Red Wings’ Dylan Larkin ready to move on after hit, suspension

Detroit News

Detroit — Dylan Larkin sounded like a player who was glad to be back on the ice Monday, and was looking forward to leaving the disruptions of the first weekend in the past.

Larkin was suspended one game — Saturday’s 3-1 victory over Vancouver — for punching Tampa Bay’s Mathieu Joseph on opening night Thursday, after Joseph had slammed Larkin into the boards from behind. Joseph was not suspended.

Larkin was injured in April when Dallas forward Jamie Benn crosschecked Larkin near the neck area. Larkin missed the remainder of the season, and wore a cervical neck brace for about two months.

The frustration of rehabilitating all summer led to Larkin acting upon Joseph’s hit.

“It was an unfortunate play,” Larkin said after Monday’s practice, regarding the Joseph hit. “The whole thing, I really felt Joseph could have let up. I cut him off to the puck and he had enough time to see my numbers and make a different decision. I felt his force on the check from behind and it wasn’t called (a penalty).

“That’s hockey, that’s what we deal with. At that moment … it was a tough six or seven months, I talked about it with all you guys all summer. I had some tough nights, and I wanted to do something about it so bad and there’s so much anger.  My buddies would ask me to go golfing, and I couldn’t go golfing and I couldn’t go boating. I don’t want it to sound like a sob story…”

Still, Larkin didn’t like the fact he reacted with a sucker punch and put himself and the Wings in jeopardy of not having him be in the lineup.

“I can’t act like that; I can’t lash out like that,” Larkin said. “The one-game suspension was warranted. Hits like that happen and you have to do something different to try to fight him, but I was too aggressive and I lost my control for a split moment.

“But I was very much disappointed in myself after and disappointed for the team. But I also think enough is enough, and I’ve been through some tough times and I felt a pain immediately (after the hit) and thought, ‘Here we go again.’

“I dealt with the punishment and I’m ready to move on.”

Joseph did reach out, Larkin said, and the two texted after the incident.

“Mathieu Joseph reached out to me and we texted back and forth and that was nice,” Larkin said. “He apologized and I apologized and I said let’s put it in the past and that’s what I’d really like to do with all this.”

There seems to have been, in general terms, an increase in the number of questionable hits along the boards, and Larkin doesn’t know the reason for it.

“I don’t know if it’s the fans being back and guys are so excited with the energy, I don’t think it’s a (lack of) respect thing,” Larkin said. “Guys play the game hard. There are some guys who you have to watch out for.

“I’m very relieved it wasn’t anything serious, and I served my suspension and I’m ready to get back out there (Tuesday)”

Larkin felt if there was a penalty called on Joseph, the incident would not have escalated.

“The play is done and the whistle blows,” Larkin said. “I’ve been watching a lot of hockey and there’s a lot of bad hits, questionable hits, and it puts the refs in tough spots. You see a lot of reactions that are not great. I just don’t have the answer for it. We just have to play the game and have to stick up for each other and can’t lose our cool.

“But we have to stick up for each other.”

Which has been a consistent theme around the Wings after two physical games with Tampa Bay and Vancouver. The Wings have talked about not backing down from the chippiness and standing up for teammates.

“It’s important,” Larkin said. “I feel it in the room with the guys. We’re there for each other. We have each other’s backs. As we’re moving through the first few games, we’re coming together really nice and that’s important. You’re seeing it on the ice, we have each other’s back and we’ll have to continue to do that and we’ll have to continue to get a little smarter and not let it get off our game.

“Enough is enough with teams pushing us around and we have to stand up for ourselves.”

Coach Jeff Blashill was happy to see Larkin back at practice on the top line with Tyler Bertuzzi and Lucas Raymond.

“We’re a better team when he’s in the lineup,” Blashill said. “It’s important to find ways to win when you’re missing players, and we did that. It wasn’t perfect, but for two periods we did a real good job.

“He was suspended a game, he served his game, and we’re ready to go.”

Blue Jackets at Red Wings

Faceoff: 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Little Caesars Arena, Detroit

TV/radio: BSD/97.1

Records: Columbus (2-0-0); Detroit (1-0-1)

Outlook: Columbus has scored 10 goals in its first two games, including eight in a season-opening rout of Arizona. … G Elvis Merzlikins has a .948 save percentage through the two victories. … The Wings could be without D Marc Staal, who didn’t practice Monday, and status for Tuesday was unclear, Blashill said.

ted.kulfan@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @tkulfan

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