DETROIT — It’s always weird to face a former team, even if you’ve done it before.
Red Wings defenseman Carlo Colaiacovo spent more than five seasons with the Toronto Maple Leafs before joining the St. Louis Blues for four seasons.
Now he’s in Detroit, and the Wings’ first opponent of the shortened season is the Blues.
“It’s a lot to think about right now,” Colaiacovo said. “It’s going to be pretty emotional, the adrenaline’s going to be rushing pretty good. I had a great years there, have a lot of great memories. That city is hockey hungry right now. They tend to get some good crowds. It’s a fun place to play.”
Colaiacovo said his favorite memory from his time in St. Louis was clinching a playoff spot in the last home game of the season his first year there, in the 2008-09 season.
“We had an unbelievable run to make the playoffs and needed to win that last home game to get in,” Colaiacovo recalled. “The crowd just blew the roof off. It was a really memorable moment for me. You can combine that with our series-clinching win against San Jose last year. That was the same kind of feeling.
“I have nothing but great memories of that place, but I’m in a happy place now, with a team that competes every year for the Stanley Cup. I’m excited about that opportunity.”
Because the Wings and Blues are both in the Central Division, Colaiacovo also has lots of memories about playing against the Wings.
“When I was there we always wanted to model ourselves after the way the Red Wings played,” Colaiacovo said. “We were great division rivals from the time I got there. Heated battles. Every game was a tough game to play.”
Colaiacovo actually took a tour of Joe Louis Arena a few days ago to familiarize himself with his new home.
“It was a real special feeling, sort of the tradition you feel,” Colaiacovo said. “Once you walk in the room and you see all the great names on the wall, the Stanley Cups on the wall, it makes you feel that we’re here to win a Stanley Cup.
“I’ve always seen pictures of this room, but to finally be in it — this is one of my favorite arenas to play in even as a visiting player. To actually be in the room and be part of the team, I feel pretty special about that. I’m excited. I’ve had nothing but a smile on my face since I’ve been here. I just hope for better days ahead.”
Injuries and illnesses
Mikael Samuelsson appears ready to go after nursing a sore groin this week, but Darren Helm will not play this weekend and most likely not the home opener Tuesday because of a sore back.
“I can touch my toes,” Helm said. “My motion is pretty much close to back. It’s still a little stiff or sore when I come up, not too bad. It’s still kind of aggravating a bit. The next step, we went fairly hard (Friday) and we’ll see how it feels (Saturday).”
Now Todd Bertuzzi is out, but not because of injury. He’s not making the trip due to illness.
“He’s sick,” coach Mike Babcock said. “They’re going to give him an IV or something and he probably join us (Saturday) or the next day. If not he’ll join us in Columbus.”
The good news is Patrick Eaves has been cleared to play in games for the first time since taking a puck to the head in a Nov. 26, 2011 game against the Nashville Predators.
That doesn’t necessarily mean he’ll play Saturday.
“Good thing about it is I don’t have to tell you because I don’t know and I still haven’t decided,” Babcock said Friday. Knuble headed to Grand Rapids
Mike Knuble, who has been skating with the Wings this week on a tryout basis, will not make the team.
But he will still have a chance to get back to the NHL by going to Grand Rapids.
“I think Knuble is going to sign a professional tryout contract so he can play there and be available for all NHL teams and not just our own in Grand Rapids and see if he can catch on with another NHL team,” Babcock said.
Knuble, who started his NHL career with the Wings, knew it was a longshot to make it.
“It’s been a good experience this week,” Knuble said. “It was a chance to come in, get to know the guys and get skating again in a competitive environment. Try to be active and try to get on board with the season. We’ll see what happens here, we’ll see what pans out and if this leads to anything.”
Knuble, a Toronto native who has played for the New York Rangers, Boston Bruins, Philadelphia Flyers and Washington Capitals in addition to the Wings, said he’ll always have fond memories of Joe Louis Arena.
“I think the first time I played here in this building I might have been 12 years old playing in front of these empty seats in the Little Caesars Hockey League, so I played a lot of hockey through the course of the years in this building,” Knuble said. “You never know, it may come back around again. But you keep going. It has a distinct feel when you walk in, a distinct smell, something that I’ll always remember because I’ve been in here a lot in my younger years. I think the coaches were very fair to me.”
Knuble, 40, made his NHL debut on a very auspicious night — March 26, 1997, against the Colorado Avalanche. Wings fans will remember the significance of that night.