Pius Suter proving to be good fit for Red Wings: ‘He knows where to be’

Detroit News

Detroit — The description turned out to be fairly accurate — which, from the Red Wings’ perspective, was fruitful.

Way back in training camp, when the Wings weren’t sure what they were going to get from forward Pius Suter, coach Jeff Blashill was asked about Suter and what kind of player he’d be.

A free-agent signing last summer, Suter only had one year of NHL experience, having been an undrafted free agent before landing a roster spot in Chicago.

“He doesn’t have wow-you physical tools,” Blashill said of Suter. “He doesn’t shoot it a million miles an hour; he doesn’t skate like crazy. He’s not super big. But he’s really heady, he’s really smart and he knows where to be.

“When I say smart, it’s both offensively and defensively. He’s good at both those sides. He knows how to play the game of hockey, and he’s efficient with the game.”

There weren’t many bright spots during Sunday’s 6-1 loss to Florida, but Suter, arguably, provided one of the few.

Suter scored the Wings’ lone goal, capping a nice passing play with linemates Jakub Vrana and Filip Zadina.

The goal was Suter’s 14th, matching his total in Chicago. With 33 points, Suter surpassed the 27 he earned with the Blackhawks.

Suter, 25, became an unrestricted free agent last summer when the Blackhawks declined to extend a qualifying offer, setting Suter free to sign with any team.

More: Red Wings captain Dylan Larkin to miss final six games after core muscle surgery

The Wings jumped at the opportunity, signing Suter to a two-year contract worth $6.5 million ($3.25 million salary-cap hit). It’s been a good value signing for a top-six forward — Suter has generally centered the Wings’ second line throughout the season — who recently has been centering Vrana and Zadina.

Consistency has been an issue, as Suter has gone through some peaks and valleys in terms of offensive output.

But Suter has shown throughout the season to be a versatile forward who has the offensive skill to play with skilled forwards.

“Suter is a guy who has an ability to make plays with skilled players,” Blashill said. “But, yet, he is real smart defensively and that’s why he has spent time playing with a guy like (Chicago star) Patrick Kane last year. He has the ability to play with those guys because has that skill and he’s real accountable.

“He’s done a good job of that (with the Wings).”

Tough test

The weekend wasn’t pretty for the Wings, who lost by a combined score of 10-1 to the  Stanley Cup-contending New York Rangers and Florida.

The Wings aren’t through the gauntlet just yet.

They make a quick, two-game Florida swing Tuesday in Tampa and Thursday face the Panthers again.

Blashill and many players have talked about embracing the challenge of these final six games. Certainly facing the two-time-defending Stanley Cup-champion Lightning and Panthers will present playoff-caliber tests.

“It’s a real challenge when you’re playing so many teams with elite players and guys need to keep stepping up and playing better hockey,” Blashill said. “These honestly should be great challenges; you want to see what you’re about as an individual. We’re a  bit undermanned with some injury issues, but that gives other guys opportunity.

“How good are you going to be as a player and how can we as a group show that we’re better.”

ted.kulfan@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @tkulfan

Red Wings at Lightning

► Faceoff: 7 p.m., Tuesday, Amalie Arena, Tampa, Florida.

► TV/radio: BSD-Extra/950

► Outlook: The Lightning (46-21-8) have two consecutive games and might be settling in to make a charge toward a third consecutive Stanley Cup. … The experience, talent and depth appear to be there. … C Steven Stamkos (33 goals, 84 points), D Victor Hedman (53 assists, 72 points) and G Andrei Vasilevskiy (35-17-5) pace a powerful lineup.

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