DETROIT – For the two newest Detroit Red Wings, Daniel Alfredsson and Stephen Weiss, knowing when it’ll sink in that they’re playing for different teams will come at different moments.
“When you’re on the ice you don’t really notice it, it’s when you watch video in the coaches room or you see highlight of yourself in a different jersey, it feels different but overall the guys have been great in the room and I’m excited to get started tonight,” Alfredsson said. “Anytime you start a new season there’s always changes within a team. You’re always a little bit nervous when you start, as you should be.”
“When you start counting things and counting points and you’re playing for a place in the standings, you’re playing for real,” Weiss said. “It’s a little bit different feeling coming to the rink, knowing that you’re 1-0 or 0-1, so I’m really looking forward to the first game at home and moving forward.”
Fittingly, the two will take their first shift on the ice together as Wings playing on a line with Johan Franzen.
“It has the makings of a real good line,” Wings coach Mike Babcock said. “Obviously, Mule’s the key, the driving for in my opinion. He can be a dominant player. We’ve got to get him going every time, because if he goes every day, it makes it easier for Alfie and Weiss. That’s an important group for us. Obviously if we have 1A and 1B instead of 1 and 2, it makes it easier for us to run our bench.”
The line, which is Detroit’s second unit behind Pavel Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterberg and Justin Abdelkader, played one preseason game together and that lasted all of two periods after Weiss suffered a groin injury. Alfredsson also missed time with a groin and Franzen suffered a hip flexor in training camp.
“I think the sky’s the limit for us,” said Weiss, who’ll center the line. “To be able to play behind Pav and Z and Abby is going to be huge for us. We’ve got to take advantage of that and make sure we’re supporting them as much as possible. We just got to go out and play and not worry about scoring goals, and the rest will take care of itself.”
Alfredsson, 40, spent his entire 17-year career prior with the Ottawa Senators. He had been the league’s longest serving captain until the move.
“It’s been pretty much what I expected,” Alfredsson said. “They’re very professional, pay attention to details. I think we have very good skill on this team. The basic message for everybody is if we play within the structure, we have a good foundation, our skill is going to show at the end of the night.
Alfredsson inked a one-year deal worth $3.5 million on the first day of free agency to come to Detroit. He’ll add a $2 million bonus if he plays 10 games.
“I don’t know if I had a moment where it’s like ‘now I am one,’” Alfredsson said. “I’m in a process here of getting used to everything, the guys, the room. I played my first exhibition game at home last week. Can’t say I feel any different. I feel like you’re part of the team. This is a great organization. It’s fun to be here.”
Coincidently, Alfredsson begins his new chapter in his career against the same team he played his first NHL game against, the Buffalo Sabres. He would however like it to end differently since the Sabres beat the Senators that night, 3-1.
“This is like a new start and it’s at home against Buffalo, it’s fitting,” said Alfredsson, who played 1,299 games with Ottawa. “When you first started there’s so many unknowns, you don’t know what to expect at all. Coming from Europe, I didn’t know much about the NHL. This is a different experience, I’ve been around the league a long time, I know what to expect with everything, the media, the referees, the coaches. It’s a little bit easier this time around.”
Weiss had spent all 11 seasons of his career in Florida.
Weiss was the two-way center the Wings were looking for in free agency after they didn’t want to meet the salary demands of Valtteri Filppula. They inked the center to a five-year deal worth $24.5 million.
“Whether it’s Game 1 or Game 70, anytime you come to the rink and you’re playing a National Hockey League game the butterflies are going, you’re excited to play,” said Weiss, who played 661 games with Florida. “Last night was a little bit tougher getting to sleep. It’s going to be a long day today, sitting around waiting for it to get started.”
Weiss’ parents and brother are coming in from Toronto to catch his first game with the Wings.
“For them to be able to drive four hours on the day of the game and come see it is great for them,” Weiss said. “They’re real excited about it. In general, they’ve been fans of Detroit for a while. A lot of my friends and family are big Wings fans, to play here now and for them to be able to come to the games is awesome.”