After Jordan Oesterle’s homecoming game got delayed for over a month. He’s now getting some steady opportunities on the Detroit Red Wings’ back line.
Oesterle, a Dearborn Heights native and Western Michigan alum, signed a two-year contract with the Red Wings in July. He often found himself the odd man out, appearing in just three of the team’s first 18 games.
With Troy Stecher out with a wrist injury and Danny DeKeyser on the COVID-19 protocol list, Oesterle has played the last four games. He made his Wings regular season debut at Little Caesars Arena against St. Louis on Wednesday.
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“That first (home) game against St. Louis, I was a little more excited and had some nerves,” Oesterle said.
Oesterle, 29, was a regular at the blue line for Arizona the last three seasons. He also spent a season in Chicago after beginning his career in Edmonton.
He wasn’t expecting to be a healthy scratch when he signed with his hometown team. This is not new for Oesterle and knows how to handle these situations like a veteran who needs to stand ready.
“In Chicago, I went through the same situation,” he said. “You just stay patient, be a good teammate and show up to the rink every day and work. That’s all you can do. But obviously, it was tough not playing when I wanted to help the team.”
Oesterle has often been paired in recent games with one of the team’s star rookies, Moritz Seider, who had been partnered with DeKeyser. Seider recorded an assist in the 3-2 overtime victory over Buffalo on Saturday, giving him 14 points this season.
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“He’s a great player,” Oesterle said. “Obviously, he’s still so young but you can just see how much talent he has and how good he’s going to be. And it’s just the beginning. Every time I was out there, I just gave him the puck and let him do what he wanted with it and just tried to be a safety valve for him.”
Coach Jeff Blashill has seen the duo grow more comfortable together as Oesterle settles in.
“I thought the last game was their best game together,” he said. “They’ve got to be smart about moving the puck quickly and not try to overhandle it. Defensively, you have a skater in Oesterle and a bigger, stronger man in Seid’s, even though he’s young, he’s a big strong man. … There’s a good match that way.”
Raymond has more to prove
The Wings’ other celebrated rookie, Lucas Raymond, is easily outpacing his peers statistically. Entering Monday’s action, Raymond led all first-year players with nine goals, 12 assists and 21 points. No other rookie has more than 14 points. Raymond has points in six of his last seven games and added to his brilliant start by scoring the game-winner against the Sabres.
Blashill cautions that it’s way too early to measure Raymond’s potential.
“It’s 22 games. It’s not five but it’s certainly not 500,” he said. “We have to be patient and let guys prove what they are over a long period of time. There’s certainly been a lot of good young players in this league that have had a great first or second year and kind of ended up not being to that height.”
Penalty kill unit gets stiff test
The Red Wings are one point ahead of the Boston Bruins, their opponent on Tuesday. They visited Boston earlier in the season and gave up three power play goals to Patrice Bergeron in a 5-1 loss. The Bruins rank fifth in the league in power play percentage.
“Overall, I think the PK’s (penalty kill) been pretty solid lately,” Blashill said. “It doesn’t mean you’re not going to get scored on sometimes on the PK but I think it’s been structurally solid, so we’ve just got to make sure we do a good job of it.”
Hronek sits out practice
Defenseman Filip Hronek missed practice on Monday with what Blashill described as a non-COVID-related illness but he’s expected to play on Tuesday. Hronek recorded an assist against St. Louis and Buffalo last week.