Dylan Larkin iffy as Detroit Red Wings aim to behave better at Montreal

Detroit Free Press

The Detroit Red Wings make their second foray to Bell Centre eager to prove their first one was a one-off.

That could be made more difficult given there’s some uncertainty surrounding the lineup, but whoever is in uniform Tuesday, the message is to stay out of the penalty box. That’s what marred the Oct. 23 game, when the Canadiens feasted on three power plays to hand the Wings a lopsided 6-1 loss.

“It was definitely penalties,” coach Jeff Blashill said Monday. “We started the game playing well wad potentially outplaying them. We took three offensive-zone penalties and you can’t do that. It took away our momentum and you gave them momentum.”

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Dylan Larkin (who scored that night) didn’t practice Monday and his availability is questionable; if he can’t play, that leaves the Wings down two top-line players. Tyler Bertuzzi isn’t being paid while the Wings are in Canada because his decision not to get vaccinated for COVID-19 means he cannot cross the border.

Joe Veleno earned two points in his season debut in Saturday’s 5-4 loss at Toronto. The Wings may not have to call up another forward because Adam Erne practiced after missing Saturday’s game because of an injury sustained blocking a shot.

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The Wings (4-3-2) had, on the whole, a good October. They played competitively, showed fortitude when they trailed, and rolled four lines and three defense pairings. Blashill described the offense (3.22 goals-per-game average) as “not bad” and the power play (15.2%) as “hasn’t been great, but hasn’t been bad.” His biggest concern is that, “I think we’ve given up too many goals.”

Of the 31 goals surrendered, nine have come during the 34 times the Wings have been shorthanded.

“I actually think our PK has been pretty good,” Blashill said. “We’re improving in our structure on our PK forecheck. My gut (feeling) is generally if you can stay with it even when the goals go in on the PK, if the process is good and you can stay with it, it will even out. I believe that will happen with our PK. Certainly the number of times you give teams power plays, you’re playing with fire.

“It’s something we’ve talked about since the beginning of the season, is staying out of the box.”

The flip side is making the most of man advantages. Filip Zadina leads the team with two power-play goals after converting against the Maple Leafs, when he connected on a pass by rookie defenseman Moritz Seider for a second time this season.

“It was great to score the goal,” Zadina said. “It gave me more confidence going forward.”

Zadina always draws a little more scrutiny when he plays in Montreal, because when the Canadians didn’t pick him at No. 3 in the 2018 draft, he vowed to “fill the nets” of those who passed on him. He has one goal in five career meetings, and says at this point, he views it as another game. He is trying to take more shots on net, and has looked more dangerous on power plays because he has been set up numerous times by Seider’s slick puck work.

“He’s passing the puck well,” Zadina said. “He sees the options where he can make a pass. He sees the right timing for the pass and it’s easy for us to put the puck on net and create chances.”

Zadina’s role could be magnified if Larkin isn’t available, but the vital point for the Wings is create a better memory than the last time they were in Montreal.

“We got our butts kicked last time we were here, so we better come ready with a great sense of urgency,” Blashill said. “We’ve got lots at stake on a game-by-game basis.

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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