” Salei added. “Whatever I can provide I will for them.”
Salei signed a one-year deal worth $750,000 on Aug. 9 with the Wings after making $3.275 million last season in Colorado. Salei can also earn $350,000 in bonuses.
“It’s an honor to be on this team,” Salei said. “Look at all these Cups. All the players that have played on this team. It’s a legendary team. It’s a dynasty. I’m real excited for the opportunity and I’m real excited to be a part of it.”
Salei, whose wife and two kids are back in California, had back surgery last season and was only able to play in 14 games with the Avalanche.
“It’s been the first time in my career I’ve missed so much time because of injury,” Salei said. “It’s not that easy. You learn for that and hopefully it’s all healed and good. I hope I’m not going to have anymore problems with my health.”
Detroit originally had plans to bring back Andreas Lilja, reportedly offering him a one-year deal worth $1 million to return for his sixth season.
Lilja, who continues to skate with the Wings during their informal practices, still has yet to sign with a team.
Salei, 35, is slated to be paired with youngster Jonathan Ericsson as the Wings’ third defensive pairing.
“I think it’s going to help him,” Nicklas Lidstrom said. “Salei can stay home more and (Ericsson) can join the rush more. Just having that experience will help (Ericsson) too.”
Salei has been in the league since 1996-97. He spent nine seasons with Anaheim before moving on to Florida for two seasons and then in Colorado for the last three.
Salei had his best offensive season his first year in Florida where he had six goals and 26 assists.
“He’s a good skater and a good puck mover,” Lidstrom said. “He can play on the power play if needed and kill of penalties. All around he’s going to help us.”
“I think it really solidifies our top six,” said Wings coach Mike Babcock, who coached Salei for two seasons in Anaheim. “We think it improves our team drastically. We’ve got six (defensemen) who can play 20 minutes. We don’t have to hide anybody.”
Salei admitted to not always seeing eye-to-eye with Babcock, but that he did become a better player under his tutelage.
“Our relationship in Anaheim, we had our ups and downs,” he said. “We had some nice conversations and maybe some not so nice ones. Overall, he made a better player. I’m pretty excited to play for him again.”
Salei, a native of Belarus, was a first-round pick of the Ducks in 1996 (ninth overall). In 842 career games he has 43 goals, 151 assists and 1,017 penalty minutes.