Dylan Larkin scores twice for Detroit Red Wings’ 5-1 win in first game since April 20

Detroit Free Press

Dylan Larkin made a welcome return to the Detroit Red Wings‘ lineup and a new addition made sure the score added up to another victory.

Only so much should be read into exhibition games — they’re an evaluation tool as much as anything — but the Wings are finding ways to score, and that’s a good sign for a team that struggled to do so the past two seasons. On Saturday, they came away from their third test game with a 5-1 win against the Columbus Blue Jackets at Little Caesars Arena.

Larkin converted on two power plays, adding to goals from Taro Hirose and Chase Pearson, and set up Joe Veleno on a power play in the third period.

“It was nice to be on the good side of some nice plays, and the power play was clicking,” Larkin said. “I felt good.”

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Larkin lines up with Raymond

Larkin played for the first time since April 20, when he suffered a season-ending injury when Dallas captain Jamie Benn shoved his stick against Larkin’s neck, requiring hospitalization and a brace.

“It was like Ricky Bobby’s first race back after his car crash,” Larkin said, referencing “Talledega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby.” After spending the early part of the game wondering when he would get hit, Larkin opted to be the aggressor and initiated contact. “I finally just said, I’m going to go hit somebody and maybe get a little frustration out, just feel some contact,” he said. “It got me to settle in and calm the nerves and start playing hockey.”

Larkin centered Filip Zadina, whom he practiced with during training camp; with Tyler Bertuzzi not in the lineup, the other wing was Lucas Raymond.

“Lucas hit some great seam passes, and a couple times I was waiting for them and sure enough, right when I was open most, he hit me, so that was very impressive,” Larkin said. “He’s a headsy player. Same with Joe. Joe put himself in a great spot to score.

“Skill is one thing that all these young kids have. It’s exciting to play with.”

Raymond is being given every opportunity to show what he can do with skilled players; he debuted Thursday with Pius Suter and Robby Fabbri.

“Lucas has done a really good job with the challenges that he’s faced,” coach Jeff Blashill said. “The challenges are going to get greater and greater as the exhibition season goes along, so he has to continue to make a big impact as the lineups get better.”

Raymond got some looks on the power play and helped out on a penalty kill with a clearing pass. He earned an assist on Joe Veleno’s power play goal, and on Larkin’s second goal.

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Hirose makes impression

Hirose, a free-agent signing out of Michigan State in 2019, had an eye-catching start to his pro hockey career with seven points in 10 games that spring. He appeared in just six games last season — netting two assists — but had a good season with Grand Rapids, tallying 28 points in 29 games. He’s on the outside looking in at this camp, but Hirose, 25, but he can make an impression to be high on the call-up list. He was credited with a goal Saturday when he was in front of the net to deflect Riley Barber’s shot, 1:16 into the first period. Hirose drew the penalty that led to Veleno’s goal and earned an assist on Larkin’s second goal.

Leddy lets loose

Nick Leddy, a veteran defenseman general manager Steve Yzerman acquired via trade in July, piled up three assists. He set up Barber for the shot that Hirose deflected, and found Pearson on his goal. Leddy made a case for a spot on a power play unit when he sent the puck to Larkin late in the second period; Larkin drove to the net and made it 3-0. Leddy, 30, is a smooth skater who strengthens the top-four defensive corps, and his ability to make plays with the puck should help the offense.

“He made some great plays, some plays where I was either on the ice or on the bench and said, wow.,” Larkin said. “I’ve played against him for a while and his skating is elite, and that’s such a weapon to have on your back end. It’s pretty amazing to see how effortless he makes it look, chasing down guys, or guys chasing him down. He’s going to be a huge weapon.”

Contact Helene St. James at hstjames@freepress.com. Follow her on Twitter @helenestjames. Read more on the Detroit Red Wings and sign up for our Red Wings newsletter. Her book, The Big 50: The Detroit Red Wings is available from AmazonBarnes & Noble and Triumph Books. Personalized copies available via her e-mail. 

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