Grigorenko is in camp to get a taste of NHL
By Ted Kulfan / The Detroit News
TRAVERSE CITY -- Forward Igor Grigorenko was at the Red Wings' training camp Monday. Not as a player, but a visitor.
It wasn't the way Grigorenko envisioned it, but the fact he was there at all was a relief for his family and the Wings organization.
Grigorenko, 20, suffered a severely broken left leg in a May automobile accident in Russia and briefly fought for his life after a fat embolism developed.
But he was walking without a noticeable limp Monday and looked physically fit. He began light skating a month ago.
"He's very strong, and he's going to get stronger," said Mark Lapush, Grigorenko's agent.
Speaking through a local Russian interpreter, Grigorenko said he expects to play in the Russian Elite League this winter and attempt to play in the NHL next season.
"He'd like to be on the ice and with the team," said Victoria Shevtsova, who interpreted for Grigorenko, who speaks no English. "Next year, he says he should be OK."
When asked if he'll be the same player when he returns to the ice, Grigorenko said, "I'll be better."
Grigorenko, who arrived in Traverse City on Sunday afternoon with his mother, Clara, and Lapush, will be in the Detroit area for two weeks. He is expected to do some light skating today before scrimmages.
Grigorenko will be examined by Wings doctors Wednesday and attend three exhibition games at Joe Louis Arena. He also will travel with the team to Washington for a game Sept. 25.
The trip to North America was arranged by the Wings for two main reasons:
It's a way for Grigorenko and his family to experience the NHL and become comfortable with the surroundings.
Perhaps more important, the Wings wanted their doctors to check on Grigorenko's physical progress.
Grigorenko brought his X-rays from Russia to be examined by the Wings' medical staff. He still has some pain his left leg, although nothing major, and is undergoing physical therapy.
From where Grigorenko was in May, the progress has been excellent.
Lapush said Grigorenko was glad for the opportunity to watch the Wings.
"He likes it here, but he'd like to be on the ice," Lapush said. "Maybe next year."
Lapush expects Grigorenko to be playing competitively by December. Grigorenko also will be part of the Russian national team.
Grigorenko said he remembers little of the accident. He lost control of his car while making a sharp turn on a rainy evening.
A second-round pick in 2001, Grigorenko (5-foot-11, 185 pounds) is strong on his skates, drives to the net hard and has offensive ability.
"A little bit like a bull," Wings General Manager Ken Holland said. "He's not tall, but he's physically strong. He drives his way to parts of the rink. He's one of the top young Russian forwards."