March 8, 2017
By Brendan Savage, MLive
TORONTO - More than anything, Robbie Russo wanted a victory Tuesday night during his NHL debut at Air Canada Centre.
But other than the 3-2 loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs, Russo was generally pleased with his first game for the Detroit Red Wings.
Russo, who was recalled Sunday from the Grand Rapids Griffins after fellow defenseman Ryan Sproul suffered an ACL injury, said it didn't take him long to get used life in the NHL.
"I think a couple of shifts," said Russo, 24. Toronto's Matt "Martin buried me, so I think that kind of woke me up. I think from there on I was pretty comfortable.
"It sucks to lose, so there's that. But I was moving, getting up on guys and I thought I played pretty well. For sure everyone is moving out there and everyone does their job. I think that's the biggest difference.
"A lot of guys are in position and they're looking to attack, so you've got to be ready."
Russo, who was paired on defense with former Griffins teammate Xavier Ouellet, got 15:44 of ice time - the least among Detroit's six defensemen - and had one hit, one blocked shot and one giveaway.
He had an even plus-minus rating.
"I thought Russo played good," said coach Jeff Blashill. "I think he's going to get more and more comfortable as he goes and I think he'll continue to get better and better. But I thought he managed his game well.
'He's a smart player, he's poised with the puck. The moment didn't seem to faze him so I thought he did a real good job."
Russo said one of the most memorable moments was simply seeing Red Wings captain Henrik Zetterberg play up close.
Zetterberg assisted on the Red Wings' two goals - both scored by Gustav Nyquist - and finished the game with blood streaming down the left side of his face after getting whacked in the face by the stick of Toronto's Connor Brown.
"I think the biggest takeaway from my first game was watching Z, how much will he has, rallying the boys," Russo said. "I thought obviously he's the best player on the team but that was pretty cool to see firsthand.
"He made the play on the first goal, he's going all night. It's probably what separates him. He has a lot of skill but he competes harder than anybody. He wants it pretty bad. That was cool to see."