Detroit — As Dylan Larkin goes, so goes his linemates.
That’s how Larkin sees it. If Larkin’s playing well, distributing the puck and finding scoring opportunities for Anthony Mantha and Martin Frk, then Larkin is doing his job.
Now playing in his natural center position, controlling the puck and dictating the game, Larkin through two games is driving the success of his line.
“That’s your goal: You want to have players that want to play with you, and you want to have the puck a ton,” Larkin said. “You look at all the elite first-line centers that make players on their line better, and I’ve got a big chance playing with those two guys.
“I look at myself and if they’re not producing, it’s on me.”
In Saturday’s 2-1 shootout victory over Ottawa, it was Larkin who set up Martin Frk with a third-period goal.
Aside from goaltender Jimmy Howard, it was Larkin who was arguably the Red Wings’ best player, with an assist, a team-high five shots on net, and two hits in 19 minutes 29 seconds of ice time.
Larkin had a power-play goal in Thursday’s season-opening victory against Minnesota.
His linemates are thriving just as well. Frk has a goal in each game — the first two goals of his NHL career — along with an assist, while Mantha has a goal and two assists.
Through 125 minutes of regular-season hockey, the Larkin line has given the Red Wings much reason for hope and optimism.
“It’s something where we don’t want to be looked at as kids,” Larkin said. “We want to play like men and produce.
“It’s time definitely.”
Frk has been an early-season revelation after taking advantage of Andreas Athanasiou’s contract stalemate and finding a spot with Larkin and Mantha.
But it’s Larkin and Mantha, who after impressive finishes to last season, will be counted on to take the next step in their careers.
“We need Larkin to have a great year, we need Mantha to have a great year, because they’re going to garner a lot of ice time,” Blashill said. “When you get lots of ice time, there’s a lot of responsibility that comes with that.
“They’ll have a big say in how our season goes.”
Frk has scored a goal in each of the two games, displaying a wicked shot that has lived up to its reputation as one of the organization’s best.
Frk didn’t get all of it on his goal Saturday, but on a broken play near the circle, Frk got enough to knuckle a shot past Ottawa goalie Craig Anderson.
“His shot is his weapon,” Howard told Fox Sports Detroit of Frk, whose shot Howard faces every day in practice. “I don’t think goalies realize when they put on the pre-scout video how hard and how fast it’s coming off his stick. When it comes off, it comes off fast.”
What solidified Frk’s spot on the roster has been his improvement in other areas, including the forecheck, which Blashill singled out last week.
“Frky is a hard-forechecking player,” Blashill said. “He’s not always noted for that, but he is. It’s an element that line needs.”
The Red Wings were off Sunday, but resume practice Monday before starting a three-day road trip through Dallas (Tuesday), Arizona (Thursday) and Las Vegas (Friday).
… Luke Witkowski made his season, and Red Wings, debut playing 4:36 on the fourth line. Witkowski replaced David Booth in the lineup.