Detroit Red Wings captain Dylan Larkin was remorseful and relieved, and most of all, ready to move forward.
Larkin will be back in action Tuesday when the Wings (1-0-1) host the Columbus Blue Jackets, after serving a one-game suspension, which he called warranted, for punching a foe in the opener. Larkin retaliated against Tampa Bay Lightning forward Mathieu Joseph for a hit from behind.
“It was an unfortunate play — the whole thing,” Larkin said Monday. “I really felt Joseph could have let up. He had enough time to see my numbers and make a different decision.
“I was very much disappointed in myself after, and disappointed for the team. But I also think enough is enough. I’ve been through some tough times and I just felt a pain and immediately thought, here we go again. I got up and reacted and I’ll deal with the punishment. I dealt with the punishment. I’m very eager to move on. I’m very relieved it wasn’t anything serious. I served my suspension and am ready to get back out there.”
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Larkin and Joseph have made amends, texting apologies to one another and expressing a wish to put the incident in the past. Larkin was disciplined by the NHL on Friday, and missed Saturday’s game against the Vancouver Canucks.
“The one-game suspension I think was warranted,” Larkin said. “Hits like that happen, you have to do something different to try and fight him or whatever. It was too aggressive. I lost my cool for a split second.”
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Blame it on Jamie Benn: The Dallas Stars captain shoved his stick into Larkin’s spine during a game on April 20, sending Larkin to hospital that night. Larkin spent eight weeks in a cervical hard collar. When Joseph hit Larkin into the boards, it stoked fears of aggravating a neck injury that tormented him through the summer.
“It was a tough six, seven months,” Larkin said. “I had some tough nights, and I wanted to do something about it so bad. There was so much anger. My buddies asked me to golf all summer; I couldn’t go golfing. Couldn’t go on boats.
“I don’t want to have sob story. That went through my head quickly. Maybe I thought about what if something happens, I’m going to do something about it. But I can’t act like that. I can’t lash out like that.”
Not wanting to risk a fine by the NHL, Larkin was careful when asked if he had ever been given an explanation why there was no discipline on Benn for the stick incident, which came after a faceoff. Larkin hinted “there was a conversation” with the league, but, “I don’t know what I can and can’t say.”
What the Wings will say loudly and in unison is they won’t tolerate cheap shots. Filip Zadina said it after getting elbowed in the head by Canucks forward Conor Garland; Marc Staal said it when asked about the scrums that have marked the first two games. (Staal didn’t practice Monday; coach Jeff Blashill was unsure if Staal would be available Tuesday). Larkin led Monday’s chorus.
“Enough is enough, with teams pushing us around,” Larkin said. “We have to stand up for ourselves. There’s a lot of bad hits, a lot of questionable hits, it puts the refs in tough spots. You see reactions that are not great. We have to stick up for each other — we can’t lose our cool, but we have to stick up for each other.
“I feel in the room, with the guys, we’re there for each other. We have each others backs. We’re coming together really nicely. You see it on the ice.”
The Wings lamented blowing two three-goal leads in the opener against Tampa Bay, but on the whole, there has been more to like than to dislike in the first two games. Even without Larkin available Saturday the Wings used four lines, the three defense pairs have played well, and goalie Thomas Greiss had a great game against the Canucks. The Wings scored at least three goals in both games, and converted on man advantages both nights.
“I’ve liked our compete and our energy level,” Blashill said. “I’ve heard both opponents have said it’s felt like a playoff game. That’s great. That means there’s a lot of fight, not literally, but there’s a lot of fight on the ice.”
Contact Helene St. James at firstname.lastname@example.org. 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 Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Triumph Books. Personalized copies available via her e-mail.