Teemu Pulkkinen already is off to a better start than expected.
When the Detroit Red Wings start training camp Friday in Traverse City, Pulkkinen says he’ll be on the ice and ready for full-contact practices. That's good news for a young forward trying to gain a foothold, especially one who underwent shoulder surgery June 6, at which time recovery was estimated at 4-6 months.
“I’m feeling good,” Pulkkinen said today, after an informal skate at Joe Louis Arena. “I’m hoping to maybe play one or two exhibition games, but we’ll see how I feel.”
It’s the second time since 2010 that Pulkkinen has had surgery on that shoulder, which is not the same one he separated last season. The latter injury derailed a solid start to the season that saw Pulkkinen score five goals in 16 games and accrue 11 points after 24 games. But he never found his groove after healing and spent much of the second half of the season as a healthy scratch.
He finished spring playing for Finland at the world championship.
“Last season, I didn’t feel so good with the shoulder,” Pulkkinen said. “At the end of the season, I didn’t play much, so I didn’t know where we were at with the shoulder. At the world championships, it was bothering me there, so we decided to make sure to make it better.”
That Pulkkinen feels able to join in training camp is tremendously good news for him, as he hardly can afford any setbacks. At 24, he has yet to establish his NHL value -- he has a rocket of a right-handed shot, which he says remains fully intact, but he’s another smallish European forward on a team that has them in spades. He's not quite as much a rarity on the roster, either, after the off-season signing of Thomas Vanek, a 6-foot-2, 214-pound proven goal scorer who also shoots right.
“I need a big camp in Traverse City and the next couple of weeks to get in good shape with my skating and everything,” Pulkkinen said. “I don’t want to think about who is playing and what spots are open. I’m just going to do my best.
“Right now, I feel good and maybe I can show something of what I’ve got.”