Newly-acquired center David Legwand must have never heard the saying, “you can’t go home again,” because the Grosse Pointe, MI native is making quite an impact for his hometown Detroit Red Wings.
Acquired right before the 3 p.m. EST trade deadline on Wednesday, Legwand has slid into the Wings’ top line and has barely missed a beat. During a time when the Wings desperately needed a healthy center to anchor their top line, GM Ken Holland added the longtime Nashville Predators leader to his injury-depleted roster.
With Henrik Zetterberg out for the rest of the regular season, Pavel Datsyuk resting a nagging knee injury, and the well rounded but injury-prone Darren Helm idled, Legwand has stepped into unfamiliar territory and helped lead a team that was a divisional rival of his for 13-plus seasons.
Legwand was the first-ever draft pick in Predators’ history, taken second overall in 1998 behind Vincent Lecavalier. He is the franchise leader in games played, goals, assists and points, and his two-way play made him a leader for one of the NHL’s newer franchises.
Despite the consistency of the plucky Predators, Legwand has never played with a bona fide offensive force during his tenure in Nashville. The Predators have always been a team built around goaltending and defense with the likes of Tomas Vokoun and later Pekka Rinne in net, as well as workhorses like Shea Weber, Ryan Suter and Kimmo Timonen anchoring the blue line.
Thus, Legwand never put up the gaudy numbers many second overall picks do. However, his game can’t be measured in points alone, as his two-way play has already made an impact on his new team in Detroit. After a mixed bag in his first game wearing the winged wheel (strong overall play despite a minus-2), Legwand announced his presence in a big way in a big game against the New Jersey Devils on Friday night.
Legwand netted his first goal as a Red Wing after forcing a turnover in the Devils’ end. He poked the puck away from Michael Ryder to Johan Franzen, who ripped a wrist shot off Devils goalie Cory Schneider. The crafty Legwand crashed the net and put home the rebound to all but assure the victory for the Red Wings.
Legwand also dished out two assists as he consistently set up the offensive rush for his new linemates Franzen and Gustav Nyquist. Whether it was a beautiful pass, stout defensive play or driving the middle of the ice in the offensive zone, Legwand was everywhere Friday night. The newly configured top line combined for 11 points against the stingy Devils, and has the look of an extremely balanced unit.
Throw in the fact that Legwand has played two games before even one practice with all new teammates, and it bodes well that he can develop even more chemistry with the team.
Another positive is that Legwand has never played with players as explosive as Franzen and Nyquist. The best offensive players Legwand has skated with in his career include Martin Erat, Steve Sullivan, J.P. Dumont and Patric Hornqvist. No offense to those players, but none of them will ever remind you of Wayne Gretzky, so a switch to a team with loads of offensive talent, especially when healthy, can only do wonders for Legwand’s career.
With his new team in an absolute dogfight for a playoff spot and looking for a spark at the center position, the hometown player has a chance to add his name to Red Wings lore. If he can slide into a challenging situation and help get the Wings into the playoffs for a 23rd straight season, Legwand’s career could experience a renaissance, and he might find that you actually can go home again.
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