Michael Rasmussen had to sweat out his first NHL goal in more than two years for a few extra minutes. The young Detroit Red Wings center hopes he can reach the point where he didn’t have to fret about his spot on the roster.
Detroit’s 2017 first-round pick scored the go-ahead goal early in the third period of a 4-1 victory over Columbus on Sunday. Rasmussen banged home a rebound, then slid into Blue Jackets goaltender Elvis Merzlikins.
Columbus coach John Tortorella claimed goalie interference but the goal stood.
“I’ve had a couple called off. It’s definitely a tough feeling,” Rasmussen said. “Either way, it went in and I’m just happy with it.”
Rasmussen, who turns 22 next month, hadn’t scored an NHL goal since March 14, 2019, against Tampa Bay. He was making his 20th appearance for the Wings this season.
“It was good to get one and good to contribute in that way,” he said. “I think I’m playing well, I’ve just got to keep going, keep working hard and improving.”
Rasmussen appeared in 62 games during the 2018-19 season, registering eight goals and 10 assists, then spent all of last season with the AHL’s Grand Rapids Griffins.
He’s been serving as the third line center recently, as well as getting some power play opportunities.
“They don’t really hand out spots or designated roles,” he said. “I think you’ve just got to earn them. That’s just what I’m trying to do, just trying to earn my job.”
Rasmussen may never develop into a prolific scorer, so he’s got to contribute in other ways. Coach Jeff Blashill believes Rasmussen has shown more maturity in his game since his return.
“Ultimately, he’s got to become a great defensive player to have a real impact five-on-five,” Blashill said. “He’s working hard at that. And then he’s got to be a guy who scores around the cage. That’s where a lot of goals are scored. The goal he scored the other night is the kind of goals he’s going to score.”
Bobby Ryan suffered an upper-body injury in the early going on Sunday but Blashill says it’s not serious.
“I don’t expect it to be longer than a week,” he said.
Goaltender Jonathan Bernier has been doing some skating but hasn’t returned to practice. There’s still no timetable on Bernier, who suffered a lower body injury on March 18.
Gagner got the day off from practice on Monday but Blashill expects him to play against Florida on Tuesday.
Stecher takes a seat
Troy Stecher, who signed a two-year contract as a free agent during the offseason, became the odd man out over the weekend.
After Thursday’s 7-1 debacle in Nashville, Blashill opted to go with 12 forwards and six defensemen. He had been using seven defensemen prior to the two-game sweep of Columbus.
“After the Nashville game, I could have sat any one of them but you’ve got to make a decision on which guy,” Blashill said. “We ended up sitting him.”
Smith recalled; Brome, Cholowski sent down
Forward Givani Smith was reassigned Monday from the Griffins to the Red Wings’ taxi squad. Concurrently, the Wings assigned forward Mathias Brome and defenseman Dennis Cholowski to the Griffins.
Smith has appeared in eight games with the Wings this season, most recently on Feb. 11. The Wings are looking for Smith to play a little more under control and become less turnover-prone.
“Probably the most important thing is he’s got to manage the puck through the neutral zone,” Blashill said. “He’s got to be a simple player through the neutral zone, so he gets it where he’s at his best, and that’s the offensive zone.”