Coach Jeff Blashill talks about the Red Wings' lack of offense ahead of their game against the Coyotes. Ted Kulfan, Detroit News
Detroit – Xavier Ouellet learned a valuable lesson when he wasn’t in the Detroit Red Wings lineup for much of November.
For a player not used to sitting games out, Ouellet learned to appreciate what it meant to be in an NHL lineup.
“I realize a little more maybe I was getting a little too comfortable,” said Ouellet, a young defenseman who has been a steadily effective player since returning to the lineup Nov. 26 in Montreal. “You just realize that you can’t take any nights off. I realize I need to play every game like it was my last one.
“Give everything I got, and by doing that, I’ve been playing good and it keeps me in the lineup. I just have to keep going like this and every night, give everything I have.”
Finding that extra passion has worked for Ouellet, who entered Tuesday’s game against Arizona with a team-best plus-6 rating and being paired with veteran defenseman Niklas Kronwall.
Ouellet, 23, has always been described as a player who doesn’t have many flaws in his game, but doesn’t excel in any one area.
But during this stretch, after Ouellet re-entered the lineup, his defensive work has stood out, as well as an ability to make a good outlet pass.
Sunday against Philadelphia, Ouellet found Frans Nielsen on a pinpoint pass that sent Nielsen free on a breakaway.
“He’s a heavy, heavy body, hard in front of the net and he can make good outlet passes,” coach Jeff Blashill said. “He’s done a real good job of making those outlet passes without trying to do too much. When he does that he’s an excellent player.
“He’s done a real good job so far and we need him to continue to play at a big level.”
Blashill said that before he was benched, Ouellet often tried to “bite off a little more than he could chew.”
Added Blashill: “He has that ability to make real good passes, and when you have that ability sometimes you want to overuse it. When he manages the game the way he’s done the last little bit, he’s a real good player.”
Reunion for Larkin
Dylan Larkin was facing another of his youth league teammates Tuesday in Arizona forward Brendan Perlini.
The two were teammates on Belle Tire teams in the Detroit area before Perlini went to play in the Ontario Hockey League and was a 2014 first-round pick of the Coyotes.
“It’s his first time playing here and where he spent most of his childhood,” said Larkin of Perlini, who played hockey locally but grew up in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario. “I know all of his family from the Soo will be down and a lot of them are Red Wings fans.
“He’s fast, he’s big (6-3, 211 pounds), he’s a great skater. He works hard in the offseason, skating all the time and pushing himself to be a better player, and you see that pays off.
“He’s probably got one of the quickest releases I’ve ever seen.”
Last week Larkin played against Columbus defenseman Zach Werenski (Grosse Pointe Woods), a Belle Tire and University of Michigan teammate of Larkin’s.
Jonathan Ericsson said his back is getting better and he is aiming to return to the Red Wings' lineup Thursday. Ted Kulfan, Detroit News
Blashill wasn’t sure of Henrik Zetterberg’s availability for the game against the Coyotes but Zetterberg took the pregame skate and proclaimed himself fit.
In fact, Zetterberg was in the starting lineup.
…Defenseman Jonathan Ericsson (back) missed his third consecutive game but was aiming to return to the lineup Thursday after going through Tuesday’s morning skate successfully.
“This just came out of nowhere,” said Ericsson, who felt the pain during Thursday’s practice. “I didn’t get any warning on the ice. It just came and hit.
... The Red Wings saw their four-game point streak (3-0-1) against Arizona come to an end with Tuesday’s loss. The Red Wings are 23-7-3 in their last 32 games against the Coyotes.
…The Red Wings didn’t have a shot on goal for the first 14:27 of the game, yet finished the game with 38 shots — their second-highest total of the season.
... Dylan Larkin had eight shots on net, the most by a Red Wings player this season.
…Anthony Mantha recorded his first NHL fighting major in the second period, when he fought Arizona’s Luke Schenn.
…The Red Wings allowed a power-play goal for the first time in eight games, breaking a 24-for-24 stretch dating back to Nov. 25.