TRAVERSE CITY – The first message in training camp has been sent to forward Jiri Hudler.
“We think Jiri Hudler’s a top-six forward, but he’s got to earn the right to be a top-six forward,” Wings coach Mike Babcock said after the regulars skated briefly Saturday at Centre Ice Arena before flying to Farmington to attend the funeral for Brad McCrimmon.
Hudler will skate in camp on a line for Team Delvecchio with Fabian Brunnstrom
and centered by Ryan Johnson.
“Those things can’t be given to you for free,” Babcock said.
Last season, Hudler played on a line with Mike Modano and Danny Cleary.
After a disastrous 2010-11 season, Hudler changed his offseason workout regimen, opting to train this summer with UFC trainer Jonathan Chaimberg.
Hudler, who had worked out in California the last few years prior to the start a season, scored just 10 goals last season and finished tied with a team-worst minus-7.
Hudler scored 23 goals and had 34 assists in the 2008-09 season and it won him a two-year deal from an arbitrator at $2.875 million a season.
Instead he played one season in the Kontinental Hockey League where he had 19 goals and 35 assists in 54 games before returning to Detroit.
Babcock also sent a message to Darren Helm, Justin Abdelkader, Valtteri Filppula and Johan Franzen.
“They all have growth potential,” Babcock said. “We’re going to be better defensively. We’re going to be better on the penalty kill, but we need those guys individually to be better and we’ll be a better team for it.”
Tomas Holmstrom is on a line with Drew Miller and Cory Emmerton.
“As far as Homer goes, he’s a specialty player for us, he’s been excellent for us on the power play, we expect that to continue,” Babcock said.