DETROIT (WXYZ) - Finally, the Red Wings are back where they belong.
Mike Babcock and his players returned to Joe Louis Arena on Thursday for the first time in months, where Red Wings fans were on hand to support their team getting ready for its first game of the season on Saturday against the St. Louis Blues.
Pavel Datsyuk finally returned to Motown after playing in the Kontinental Hockey League (KHL) in Russia during the NHL lockout.
"It's not like anyone has an advantage over anyone else. All the teams are in the same boat," Justin Abdelkader, a Michigan State product and Red Wings left wing, said about the season-opener.
"We know it's important to get off to a good start, but we haven't had much time to practice together. I think everyone's together in this one. Hopefully we can come together quick and get off to a good start."
Babcock knows there's a lot for his players to take in heading into their first battle of the season against the Blues.
"We're trying to skate as much as we possibly can and go through the details of our play. Basically I've got a list and just keep crossing off the details, and I expect the guys to absorb them and pay attention to it," said Babcock.
"The bottom line is you've got a way better chance to look good if you all know what's going on."
Mikael Samuelsson laced up his skates for the first time in three practices because of a tender groan, and is setting his sights on suiting up on Saturday.
"This is the place you want to be," said Samuelsson when asked how special it is to return to the Wings after playing for several other NHL clubs. "I like the atmosphere here, and the boards are pretty bouncy here so you get a fun game that way."
NHL veteran Mike Knuble, who was born in Toronto but grew up in Kentwood, Mich., is trying to make an impression to secure a spot on the roster.
"It's a great story to be drafted here a long time ago and go off to play at other places and then come back here," said Knuble, who was drafted by Detroit in 1991.
"It would be a great organization to be a part of. I think as you become a veteran player you enjoy playing places where it means something and where it's important to you."
The Red Wings home opener is set for Tuesday, Jan. 22 against the Dallas Stars at 7:30 p.m.