Detroit — Now the real stuff gets underway for the Detroit Red Wings and the rest of the NHL.
Saturday the Wings ended their exhibition season with a 5-1 victory over the Toronto Maple Leafs.
For what it’s worth, the Wings had an extremely successful preseason, winning seven of eight games (7-1-0).
Vili Saarijarvi (power play), Dominic Turgeon (short-handed), Matt Peumpel, Martin Frk (power play) and Libor Sulak scored for the Wings, while goalie Jonathan Bernier stopped 25 shots.
The Wings outshot Toronto 37-26.
Carl Grundstrom scored for the Leafs.
In many ways this was the ultimate NHL exhibition game. The rosters looked more like an American Hockey League regular-season game, with few NHL regulars in either lineup.
But in this environment, there was one final opportunity for players to prove to management and coaches they belong in the NHL.
And there will be plenty of decisions for the Wings as they set their roster.
“There’s probably more decisions than we’ve had, and guys did a good job of making those decisions tough,” coach Jeff Blashill said. “That’s a positive thing.
“But I’d also say, as I’ve said a lot, this is a fluid deal. This isn’t you made it or didn’t make it for the season. Guys that end up playing Thursday night in whatever roles they’re playing have to keep playing great in order to stay in those roles because there are other guys pushing.
“So that’s a positive thing.”
Rosters need to be set by 5 p.m. Tuesday.
There are numerous questions on defense, as Mike Green (infection), Trevor Daley (lower body) and Jonathan Ericsson (upper body) are currently unavailable. Green is definitely out for the opener, while Daley and Ericsson are day-to-day.
“We will have more defensemen right now because of that, we don’t know where Daley or Ericsson will be come Game 1,” Blashill said. “We’ll have more guys around here for sure, so that gives us a little more time.”
Forward Michael Rasmussen and defenseman Dennis Cholowski were not in Saturday’s lineup, likely a sign both will be on the opening night roster after impressive preseasons.
Forwards Evgeny Svechnikov (assist) and Filip Zadina, and defensemen Joe Hicketts (assist), Filip Hronek (assist) and Sulak all appear to be in contention for job openings.
The decimated Red Wings’ defense is getting a bit healthier.
Danny DeKeyser (finger) returned to the lineup, played against the Maple Leafs, and should be fine heading into Thursday’s regular-season opener.
Mike Green (infection) skated on his own before Saturday’s morning skate but Blashill said Green will not be available for Thursday, and there’s no timetable on a return.
Trevor Daley (lower body) skated on his own, but Daley and Jonathan Ericsson (upper body) are still considered day-to-day.
Blashill said he’d like to see Daley and Ericsson both practice Tuesday and Wednesday (Monday is an off day) before considering them ready for the season opener.
Zadina was back in the lineup for his seventh game of the preseason, as the Wings decide whether to keep the first-round pick on the roster. Zadina collided with Leafs forward Trevor Moore in the second period, left the ice briefly, but quickly returned.
Zadina played 14:44 with two shots on net, and is likely headed to Grand Rapids.
“He has a real mature game for a young player,” Blashill said. “He plays on the right side of the puck, he blocks shots, and adapts defensively.”
But Blashill wants to see Zadina learn how to create space on the ice and work on quickness.
Frk helps himself
Frk scored on a wicked one-timer on the power play, his first goal of the preseason.
Because of his ability on the power play, and at this point in his career time in Grand Rapids wouldn’t benefit him, Frk appears to have secured a spot on the roster.
“I didn’t go to camp to not make the team,” Frk said. “I went to camp to make it and be my best and help the team win as many games as I can.”