Weiss returns, scores twice as Wings edge Senators

DETROIT — You might have forgotten what Stephen Weiss is capable of, but Red Wings coach Mike Babcock didn’t.

Weiss, 31, signed with the Wings before last season but managed just two goals and two assists in 26 games before undergoing core muscle surgery.

When Weiss returned from surgery, he still wasn’t himself and had an additional surgery to clean up scar tissue.

Babcock said last week that Weiss needed to get himself going.

To help him get going, the Wings sent Weiss to Grand Rapids to play in two games on a conditioning loan.

Weiss scored in each game with the Griffins, and made it through grueling bus travel to Cleveland and back to Grand Rapids for the home-and-home with the Lake Erie Monsters.

"Anytime you can score it gives you confidence," Weiss said. "You remember how to do it."

So Babcock put him on Darren Helm’s wing along with Tomas Jurco for Monday night’s game against the Ottawa Senators. And Weiss responded, scoring the last two Wings’ goals in a 4-3 victory — both on plays where he drove to the net.

"We talked about that as a team, just shooting pucks, creating traffic and getting guys to the net," Weiss said. "That’s where you’re going to score goals."

After the game, Babcock mentioned Weiss immediately.

"It was really good for Stephen Weiss," he said. "And that’s really good for us because not everyone can score, and Weisser found a way to chip it in twice. Lots of guys can play lots of games and get in lots of spots and never get it in the net."

Weiss was originally drafted fourth overall by the Florida Panthers in the 2001 NHL Entry Draft. Although he never developed into a superstar-type player, Weiss had several solid seasons.

He had 61 points (14 goals) in 78 games with the Panthers in 2008-09, 60 points (28 goals) in 80 games in 2009-10, 49 points (21 goals) in 76 games in 2010-11 and 57 points (20 goals) in 80 games in 2011-12.

"That doesn’t happen by accident," Babcock said. "But in your career, when you get hurt and you miss a couple of years, there’s no guarantee you’re getting it back. Weisser has played four games, three in the American League, and he’s got five goals. Scoring is scoring. Not many guys can do that."

Weiss said he never really lost his confidence, despite his injury woes and inability to help his new team.

"It was just a matter of, when you haven’t play in so long, coach has a tough time putting you in situations where you’ve always played," Weiss said, "and rightfully so. Even in practice, you’re not playing power play and getting those reps I have throughout my career.

"It’s just a matter of sticking with it, hopefully, get a break here or there to stay in the lineup for a couple games, build some momentum, and off you go."

The Wings could use the scoring help because they’re currently below average in that category. Before Monday, they had 55 goals in 20 games.

The Tampa Bay Lightning lead the Eastern Conference with 77 goals in 22 games. The Pittsburgh Penguins have 72 in 20.

No one expects Weiss to score twice a game every game, but he could mean the difference between a playoff berth or not, or a higher playoff spot.

"He’s got to go home and breathe and feel good about himself," Babcock said. "We don’t give this stuff away for free. I said that earlier (Monday). He’s got to earn what he gets, and I thought he took a huge step (Monday night)."

After what he’s been through the last couple of years, Weiss isn’t taking anything for granted.

"This is the best league in the world," Weiss said. "It’s hard enough when you’re in a groove and playing well — never mind when you’ve missed so many games.

You’re in, you’re out, you’re in, you’re out. You’re playing different positions. It’s tough to do what you’ve done throughout your career.

"It felt good to be in the lineup. It was nice to get a couple of goals and get the win, but I’ve still got a lot of work to do."