DETROIT – The first time Jiri Hudler left the Detroit Red Wings he couldn’t come back to face his old team.
The second time around he was able to, as a member of the Calgary Flames.
“I haven’t been in this situation before,” Hudler said Tuesday morning. “I have a lot of great memories in this building and of the guys on the other side, so it’s going to be special.”
Hudler played seven seasons with the Wings before deciding to sign a four-year deal with $16 million in the offseason, a significant raise from the $2.875 million he earned in his final year of his deal with Detroit.
“It’s the type of situation where I don’t want to be over-motivated,” Hudler said. “Those guys against me, those guys are my friends, my ex-teammates, but at the same time, we’re still with Bad Bert and some guys there, so obviously I don’t want to lose against them.”
After the 2008-09 season, Hudler signed a two-year deal with the Dynamo Moscow of the KHL that was rumored to be worth $10 million tax-free.
He scored a career-high 25 goals last year with the Wings.
“Hud’s is a good player,” Wings coach Mike Babcock said. “He’s got great hockey sense and is a fierce competitor. He’s not a big man, not an unbelievable skate, but unbelievable hands.”
Hudler is just 5-foot-10, 186 pounds.
“I like playing against bigger players because I don’t have to do little squats to get down, but I practiced against him a lot of times,” Jonathan Ericsson said. “I’m just going to treat him as any other opponent. His job is to get in there and my job is to keep him out of there.
“I won’t think it’s him out there at all,” Ericsson continued. “It’s a white jersey and we’re red jersey. I just have to keep him out of Jimmy’s office.”
“I’ve known him for a long time and I wish him all the best,” Wings goalie Jimmy Howard said. “He’s a good passer as well. That’s an underestimated part of his game, how well he finds guys out there.”
Hudler entered Tuesday’s game tied for the Flames’ lead with five points, two goals and three assists.
“Jiri, No. 1, it’s his passion for the game, he is a gamer,” Calgary coach Bob Hartley said. “He always wants to compete. With the puck he’s so creative, his passing, his vision around the net. He’s very gifted.
“He has that quick release that can surprise many goalies, but at the same time he was raised in a great organization and you can tell,” Hartley continued. “His on-ice habits are very good. I think that’s going to be a great example to our young players.”
Hudler missed the first three games of the season after his father passed away.
“It’s been tough, but this obviously (hockey) helps a lot, being around the guys, talking to the guys, to my teammates, my ex-teammates, and just thinking about hockey,” Hudler said. “The schedule is so tight you have no time to think about other things.”
His dad did on Jan. 14 at age 50.
“(Todd Bertuzzi) and I had been in pretty good contact with him,” Daniel Cleary said. “We were probably the closest with him. He misses the guys here, but he says he’s having fun.”