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Up-to-the minute updates and insights from the Red Wings locker room at home and on the road. By Chuck Pleiness of The Macomb Daily.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Leino's last audition

DETROIT -- If history repeats, Ville Leino will be a happy hockey player.

Three years ago, Dan Cleary was tested with a heavy preseason workload before making the Detroit Red Wings' roster as a free agent tryout. Sunday night, Leino played in his eighth preseason game -- a high on a Red Wings team that played nine exhibition contests.

Leino hopes his production -- three goals, three assists and a plus-3 -- earns him one of Detroit's final roster spots up for grabs.

"We've tried to wear him out," said Detroit coach Mike Babcock. "We did that a few years back with Cleary, tried to kill Cleary. You're trying to find out how mentally tough a guy is and how bad he wants to be a Red Wing. He's had a real good camp and we'll just have to make some decisions."

Of course last fall, Igor Grigorenko played in a team-high eight preseason games before being demoted to Grand Rapids. So history isn't all in Leino's favor.

Leino, who turned 25 today, signed as a free agent this past summer.

"Every day was a new," said Leino. "I didn't know when I was going to play. It was a lot of games. … but I enjoyed playing in them."

Leino's competition at forward was lessened by four after Sunday's game when the Red Wings assigned four prospects to Grand Rapids -- forwards Justin Abdelkader, Cory Emmerton, Jan Mursak and Mattias Ritola. Abdelkader, Emmerton and Mursak are starting their first full season as pros. Ritola was a rookie last winter.

That leaves 29 players on the Detroit roster. All teams must have rosters of 23 or fewer active players by 3 p.m. Wednesday.

Still battling for roster spots at forward are Leino, Darren Helm, Darren McCarty and Aaron Downey and at defense are Jonathan Ericsson, Derek Meech and Kyle Quincey.

Helm, who played in 18 playoff games last spring including the Stanley Cup final, had three assists and was a plus-1 in six preseason games. McCarty had one assists and was a plus-2 in four exhibition games and Downey had no points and was an even.

Leino's six points were third on the Red Wings this preseason, trailing Henrik Zetterberg and Johan Franzen.

"The puck just follows him (Leino) around," said Babcock. "He has the ability to hang onto the puck like Pav (Datsyuk) and these guys. He doesn't skate like Pav though."


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