Detroit Red Wings’ coming week brings old faces, possibly old teammates

Detroit Free Press

That run the Detroit Red Wings keep talking about has yet to materialize, but at least a break is on the near horizon.

They have three games left before the All-Star break offers the chance to rest and reset. The San Jose Sharks visit Little Caesars Arena on Tuesday, and then the Wings pack their bags — and their dads — for a trip that takes them to Montreal on Thursday and New York on Friday to face the Islanders.

After playing the Isles on Friday, the Wings (19-18-8) don’t have another game until Feb. 7, when the Edmonton Oilers come to town. That gives the Wings a whole week without practices or any other team obligations. Dylan Larkin will represent the Wings at All-Star weekend in Florida, but even he will have a chance for five days off before being due at the Florida Panthers’ arena Feb. 3-4.

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Major minors

Two former teammates playing in the minors are making inroads towards being recalled. Jakub Vrana is showing signs of getting his game in order, which is what the Wings hoped for when they assigned him to the Grand Rapids Griffins earlier this month. His second goal in as many games was vintage Vrana: He picked up a pass in the neutral zone, skated through three defenders and flipped the puck into the net. Yes, it is at the AHL level, but considering his first six games there featured just one assist and a minus-6 rating (plus a stint as a healthy scratch), it’s encouraging. If Vrana keeps scoring, he’ll be recalled in the hopes his resurgence prompts a contender to make an offer ahead of the March 3 trade deadline. Goaltender Alex Nedeljkovic seems to have his groove back, posting a 2.35 goals-against average and .922 save percentage in eight games. Magnus Hellberg hasn’t exactly induced confidence, so the Wings may want to give Nedeljkovic a chance at the Islanders.

Dads trip

The Wings have brought back the fathers/mentors trip for the first time since the pandemic. It’s a quick one this time, but with two home games leading up to the trip, some of the European dads — such as Moritz Seider’s and Gustav Lindstrom’s — have arrived early. League rules limit the trips to two games, and the Wings picked this one because taking in a game in Montreal is something special. Plus, as a few players mused, it will give their dads a chance to see the less glamorous side of playing in the NHL: Clearing customs at midnight, as the Wings are scheduled to fly to New York immediately following Thursday’s game against the Canadiens.

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Finding the right fit

Coach Derek Lalonde mentioned after Saturday’s 2-1 loss to the Philadelphia Flyers that although it was good to see Lucas Raymond score his 15th goal of the season, and that he clearly plays his best on a line with Dylan Larkin, that line — featuring Dominik Kubalik on the other wing — also had its fingerprints on both of the Flyers’ goals. Lalonde isn’t likely to put Tyler Bertuzzi back with Larkin and Raymond, though, when Bertuzzi returns from a lower-body injury. “That line was good last year,” Lalonde said. “But for whatever reason, they got into a mentality of when those three get together, it just feels like a run-and-gun. They give up more chances than they get. The three of them get together, it’s like of like, the horse race is on. It’s not a recipe for success.”

Contact Helene St. James at Follow her on Twitter @helenestjames.

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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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