DETROIT -- Nathan Gerbe grew up 40 minutes north of Detroit, but the last time the Canes forward was back home in Michigan it wasn't for hockey.
It was all about tragedy.
In September, Gerbe's brother-in-law, Billy Kochis, and a co-worker were killed in traffic accident near Grand Rapids, Mich. Just as the Canes' training camp was about to begin, Gerbe left Raleigh to be with his sister, Shannon, and her young children.
Now, Gerbe is back. He’s with the Canes and looking to beat the Detroit Red Wings on Thursday.
"This is home for me," Gerbe said Thursday after the Canes' morning skate at Joe Louis Arena. "Obviously, after the accident a lot of things changed for me in my life. But it's still coming home and it's still a good feeling for me. It's good to see my family."
A native of Oxford, Mich., Gerbe said he grew up a diehard Wings fan.
"When I was growing up they were winning, so it was fun," he said.
Gerbe, 26, said he'd come to a few Wings games at the “Joe” each season and had one player that was a personal favorite: Steve Yzerman.
"It's because he was the leader, the heart of soul of the organization," Gerbe said. "He was a passionate player and obviously offensively very good."
Gerbe was 14 when the Wings faced the Hurricanes in the 2002 Stanley Cup final. He said he remembers the games, although not the overtime winner by the Canes' Ron Francis in Game 1 at Joe Louis Arena.
Gerbe said the game at the “Joe" will be his third since he came into the NHL with the Buffalo Sabres. He said he was able to secure 15 tickets for the game for family and friends.
"There a lot of history here," Gerbe said. "There have been so many great players in this building and great teams. But that's fine. It's a fun place to play."
Gerbe, asked about the Wings being winless in their last eight games at home, said, "You don't see that much with this organization. We know they'll come out hard looking to win. We want to win, too.
"It starts with work and competing. We have to out-compete and out-battle teams. We have to execute. Our special teams have to be better. Everyone needs to step up."