Luke Witkowski living 'lifelong dream' with Red Wings
Defenseman Luke Witkowski couldn't help but take a peek at the Lightning's morning skate Monday at the brand-new Little Caesar's Arena.
Witkowski, 27, had been with the Tampa Bay organization since getting drafted in the sixth round in 2008. He played his first 55 NHL games with the Lightning, until signing a two-year $1.5 million deal with Detroit in the summer.
"It's nice to see some of the guys," Witkowski said. "And now play against them."
Witkowski is playing a familiar role, a 6-foot-2 defenseman who also spends time up front at forward, like he did in Tampa Bay. He provides physicality and toughness, something Red Wings coach Jeff Blashill remembered from their days together at Western Michigan.
For Witkowski, who grew up in Holland, Mich, signing with Detroit was the perfect fit.
"It's a lifelong dream," Witkowski said. "But when it actually happens, it's something special."
It's been a big summer for Witkowski, who married long-time girlfriend Erin in early September near Traverse City. "I fished on my wedding day," he said.
More from morning skate: C Brayden Point did not participate in the skate and will be a game-time decision tonight due to an illness, coach Jon Cooper said. "I would be on him playing," he said. Judging on how long Gabriel Dumont, J.T. Brown and Andrej Sustr were on the ice this morning, they'll be scratched again as the Lightning goes with 11 forwards, 7 defensemen for the fourth straight game. G Andrei Vasilevskiy will start his sixth straight game, though would be surprising if backup Peter Budaj didn't make his debut Tuesday in New Jersey. This is one of just two back-to-backs in the first month of the season. "The schedule is set up for him to play, he's our starting goaltender," Cooper said of Vasilevskiy. Little Caesar's Arena is phenomenal, from its sight lines and expansive concourse to the small little touches of the franchise's storied history. "It's definitely state of the art," Cooper said. Defenseman Mikhail Sergachev, who played juniors in nearby Windsor, received his Memorial Cup championship team Monday in a dinner with his billet family. He'll have several people from Windsor in the stands tonight.