Pius Suter prepared to play any role asked for Red Wings after wave of roster changes

Detroit News

Detroit — There have been changes galore on the Red Wings this season, with new faces all around the locker room, and it really took forward Pius Suter by storm early in training camp.

Suter is only in his second season with the Wings, but the changes were still a bit jarring.

“The first day I came in I didn’t know half the guys,” Suter said of his first visit into the locker room before camp began.

Suter has a better handle on it now. A better idea of matching face to name. And the bottom line is, all the changes general manager Steve Yzerman made is likely going to make this roster deeper and better.

“For sure. From the outside, you guys (media) as well, you can tell,” Suter said of the apparent improvement but also the expectations heading into next week’s season opener. “But still, there will be hard games and you have to deliver. But there is a certain depth, and it’s good for competition, to push each other. It makes every single guy better and moves the team forward individually.”

Suter, 26, played in all 82 games last season with 15 goals, 21 assists and a minus-11 rating. Inconsistent production offensively was an issue and the Wings signed Andrew Copp as a free agent in the offseason to address the second-line center role. But Suter did show the versatility to play in any role asked, on either special team, and showed he could be an important piece in the lineup.

“He can play any role, that’s why he’s valuable,” coach Derek Lalonde said. “You’ve seen him at center, wing, and he’s a complementary guy in our top six or bottom six. There’s hockey sense there and some skill. He’s a very valuable player we see on our penalty kill and we’ve seen him on the top unit on the power play in camp.

“He’s a valuable player because he can play in any situation.”

More: Givani Smith keeps battling for spot on Red Wings’ roster

Barring injuries, it appears Suter will slot somewhere in the bottom two lines, probably at center but possibly at wing depending on how the roster evolves. Suter, predictably, is comfortable wherever he lands.

“We’ll see. The season starts in a week and for the first month you never know (how lineups will shake out),” Suter said. “The preseason is so different from the regular season with all the different lineups, for sure. I’ve played center and wing. I can play both, or up and down the lineup.

“Guys are pushing each other and it’s a good, healthy competition for everybody. It’ll push everybody to be better. You see how many guys are on the roster, and some guys are hurt and they’ll be back. It’s a good situation for the team.”

Assistant captains

The Wings have a stable and respected captain in Dylan Larkin, but Lalonde and the coaching staff have been rotating the two assistant captain designations through a litany of players.

Lalonde made it sound Thursday as if there isn’t a rush to name permanent assistants, and it likely won’t happen before the opener.

“We may spread those A’s around,” Lalonde said. “We’re doing a good job in camp of evaluating and seeing this is how it will play out. We’re not in a rush with that. We have the captain. It’s just unique this year that some of those players that have come into that leadership role have come in free agency and it’s a little bit of a different dynamic.

“We want to be patient with it. We want to help posture it and develop it and we’ll take our time with it, too.”

Roster configuration

Will the Wings go with 14 forwards and seven defensemen, or 13 forwards and eight defensemen?

There is depth at both positions and good, useful players in both areas. The Wings will need to finalize their roster by 5 p.m. Monday, when NHL rosters are set.

When Lalonde was an assistant in Tampa, the Lightning rarely had a full roster because of salary cap limitations.

“This is new territory,” Lalonde said. “This is going to be a jigsaw puzzle on whether we do the 13 and eight or 14 and seven, and a lot will go into that, probably right until Sunday.”

Interestingly, as for individual games, Lalonde said he’d be comfortable in certain times going with 11 forwards and seven defensemen rather than the traditional 12 and six.

“This lineup may even be setting up for an 11 (forwards) and seven (defensemen), something I’ve had experience and success with in the past,” Lalonde said. “Sometimes with those seven defensemen, it’s a feeling of who is going (good) and who is not. And sometimes if a certain player is going, maybe it gives (assistant coach) Bob (Boughner, who runs the defense) the luxury of (allocating more minutes to players going good).

“It can be beneficial when used correctly.”


Twitter: @tkulfan

Maple Leafs at Red Wings

▶ Faceoff: 7:30 p.m. Friday, Little Caesars Arena, Detroit

▶ TV/radio: BSD/97.1

▶ Outlook: The Wings start a home-and-home preseason series against Toronto. The two teams conclude the exhibition season Saturday in Toronto. … Expect a lineup that might closely resemble the Wings’ regular-season lineup Friday against Toronto, but one heavy with younger players and players still battling for final spots on the roster Saturday against the Leafs.

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