DETROIT – Stephen Weiss is going back to where it all began and he’s not sure how he’ll be welcomed.
Weiss, 30, returns to Florida to face his former team where he spent his first 11 seasons in the league.
“That’s a question I can’t answer,” Weiss said after practice Monday at Joe Louis Arena. “I would hope it wouldn’t be anything negative, I don’t know what I would have done to deserve that, but again that’s out of my control, just can go back and enjoy myself and try and play hard and pay those guys back for taking two points out of our building but certainly the way the fans the react is out of my hands.”
Weiss was the fourth overall pick by the Panthers in the 2001 NHL Entry Draft. He signed a five-deal deal with the Wings on the first day of free agency at $4.9 million a season.
“You’re living your dream playing in the NHL and that’s the way I look at it,” Weiss said. “It didn’t matter if it was there or wherever, I was happy to be part of the NHL and then at the certain point it became about winning and trying to get that organization back to being respectable and making the playoffs consistently. We didn’t get to do it obviously, we got to do it once toward the end of my time there but I enjoyed it there, it would’ve been nice like I said to have some more success but sometimes that’s the way it is.”
He got to face his former teammates on Saturday and was on the wrong end of a 2-1 decision.
“I’m not nervous, maybe a little bit tomorrow, like the same feeling you get for every game, you’ll have butterflies before the game,” Weiss said. “But I really don’t know what to expect, it’s the first time I’ve ever done it so I’m just looking forward getting it over with to be honest with you.”
Weiss, who has just two goals and two assists in 25 games this season with Detroit, is mired in what he said is the worst slump of his career. He’s gone 19 straight games without a goal.
“It’s been really hard trying to prove to people they made the right choice,” Weiss said. “All those things creep into your head. But I’ve also been around long enough to know these things happen sometimes. They happen to a lot better players other than myself. There’s not much you can do except keep working hard and keep trying to break through. There’s no secret remedy, it’s just hard work and being persistent and trying to do all those things. Sometimes it’s easier said than done. At the end of day, for me it’s about winning games and being part of a winning team, winning culture.”
His longest goalless drought of his NHL career came at the start of the 2002-03 season when he went 21 straight games without a goal.
“When I’m at my best, that’s what’s happening, I’m creating offense and getting points and scoring goals,” Weiss said. “In order to do that you’ve got to get on the ice more and for that to happen I’ve got to play better. You got to do something to earn more minutes.”
Weiss, who ranks first on the Panthers’ career list for games (654) and assists (249) and second in points (394), will start Tuesday centering a line with Daniel Alfredsson and Justin Abdelkader. He’ll also play the point on the second power play unit.
“It’s frustrating,” Weiss said about his lack of offensive production. “You always want to personally do well and help the team. For me, coming here was about winning games and being on a team that has a chance to win every night and compete in the playoffs and for a Stanley Cup. When you’re winning games it’s tough to complain. But then there’s that side of you that every player has – you want to do well personally and help out and be a part of it. We’ll try to get that part going as well.”
Weiss was also slowed by a pulled groin that sidelined him for six games.