Red Wings defeat Maple Leafs as Soderblom, Veleno impress

Detroit News

Detroit – There isn’t much time left for the young players who are looking to impress the Red Wings management and coaching staff.

Only one game left now, Saturday in Toronto.

Friday’s game against the Maple Leafs — more like their minor-league team, the Marlies, given the lineup — was one of the final chances, and forward Elmer Soderblom and Joe Veleno certainly left another positive impression to think about in the Wings’ 4-2 victory.

Veleno broke a 2-2 tie in the third period with his first goal of the exhibition season.

Tyler Bertuzzi added the other two Wings goals, including an empty-net goal, to seal the victory. They are 3-4-0 in the preseason heading into Saturday’s rematch against the Leafs.

Veleno’s shot from near the dot sailed past Leafs goalie Ilya Samsonov, who had a Dominik Kubalik screen to fight through.

“That’s the goal,” said Veleno, of whether he’s forcing the Wings to think about keeping him. “With all the new coaches and everything, you want to show your best hockey. Everyone in the room is trying to do that. I want to play with an edge and chip on my shoulder for sure and give them no reason to send me back down.

“I want to stay up here.”

Veleno centered Kubalik and Filip Zadina and again did all he could do to win a roster spot, although given that Veleno can be sent to Grand Rapids without being exposed to waivers (and the Wings’ depth up the middle), Veleno has a big mountain to climb.

But Veleno has been intent on keeping his mind free and clear, and simply playing hockey.

“I just want to play hockey, work hard and have fun with the guys,” Veleno said. “The mood in the room is real good. The veteran guys teaching the younger guys the ropes, it’s always nice and it helps your confidence level and allows you to play a lot looser on the ice. We’re just soaking it in and it’s allowed me to play with confidence.”

Soderblom’s tying second period goal was arguably the goal of the night.

Soderblom received a pass near the boards, stickhandled around a Leafs defenseman, cut through the slot and lifted a backhand past Samsonov at 10:32, tying the score 2-2.

It was the 6-foot-8 Soderblom’s second goal of the exhibition season and again, seemingly, gives the front office and coach Derek Lalonde some cause for deep thinking heading into Monday’s 5 p.m. roster submission.

“It’s (confidence) getting better every single game,” Soderblom said. “I have to keep building on that.

“Everything is faster (in the NHL) and every player is smart as well. You have to be smart, and your hands, and make smart decisions. I’m getting the hang of it single game and it feels better.”

Soderblom, 21, has made some eye-opening plays, and looked quick and physical enough to handle the NHL, maybe immediately, and without seasoning in Grand Rapids.

But Lalonde has consistently said that players such as Soderblom, forward Jonatan Berggren (who didn’t play Friday), and defenseman Simon Edvinsson will be evaluated fully after the eight exhibition games are completed.

Lalonde liked what he saw Friday from Veleno and Soderblom.

“Both had good games,” Lalonde said. “Both of those guys reflected our first 30 minutes, slow, everyone was in a similar boat. But both of those guys had an impact on the game and it’s a good sign, a good credit to them.”

The way Soderblom navigated to the net, and the nifty shot, was a good sign.

“It is impressive that he has hands in those tight areas, and what was more exciting was it came off a forecheck,” Lalonde said.

Edvinsson, incidentally, had a team-high five hits in just over 16 minutes of ice.

Edvinsson and Soderblom will not be in Saturday’s lineup, Lalonde said, while not mentioning Veleno.

“We had plans of playing him (Soderblom), (but) we’ve asked a lot of him,” Lalonde said. “We put him in some back-to-back (games), a lot of games, where again, he’s a young kid and we’ve asked a lot of him. He’s played well.”

As for Edvinsson, Lalonde liked that Edvinsson rebounded from an inconsistent game Wednesday in Washington.

“Much better bounce-back,” Lalonde said. “He won’t be playing (Saturday), we saw enough. We’ve asked a lot of these guys in camp. I’m impressed. He’s a little harder than I anticipated, he’s willing to be physical and try to get stops, which are things all of guys have to do.”

Twitter: @tkulfan

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