Red Wings teammates know Damien Brunner gets it on the ice. He has got that instinct for knowing where to be, that knack for being wherever the puck is headed. Off the ice, it’s a laughing matter. Off the ice, he’s a guy who shows up daily with bed-head hair and a big smile and disposition that doesn’t recognize being down. “I don’t think he has a clue what’s going on,” Jimmy Howard said with a laugh Sunday afternoon, after an off-ice workout to prepare for tonight’s Game 3 against the Blackhawks at Joe Louis Arena. Brunner already has two goals in the second-round series, but still there’s lighthearted doubt whether he comprehends what’s really at stake. “I don't think he understands the realm of things, what could possibly happen,” Howard said. “For him, he is in a good mood every single day. He comes to the rink with a smile on his face, and when he’s out there, he’s doing the right things. He’s going to the net and when you’re out there and you’re competing the way he is competing, pucks go in for you.” Niklas Kronwall called Brunner, “a sniper. That’s what he’s been doing all along for us. Happy to have him. He finds a way to get those goals.” When Brunner struggled to do so the second half of the season after netting 10 goals the first 19 games, he eventually got bumped off Henrik Zetterberg’s line and dropped to the third line. Ironically enough, with that fall came a buoyancy established as Brunner grew to thrive next to Joakim Andersson and Gustav Nyquist. Nyquist has tremendous creativity, and Andersson is the line’s conscience, the guy who makes sure the group doesn’t give up anything in its own zone. As fits go, it has been a tee for Brunner. “It's a good spot for him,” coach Mike Babcock said. “He’s going to get better, just because he’s going to get bigger and stronger. He’s going to understand the league more. He’s better already defensively. We think we’ve got a good player in him.” Several times during the first-round series against Anaheim, Babcock brought up Brunner, talking at length about how Brunner might not be this and that — like good defensively, or big — but what he is is a scorer, and scorers are what a team needs. The message is the same as the Wings go deeper into Round 2. “He wants the puck and he scores,” Babcock said. “I think anybody who wants the puck and plays with the kind of speed he has, is valuable to you.” The Wings thought Brunner could be valuable to them after seeing him dominate in the Swiss league in 2011-12. Other teams did, too, including Tampa Bay and Dallas. The Wings won Brunner’s services for one-year and $600,000 — a relationship they’d like to extend — and then the upside to the lockout last fall that delayed his NHL arrival was that Brunner got to be familiar with Zetterberg, who went to Zug to play. Zetterberg ended up being line mates with Brunner.
Red Wings' Damien Brunner impressing teammates with skill, attitude
Detroit Free Press | May 20