Detroit — By all rights, Michael Rasmussen probably should have been playing in Grand Rapids two seasons ago, in his first rookie pro season.
But Rasmussen, having mastered junior hockey and technically not able to join Grand Rapids, hewas essentially stuck being on the Red Wings’ roster.
It was a tough situation for Rasmussen, now 21 and then 19, but one he gleaned as much as he could from.
“I definitely learned a lot,” Rasmussen said Monday during a Zoom chat with media. “Grew a lot as a person, understood different things that I needed to do to have a good career, and just being an every day pro and player. All my experiences from then to now have kind of brought me to this point and it’s been a good ride and good experience.”
Rasmussen played 62 games with the Wings that season, with eight goals and 10 assists.
Rasmussen spent an injury-filled season in Grand Rapids last season, before the COVID-19 pandemic shut everybody down in March.
Being the youngest player on an older Wings’ roster, Rasmussen was taken under the direction of plenty of veterans who were willing to pass along advice.
“The guys in the room lifted me up and really helped me and taught me a lot,” Rasmussen said. “It was a privilege to be a young guy and look around at the guys that have played forever and had long careers. It was nothing but positives there.”
It would be tough to name just one player who stood out for him, said Rasmussen, but there are several that come to mind that had, or continue to have, an influence.
“Kroner (Niklas Kronwall), and not so much even for what he said but watching him every day and seeing how he prepares and how he plays,” Rasmussen said of the Wings’ retired, venerable defenseman. “And guys that are still here, Glennie (Luke Glendening), I watch him and want to work as hard as him, and definitely I want to work as hard as Larks (Dylan Larkin). Those guys definitely stick out for me.”
Rasmussen’s first goal of the season Sunday, which broke a 1-1 tie and proved to be the winner over Columbus, was another signal the 6-foot-6, 229-pound center could be gradually moving toward a full-time spot on the Wings.
“He’s been a noticeably better player when he came up then when he went down (to Grand Rapids),” coach Jeff Blashill said. “Probably a lot of it is confidence.”
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The Red Wings reassigned forward Mathias Brome and defenseman Dennis Cholowski to Grand Rapids from their taxi squad, and reassigned forward Givani Smith to their taxi squad from the Griffins.
Smith worked out with the Wings on Monday and is likely going to replace the injured Bobby Ryan (upper body, day to day) in Tuesday’s lineup in Florida.
What does Blashill want to see from Smith?
“Manage the puck through the forecheck, win puck battles and grind down low, that’s when he’s at his best,” Blashill said. “When he struggles is when he tries to make too many plays and turns pucks over.”
Blashill doesn’t expect Ryan’s injury to be “longer than a week, personally, but we’ll see.” Ryan’s name has been prominently mentioned in rumors leading up to the April 12 trade deadline.
… Sam Gagner didn’t practice Monday, either, but Blashill expects Gagner to be in Tuesday’s lineup.
… Jonathan Bernier (lower body) worked out on his own, and Blashill said “he’s making his way toward hopefully being inserted into practice at some point, but I don’t know that date yet.”
… As COVID-19 vaccines become a little more widely available, some NBA teams have taken steps toward being vaccinated. But the NHL hasn’t given any direction or information toward that direction, and Blashill said the team is “following the protocols as they stand today.”
Red Wings at Panthers
Faceoff: 7 Tuesday, BB&T Center, Sunrise, Florida
Outlook: The Red Wings (12-20-4) open a four-game trip through the Sunshine State with a two-gamer series against the Panthers (22-9-4). … Florida is dented with key injuries, the latest D Aaron Ekblad (knee).