Power-play auditions for Detroit Red Wings: You’ll be net-front and you’ll be net-front

Detroit Free Press

As much as the emphasis under new coach Derek Lalonde is on playing a sound defensive game, it is vital for the fresh-start Detroit Red Wings to jump-start their power play.

It has been a weakness for so long (16.3% last season; 14.6% spanning the last three seasons), such a squandering of two minutes with an extra skater that it was painful to watch at times. But along with a new coach, the Wings have multiple new players with the skills to put some meaning into having a man advantage.

“Special teams on the whole, I’m optimistic about where they’re at,” Lalonde said Thursday. “They’ve both had good starts. They are going through some details. The structure looks fine.”

The Wings are 2-for-5 as they head into their third exhibition game Friday, against the Washington Capitals at Little Caesars Arena, but little can be read into that number because the Wings haven’t played with a full NHL squad.

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They had more regulars in the lineup in their second game than their first, with one unit Wednesday comprised of Moritz Seider, Dylan Larkin, Pius Suter, Lucas Raymond and David Perron. The latter was signed over the summer in large part because he’s an established power play guy, while Elmer Soderblom and Jonatan Berggren are among the prospects auditioning for a spot. Lalonde indicated that almost all the roles besides the point guy are up for grabs.

“We have a little more luxury, a little more depth, where we feel guys can battle for power play spots,” Lalonde said. “I think you are going to see a lot of guys net-front. You may see Dylan Larkin in this exhibition net-front. You may see Tyler Bertuzzi net-front. You may see Raymond net-front. I think it’s a little combination of we want the puck maybe going through different guys on the half-wall. So all those guys, maybe outside of Mo on top, maybe outside of Perron and his one-timer side, those other three spots, we are going to be rehearsing many guys throughout those spots throughout camp.”

Filip Hronek is, like Seider, a right-shot defenseman who has experience running power plays from up top. Larkin, Bertuzzi, Raymond and Perron and Jakub Vrana are shoe-ins to play roles. Robby Fabbri has been a power play regular, but he’s out until mid-January recovering from knee surgery. Filip Zadina is another Red Wing who has been used on man-advantages, during which he likes to set up in the right circle for one-timers. Newcomer Dominik Kubalik has scored 11 of his 62 career NHL goals during power plays. Suter, Adam Erne and Michael Rasmussen also are options.

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“We kind of worked back from our exhibition matrix, of the eight games, of getting what we foresee as our one and two units into games,” Lalonde said. “Now, that will change throughout, even the next time you’ll see what we might foresee as our top unit, you’ll see some different personnel on it.

“Our penalty kill is 11-for-12. Our power play is 2-for-5. Again, it’s exhibition. Not really overly concerned about the numbers. But at least we’re getting looks and touches. It’s a good start to our special teams, but we’ve got a long ways to go.”

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 latest book, On the Clock: Behind the Scenes with the Detroit Red Wings at the NHL Draft is available from  Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Triumph Books. Personalized copies available via her e-mail.

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