Goals are fine, but Red Wings more impressed with Copp’s complete game

Detroit News

Detroit — Andrew Copp picked a good time for his first Wings’ goal, scoring the eventual game-winner Thursday against Washington late in the third period.

Copp afterward was hopeful of maybe his first goal kind of opening the floodgates for many more.

If that happens, great, as far as coach Derek Lalonde is concerned. But Lalonde simply wants Copp to play the all -around game that pushed the Wings to sign Copp in free agency last summer.

“For me, again, we don’t judge him on goals,” said Lalonde, who felt the goal will give Copp confidence. “It completes his game, and it was a big goal (Thursday), but we just need minute after minute in every situation from him.”

It was Copp’s ability to score but also defend, as well as his ability to thrive on both the power play and penalty kill, along with his leadership qualities, that made Copp, in the Wings’ eyes, a natural fit as the second-line center.

“He’s hard on himself, and that’s why he’s a special player,” Lalonde said. “But we have really liked what he has given us, and the offense was a bonus last night.”

Copp is coming off a season in which he scored a career-high 21 goals, including eight in 16 games after being dealt at the trade deadline from Winnipeg to the New York Rangers. Copp’s previous high was 15 goals in Winnipeg in 2020-21.

So last season was an abnormal jump for Copp, 28, but Lalonde wasn’t focused on last year’s offensive jump.

“We like his entire body of work in his career,” Lalonde said. “He can play with elite (players), which he was doing with the Rangers and he was in a situation to succeed there with the type of talent he was playing with and the type of offense he was playing with.

“And he produced. We just like the player in every situation.”

Lalonde has told Copp “not to judge yourself on offense. Some of his best hockey has been when he hasn’t produced points. A perfect example, you go back to that Minnesota game, he’s arguably our best player and I don’t think he had a point. Then he comes to Buffalo and he had at least one assist.

“But I guarantee you he would trade that performance. Offense will come when he plays the right way. When he does that, it’s what we need out of him.”

Goalie carousel

Both goaltenders, Ville Husso and Alex Nedeljkovic, are expected to get a start this weekend because of the back-to-back games (Saturday against New York Islanders, Sunday at New York Rangers). Who will start what game, Lalonde wouldn’t reveal, preferring to be consistent in delivering the news (telling the goaltender the night before).

Husso is beginning to assume control of the starting job, Thursday’s victory over Washington the latest salvo. Husso is 4-1-1 with a 2.17 goals-against average and .934 save percentage, while Nedeljkovic is 1-2-1, 4.96 GAA, .871 SVS.

Still, Nedeljkovic has had the majority of road games, a couple of opening nights on the road, and has had some poor team defensive games in front of him.

“Obviously, (Husso) has played very well,” Lalonde said. “But it doesn’t take a trained eye to see a difference in what the two goalies have faced. Unfortunately, it’s just the way it’s kind of played out. Nedo’s been put in some bad situations in those road games.”

1998 team celebrated

The Wings will celebrate the 1998 Stanley Cup-winning team Saturday during pregame ceremonies.

The Wings’ motto that season was “Believe”, after dedicating the season to Vladimir Konstantinov and team masseur Sergei Mnatsakanov, who suffered serious injuries in a limousine accident six days after the Wings won the 1997 Stanley Cup.

Konstantinov is attending this weekend’s reunion of the 1997-98 Wings’ teams, and is expected to drop the ceremonial puck before the game.

“We went from the highest of highs and then had the euphoria snapped,” Darren McCarty said. “That’s not just us and the team, it’s the whole Winged-Wheel nation. That’s why ‘Believe’ is so important. That’s why that (1998) Cup is so important.”

Ice chips

Dylan Larkin didn’t skate Friday, Lalonde calling it a maintenance day. Larkin is expected to be in Saturday’s lineup against the Islanders.

With his two points Thursday, Larkin (371 points) moved passed Johan Franzen (370) for 22nd place all-time on the Red Wings’ point-scoring list. Larkin’s goal was No. 153 of his career, moving Larkin past Ray Sheppard for 23rd all-time on the Wings’ goals-scored list.

…There was a key play by defenseman Gustav Lindstrom in Thursday’s third period, with Lindstrom breaking up an Alex Ovechkin one-on-one rush coming at Lindstrom full speed ahead.

“There’s a physical mismatch there, but his (Lindstrom) compete helps him win that,” Lalonde said. “Those types of plays, you want to build off of. The more you make plays like that, it just adds up for a more complete game.”

Islanders at Red Wings

▶ Faceoff: 1 p.m. Saturday, Little Caesars Arena.

▶ TV/radio: BSD/97.1

▶ Outlook: The Islanders (7-4-0) have won five consecutive games after a rough start…The Islanders rank third allowing only 2.45 goals per game, and third on the penalty kill (91.9 percent)…C Brock Nelson (13 points), C Mathew Barzal (11 assists) and G Ilya Sorokin (.936 save percentage) are off to fine starts.

ted.kulfan@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @tkulfan

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