Jakub Vrana getting closer to Red Wings return

Detroit News

Detroit — The idea of having Jakub Vrana in the Red Wings lineup and adding his proven goal-scoring has gone through coach Jeff Blashill’s mind.

Vrana, who continues to work his way back from September shoulder surgery, skated in a non-contact jersey Tuesday as the Wings returned from the All-Star break.

If everything goes accordingly, Vrana could be in the lineup by the end of February.

“He’s one of the most talented players that we have,” Blashill said. “From a shooting standpoint and a stick-skills standpoint he’s as talented as anyone we have. We understand that’s a big piece offensively, which always helps. Being able to score can really change games.

“The other night (Wednesday’s loss against Los Angeles), if we score to go (ahead) 2-0, there’s a good chance that game is a different story. It changes the mentality for their team, too. You start to take away some hope.”

Vrana was acquired from Washington at last season’s trade deadline (along with draft picks) for Anthony Mantha and made an immediate impact. Vrana scored eight goals in 11 games, including a four-goal game against Dallas.

Vrana will meet with his surgeon as soon as next week. The Wings will know more at that time what Vrana’s time line for a return is.

At this point, Vrana can’t wait to play in a game and make another impact with the Wings.

“That’s what’s in my head right now,”  said Vrana, who added he’s feeling good physically. “That’s what I’m focusing on. I’m a confident player and I’m happy to be back, happy to get there and make the difference.

“I don’t have a (practice) jersey, but we’re making steps to get me there. I’m just looking forward to getting back out there and push for the playoff spot.”

Vrana signed a three-year contract worth $15.75 million in August, then was injured 10 minutes into his first training camp practice, aggravating a previous shoulder injury.

Disappointing and frustrating as it was, Vrana has come to grips with it.

“It’s part of the sport,” Vrana said. “You just got to mentally be strong and stick with the plan and stick with what you’re doing. Believe that you’re going to get back.”

The Wings have been cautious with Vrana, and will so in the homestretch upon his return. Blashill added he wants to see a two-way presence out of Vrana, being committed defensively as well as the offensive end.

“His big challenge when he comes back is to make sure he’s complete,” Blashill siad. “As a team we got to continue to make strides and get better defensively. He’ll need to be part of that.

“With that said, he certainly adds offense whenever he’s available.”

Zadina moves up

There were a couple of different looks at Tuesday’s practice.

Blashill reunited Vladislav Namestnikov with Michael Rasmussen and Adam Erne, and moved Filip Zadina onto Dylan Larkin‘s line with Lucas Raymond.

Blashill wanted the Rasmussen line to have an “identity,” and with Namestnikov earlier this season the line was an effective two-way unit.

“(They) go out and play in different situations and that spreads the minutes (around) a little bit,” Blashill said.

Zadina has been in a season-long slump, but has shown some confidence while earning points in three of four games before the break.

“Confidence is a huge factor in all this,” Blashill said. “He’s hard on himself, so sometimes that eats away at your confidence and you don’t probably look as good as you should because your confidence is down. In the last four games he’s played a couple of good games where his confidence looked higher.

“He can’t give up chances in order to play on that line, you have to be good defensively, and help the offense in a lot of different ways. One way is going to the net.”

Blashill said the coaching staff will review Tuesday’s practice tape “and see if we want to stay with it or not. We might give different guys chances during games (on Larkin’s line).”

Ice chips

Defenseman Troy Stecher (wrist) was in a regular practice jersey and could return to the lineup soon. Stecher hasn’t played since Nov. 4 in Boston.

“Let’s see how he did today, how we reacts (from the practice),” Blashill said. “He was physical out there, (so) you’re getting really close to on your way towards playing and being available to play. We’ll see where it goes.”

… Defenseman Nick Leddy (upper body), who missed the last game before the break, practiced Tuesday and is close to returning, Blashill said.

…The Wings recalled forward Joe Veleno from Grand Rapids, after sending Veleno down to play two games with the Griffins during the break. Veleno had four points (three assists) in two games.

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Red Wings at Flyers

Faceoff: 7 p.m. Wednesday, Wells Fargo Arena, Philadelphia

TV/radio: BSD/97.1 FM

Outlook: The Flyers (15-22-8) won their last two games heading into the break, after having lost 12 consecutive games. … The Wings and Flyers play again Saturday at Little Caesars Arena. … RW Cam Atkinson (17 goals, 36 points) and C Claude Giroux (35 points) pace the offense.

ted.kulfan@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @tkulfan

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