Larkin sparks Red Wings to 5-1 victory over Columbus

Detroit News

Detroit — Dylan Larkin made his return to the Red Wings lineup Saturday a successful one.

Playing in his first game since April 20, when Larkin took a crosscheck to the neck area, Larkin had two power-play goals and an assist leading the Wings to a 5-1 exhibition victory over the Columbus Blue Jackets.

Larkin took an outlet pass from Nick Leddy (three assists) with the Wings on the power play, drove to the net, and slipped a shot past Columbus goalie Elvis Merzlikins in the first period.

Larkin whistled a shot past Merzlikins late in the third period, moments after taking a crosscheck to the back.

Larkin also set up Joe Veleno with a third-period power-play goal.

Larkin played 17 minutes 41 seconds, had a team-high five shots on net, and looked close to regular season form in his preseason debut.

“It’s like anybody else in the preseason, it’s their first game in a long time,” coach Jeff Blashill after the morning skate. “It’s not his first game any longer than most guys. You don’t want to play somebody 25 minutes as a forward in a preseason game but in terms of easing into it, you can’t look at it that way at all.

“He’s cleared to play. If he wasn’t cleared to play, we wouldn’t play him.”

Larkin played on a line with Filip Zadina and Lucas Raymond, with Raymond earning two assists, on the third-period power-play goals by Veleno and Larkin.

BOX SCORE: Red Wings 5, Blue Jackets 1

This was the second consecutive game Raymond was put on a scoring line — Raymond played Thursday with Pius Suter and Robby Fabbri — as the Wings gauge how ready for the NHL Raymond is.

“We want to see how good (Raymond) is today and how ready he is right now, so let’s put him on lines that would be the types of lines we’d like to have him play on,” Blashill said. “So, it’s not going to be a grinding line, per se, though everybody’s got to grind a little bit. It’s going to be a little more of a line with skilled players.”

Taro Hirose and Chase Pearson added goals for the Wings (3-0). The Wings split the goaltending — Thomas Greiss stopped all eight shots he faced, while Calvin Pickard stopped 11 of 12.

Carson Meyer scored for Columbus, cutting the Wings lead to 3-1 at 1:55 of the third period.

Power-play progress

Saturday’s three power-play goals were a sign of assistant coach Alex Tanguay’s impact with the unit, a hopeful sign for a power play that has struggled mightily in recent seasons.

Leddy, who is expected to quarterback one of the power-play units, likes what Tanguay has brought, specifically in terms of communication.

“He’s put a lot on us, to communicate within each other, try and find plays, or if we get a power play early in a game, see the penalty kills, tendencies and stuff, to talk about it,” Leddy said. “Kind of know what we were going to do before we go out there.”

Twitter: @tkulfan

Red Wings at Penguins

Faceoff: Noon Sunday, PPG Paints Arena, Pittsburgh

TV/radio: Streamed on radio

Outlook: The Wings play their third game in four nights during this stretch of the preseason … The Penguins will be without C Sidney Crosby (wrist) and C Evgeni Malkin (knee).

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