Detroit — The Red Wings and Vancouver Canucks will reacquaint themselves tonight — just as many other teams around the NHL are doing, and will need to do, as the season progresses.
The Red Wings and Canucks will play Saturday for the first time since Oct. 22, 2019, a game at Little Caesars Arena the Canucks won 5-2 (it was the second time in a week they’d met, Vancouver also winning the first game).
The pandemic cut short that season, then last season teams only played the other squads in their division.
So it will be basically two full calendar years between games against each other for the Wings and Canucks.
Certainly a fact like that affects scouting an opponent.
“Generally you try to go back to games against them a year ago, but we don’t have those,” coach Jeff Blashill said after Saturday’s morning skate. “So now it’s two years ago, and they don’t become nearly as relevant for a couple of reasons. One, the way they forecheck now is different from two years ago.
“The players are so different, too. It’s a different animal, and one we understand. It’s been a full season since we played any of these teams, and we’re facing a little bit different preparation, one that’s not harder or easier, just different.”
One positive is, both teams are, obviously, on equal footing.
“We’re both in the same boat,” Blashill said. “Certainly we have a lot of new faces since when they faced us. We’ve changed some things, and they changed some things.”
The Wings certainly had to plan for defenseman Quinn Hughes, who has quickly developed into one of the premier defenseman in the NHL.
Hughes, 22, starred at the Plymouth Township-based United States National Development Team Program and the University of Michigan and has been able to carry over his offensive skills into the pros, with 99 points in his first 131 NHL games.
Blashill twice has coached Hughes at the men’s world championships on Team USA, and isn’t surprised by Hughes’ rapid success.
“Before his draft year, and going into the (world championship) tournament, there were some question marks. I wondered whether he would be able to get better,” Blashill said.
“After spending three-and-a half weeks with him, I was pretty convinced those things that he would have to get better at, he was already getting better at. You could see it happening, one being his shot.
“He’s a big time competitor, and he does it in a real quiet sense. He’s an elite competitor, and it doesn’t surprise me that he’s had the success he’s had, whatsoever.
“I’m a big fan of Quinn Hughes”
Given his one-game suspension, forward Dylan Larkin wasn’t going to play Saturday anyway.
But Larkin continues to deal with the aftermath of getting hit along the boards Thursday by Tampa’s Mathieu Joseph, and it’s unclear whether Larkin would have been able to play against Vancouver.
“Still in the evaluation period, I don’t really have any real updates,” said Blashill, when asked about Larkin’s physical state. “Going through the evaluation period. No real updates right now. Once we heard about the suspension (Friday), there’s no real rush to make that determination (of playing).”
Larkin was suspended one game for throwing a punch at Joseph, while Joseph was not suspended for his hit along the boards.
Blashill was clear in his distaste for plays involving hitting from behind, be it a push or cross-check, into the boards.
“Those are the plays that ultimately are the most dangerous,” Blashill said. “If I was the player, those would be the plays I would want to be protected from the most.”