With Joe Veleno Returning, might it help MIchael Rasmussen?

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It’s been a tough couple of games for Detroit Red Wings forward Michael Rasmussen. If most fans had their say, they’d extend this description to most of the season. I looked at Rasmussen shift by shift and it wasn’t highlight reel stuff, but the makings of a solid, defensive forward was certainly there.

But it hasn’t gotten much better since. If anything, just over a month after writing that piece, Rasmussen has struggled. With Jakub Vrana out until at least another month, and now Tyler Bertuzzi shelved for another four games, it puts more pressure on those expected to get goals. As a rugged big forward, and a top-ten draft pick, it’s not unfair to expect some scoring to come from Rasmussen.

Yet it hasn’t.

In his last ten games, Rasmussen has one goal and two assists. While his performance in the faceoff circle has been decent, it feels like with Mitchell Stephens, Bertuzzi, Joe Veleno, and even Dylan Larkin out at times, Rasmussen had a golden opportunity to shine. After all, MLive’s Ansar Khan wrote during the preseason that Rasmussen was Detroit’s most improved player and prime to be a breakthrough player.

Instead, it’s felt like a rough go for the fourth year forward, and if the Red Wings might in fact be pushing for the playoffs, they’ll need a little bit more from Michael Rasmussen.

Veleno’s Return Could Help Rasmussen

With Veleno slated to return, Rasmussen has a chance to get some quality minutes with some scorers. Khan tweeted that he not only was net front on the second power play unit in practice, but he’s set to center a line with Vladislav Namestnikov and Adam Erne, both of whom have scored in recent games.

If there’s any lesson here, it could be from Erne, who exploded for 11 goals last season in the shortened season and made Steve Yzerman‘s acquisition of him look brilliant. A rugged winger, Erne’s scoring will only be more important as the team continues to grow and compete.

Might Rasmussen trend the same way? It feels as if he’s at times pressing and still not fully comfortable using his frame at the NHL level. Nothing spoke to this more with how poorly his first shift in overtime went during Detroit’s 4-3 win Thursday night. From the moment he set foot on the ice, Rasmussen looked out of place.

He took the puck to the boards, was knocked off of it and into the boards by Yanni Gourde, who suddenly had a chance at Thomas Greiss. Gourde’s first shot was initially saved, but he had a Grade A chance because he beat Rasmussen to the rebound. If not for Greiss’s quick kick save, the Wings lose the game. For the remainder of the shift, Rasmussen was responsible on the ice, but didn’t really serve much of a scoring threat.

It’s something Rasmussen has to do in order to maintain his role in the lineup.

Rasmussen Could Find Himself the Odd Man Out

Rasmussen seems like a safe bet to be in the bottom half of the lines in Bertuzzi’s absence, but what happens after? Though there’s still time before Stephens and Vrana return, should Veleno still play at his pre-injury levels (3 points in 9 games, two being goals), it’s not a stretch to think that Veleno beats Rasmussen out of a center spot. Rasmussen has 7 points in 24 games (1-6) and nearly three more minutes per game on the ice.

This is a crucial stretch for Rasmussen to show he belongs. With Veleno expected to be on the wing on the second line, it enables “Ras” to cement his place in the middle while getting that power play time.

But will production follow? Only time will tell, but it’s also certainly ticking on Michael Rasmussen.

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