Detroit — Offense will be at a premium in the first three games of a Red Wings road trip beginning Saturday night in Calgary. Injury has claimed Robby Fabbri and Tyler Bertuzzi also will be unavailable for action.
That takes two of Detroit’s top four goal scorers out of the lineup for those contests.
Left wing Fabbri, fourth on the Wings with 17 goals and fifth with 30 points, suffered a knee injury in Thursday night’s loss to Minnesota.
“We suspect that Fabbs tore his ACL,” Blashill said after Friday morning’s practice at Little Caesars Arena. “We’re consulting with another specialist just to get a second opinion. But the expectation is that he’ll miss the rest of the season. I feel horrible for him. I feel terrible for him.
“He has had to grind through multiple ACL injuries, but he also had to grind through and did a remarkable job of getting himself back to a spot where he was playing without any fear of injury, and playing with that relentless nature that he’s got to play with to be successful.”
Fabbri had scored three goals in three games before Thursday night’s contest, during which he came out after playing 8:27.
“The good thing is that he knows what it takes to come back,” Blashill said. “Hopefully he comes back better than ever, stronger than ever, more determined than ever.”
Bertuzzi will miss the next three games in Calgary, Edmonton and Vancouver before rejoining the Wings on March 19.
“Our plan is that he will join us in Seattle,” said Blashill, who confirmed that a non-COVID illness for Bertuzzi is a factor. Bertuzzi did play 19:43 Thursday against the Wild, but has not been allowed to travel to Canada because of his decision to not receive COVID vaccinations.
He is second on the Wings with 24 goals and 48 points, and with Fabbri (minus-23 rating) out, that takes a considerable chunk of offense out of the lineup.
However, highly-talented Jakub Vrana has returned from his shoulder injury to score three goals in two games.
The Red Wings recalled left wing Taro Hirose (Michigan State) from Grand Rapids, where he led the Griffins with 45 points in 52 games. He’s played one game this season for Detroit, and has three goals and 16 points in 43 NHL games.
“I don’t know that he’ll play,” Blashill said of Hirose. “We haven’t made any decisions yet. I would hang the extra offense more with guys who will get increased opportunities and even increased ice time. (Joe) Veleno played more than he normally has. (Filip) Zadina played a lot of minutes.
“Those are two young players that we think can increase our offense. Rass (center Michael Rasmussen), all those guys, are going to have to bring it to another level, and I thought they did (in a 6-5 loss to the Wild). The Veleno line with Gagner and Vrana was real good. The Rass line (with forwards Zadina and Adam Erne) was real good.
“So, I think that’s going to be a critical part of us to absorb the loss – first of Fabbs and Bert in the interim. So, hopefully, those guys can step up and play great hockey, and we won’t feel the loss as much from an on-ice standpoint.”
Detroit will be looking to solve Calgary goalie Jacob Markstrom, who leads the NHL with eight shutouts and blanked the Red Wings, 3-0, on Oct. 21 at Little Caesars Arena. Markstrom ranks fourth in the league in both goals-against average (2.12) and save percentage (.927).
“He’s really grown into an elite goalie in the league – one of the best probably,” said Blashill. “First off, they play good ‘D’ in front of him. Obviously, most Darryl Sutter teams do. But he’s really become a great goalie.
“I saw him play a long, long time ago at the world juniors when I was with the U.S. team. We went to see an exhibition and I saw this huge, huge man in net (Markstrom is now 6-6, 206 pounds), super athletic. I thought, ‘Holy smokes, he’s going to be great.’ It took him a little bit (of time) but he’s become that great goalie.
“He also fills net well. He’s been coached well, he’s worked at his game, and he’s competitive. So, he’s got all the tools to be a great goalie, and he’s certainly become that.”
Steve Kornacki is a freelance writer.
Red Wings at Flames
►Faceoff: 7 Saturday, Scotiabank Saddledome, Calgary, Alberta, Canada
►Outlook: The Red Wings (24-27-7) will attempt to break a four-game losing streak – during which they have been outscored, 24-10 . . .The Flames (35-15-7) have won 15 of their last 18, and registered a 4-1 win Thursday over 37-win Tampa Bay . . . Calgary’s Johnny Gaudreau notched his sixth career hat trick in the win over the Lightning, and is fourth in the NHL with 77 points.