Detroit Red Wings can expect a boost as they hit the road. Here's why

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Helene St. James, Detroit Free Press
·5 min read
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After spending the better part of the last two weeks under self-imposed room arrest, Robby Fabbri can’t wait to rejoin the Detroit Red Wings’ lineup.

Fabbri is one of four players emerging from COVID-19 protocol for the start of the Wings’ six-game road trip to Tampa Bay, Florida and Nashville. It's just in time, as Tyler Bertuzzi will miss at least the start of the trip because of an upper-body injury.

Adam Erne, Sam Gagner and Jon Merrill are eligible to play Wednesday, when the Wings (2-6-2) seek to nip a six-game winless skid with an afternoon game against the defending Stanley Cup champions. Filip Zadina is expected to be available Friday.

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Detroit Red Wings center Robby Fabbri (14) celebrates his goal against the Carolina Hurricanes in the third period of an NHL hockey game Saturday, Jan. 16, 2021, in Detroit.
Detroit Red Wings center Robby Fabbri (14) celebrates his goal against the Carolina Hurricanes in the third period of an NHL hockey game Saturday, Jan. 16, 2021, in Detroit.

Fabbri is a top-six forward, and had already notched a goal before bowing out two games into the season. Erne is a grinder and penalty killer.

“It was good to have those two guys back,” coach Jeff Blashill said. “I think the anticipation of other guys coming back is a positive for us. It gives you some energy, some confidence moving forward that more guys are getting inserted into the lineup.

“I would say, too, we have to temper our expectations of the guys coming back. We can’t ask them to shoulder too much of the load, because they’ve been off for a while. But it’s certainly good to have those guys back in the mix.”

Blashill sounded confident Fabbri and Erne will play on the first game of the trip. Gagner and Merrill were not eligible to practice Tuesday, so they may be jumping in cold after a two-week layoff (COVID–19 protocol requires players not exert themselves for at least 10 days, after which they skated by themselves).

Fabbri tested positive Jan. 18, and spent the next week in bed.

“I was watching a lot of shows, a lot of sports,” he said. “Some pacing in my room once I got my energy back. Days 2-5, I got every symptom you hear about. Wasn’t too fun. A lot of sleeping and relaxing. Then after Day 5, I slowly started to get some energy back and the symptoms were gone.

“The worst part was being locked in my room, but you have to do what you have to do.”

Fabbri tried to maintain a positive attitude through the quarantine period, though, “you’re obviously not happy,” he said. “I’d gone this long with being careful not getting it, and then getting it. Nothing you can do. We knew this was a risk going into the season. It’s something everyone is going through, not just professional athletes.”

Fabbri texted with his teammates while they were at Chicago and Dallas to be a voice of support.

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“It’s never easy when you’re losing five guys that were on your opening night roster, and then to go on the road and battle some good teams,” he said. “It was a lot on a lot of the guys. Everybody needed to step up, and some. We’re just happy to get back and help the guys out as much as we can and get back to where we were at the start of the year.”

After starting 2-2, the Wings have gone 0-4-2. Getting Fabbri back will allow for better balance among the top lines. He had been centering the second line with Zadina and Bobby Ryan, but Fabbri will be eased back into game action playing wing on Dylan Larkin’s line, and leaving Vladislav Namestnikov to center Anthony Mantha and Taro Hirose.

“He’s just getting back into it, so rather than throwing him right back at center, let’s put him on the wing for a little bit,” Blashill said. “Vladdy has done a good job at center, too. So this gives us a chance to get him going. And with Bert out, it gives us a winger to play with Larks at that spot.”

If Gagner enters the lineup, Givani Smith most likely would sit, although he’s earned two assists in his three games. There could be a case made Smith should stay in over Erne. Gagner, though he had no points in four games, adds the element of a right-handed shot, especially on the power play.

Goaltender Jonathan Bernier (upper body) will travel but has been ruled out for Wednesday’s game. Blashill ruled out Bertuzzi for the first four games. Ifhe is ready for the Feb. 11 and 13 games at Nashville, Blashill said the team will decide if “we can find a way to get him there within protocol of NHL, because if he flies commercially, he would have to quarantine, which would make it moot to travel.

Contact Helene St. James at hstjames@freepress.com. Follow her on Twitter @helenestjames. Read more on the Detroit Red Wings and sign up for our Red Wings newsletter. Her book, The Big 50: The Detroit Red Wings is available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Triumph Books. Personalized copies available via her e-mail.

This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Detroit Red Wings' roster could receive jolt as team hits the road