Detroit — Dylan Larkin was in a good mood Sunday after practice as the media began to stroll into the Red Wings’ locker room.
Larkin’s cheerfulness wasn’t surprising. There was, after all, Michigan’s 45-23 victory Saturday over Ohio State, and Larkin being a former Michigan Wolverine.
Which also led to Larkin winning a bet with goaltender Alex Nedeljkovic and Nedeljkovic, an Ohio native, paying up on said bet: wearing a Michigan long-sleeve T-shirt for all the world to see.
“Perfect timing,” said Larkin, making sure reporters had a good look at Nedeljkovic wearing the maize and blue gear.
“Any questions,” said Nedeljkovic, with a smile, likely wishing he was wearing any other shirt but that one.
Andrew Copp, another Michigan alumni, didn’t have any bet with Nedeljkovic. Copp said it was going to be nerve-wracking enough watching Saturday’s game without worrying about a bet like that. But Copp was mighty happy with the way The Game turned out.
“That was the first time I’ve watched the Michigan-Ohio State game with family and friends in eight years, pretty much,” said Copp, nothing his time playing in Winnipeg. “I had Troubs (Jacob Trouba) and K.C. (Kyle Connor, former Winnipeg teammates) in Winnipeg to watch it with my brother and my girlfriend. That was pretty fun.
“Obviously very happy. We’ve been pretty dominant all year. It was the first win in Columbus since 2000, that’s a long time.
“It was a pretty nice day.”
Copp was able to visit a Michigan practice earlier this season, and has met Jim Harbaugh twice since Harbaugh became the Wolverines’ head coach.
Copp is impressed with how Harbaugh has run the program.
“He does it his way,” Copp said. “He’s definitely very unique, and I don’t think he cares what anyone else thinks. He’s going to be himself. He’s turned the program around.”
Coach Derek Lalonde was able to watch most of Saturday’s game, and also came away impressed by how the Wolverines took control.
“It’s a pretty impressive win from what I saw in the first quarter and then how it ended up,” Lalonde said.
Goaltender Magnus Hellberg, who the Wings claimed on waivers last week, has already has played for Seattle and Ottawa this season, before joining the Wings.
It’s been a unique journey for Hellberg, who the Wings signed late last season and played Hellberg the final game of last season in New Jersey (a Wings victory).
Returning to Detroit, though, was something that pleased Hellberg.
“I’ve been to Detroit before, I know the organization and all the guys, so that’s always a positive,” Hellberg said.
Getting to know different organizations, and new teammates, is always difficult, but then to do it twice in a matter of months makes it doubly difficult.
“It’s been a little crazy, it’s been a whirlwind for me and my family,” Hellberg said. “We’ve gotten to see a lot of places, so far.
“You don’t think about it at the time but getting to a new environment and getting to know all the new people and names, it’s mentally tough to go through that all over again a couple of times,” Hellberg said. “But I prepared myself mentally before the season that it might be a bit of a rollercoaster this year. I didn’t know it would be like this, at the beginning of the season. It’s only November.
“I came here with the aim to get into the league and I’m on the right path to do that. I’ve taken steps since the beginning of the season and I’m just going to keep going.”
Playing Toronto on Monday will be one of the Wings’ toughest tests to date. The Leafs (13-5-5) have won three consecutive games and are solidly in second place in the Atlantic Division despite steep injuries to their defense.
“That’s an elite team,” Lalonde said. “The record is starting to play itself out. It’s actually very impressive what they’ve done. They’re going through their back end with what we went through up front with six of our top eight forwards out. It’s pretty impressive with what they’ve done, with who they have out.”
… Tyler Bertuzzi, Elmer Soderblom, Filip Zadina and Gustav Lindstrom all have missed playing time this season because of blocking shots.
“It’s what winning looks like,” Lalonde said. “If we had told our guys we’d be sitting where we are right now, and the sacrifice would have been some injuries over blocked shots, every single player would have taken that, and that’s exactly where we’re at.”
Maple Leafs at Red Wings
▶ Faceoff: 7 p.m. Monday, Little Caesars Arena, Detroit
▶ TV/radio: BSD/97.1 FM
▶ Outlook: The Leafs (13-5-5) and Wings (11-5-4) meet for the first time this season. … Toronto has won six of its last 10 games (6-1-3), and is accumulating points despite key injuries on their defense (three regulars out). … RW Mitch Marner is on a 16-game point streak (21 assists, 27 points for season) and C John Tavares (12 goals, 25 points) is off to a fine start.