Red Wings' Frans Nielson, Dylan Larkin named alternate captains; that makes four
Detroit — Frans Nielsen and Dylan Larkin were added as alternate captains by the Red Wings on Wednesday, as the team filled out its leadership group.
Nielsen and Larkin will join Justin Abdelkader and Niklas Kronwall as alternate captains. The Red Wings have decided to not name a new captain to replace Henrik Zetterberg, whose back injury forced him to retire during training camp.
Larkin will wear the "A" at home when the entire lineup is healthy, while Nielsen will wear the "A" on the road.
With Kronwall (undisclosed injury) not playing in Thursday's opener, both Larkin and Nielsen will wear the "A" against Columbus at Little Caesars Arena.
“It was a well-thought-out process, a lot of discussions organizationally,” coach Jeff Blashill said. “This is bigger than just the team. It’s an organizational decision. Certainly (general manager) Ken Holland, and his management team, had a lot of discussions withi myself and our coaching staff, and (executive vice-president) Jimmy Devellano, everyone involved.
“In the end, we feel there’s great leadership in this room outside of those four guys but we felt this was the right decision to distinguish those four guys as ‘A’s.”
Larkin, 22, is likely to become the team’s next captain.
The Waterford Township native, who starred at Michigan, took a major step forward in his career last season and expectations are high he’ll continue to progress in the coming years.
The decision to give him an alternate captain’s position this season seems like a natural bridge to that end.
“It’s a good step for him to go from not wearing (a letter) to wearing one,” Blashill said. “He’s a leader-type person, he’s exhibited that numerous times. I’ve seen him wearing an ‘A’ at the world championships for two years (with Blashill as Team USA coach). He’s done a real good job. We’re real comfortable he’s ready for that. The biggest focus on him and anybody else that wears a letter is making sure they focus on their own games. The best way to be a good leader is to lead by example and you have to take care of your own game first.”
Nielsen, 34, was an alternate captain with the New York Islanders before signing with the Red Wings.
“He’s done it right forever,” Blashill said. “Anybody you talk to that was with the Islanders says he was a guy who was a great example, a great assistant captain.
“He’s all about team and winning. He’s got a lot of the qualities that Z (Zetterberg) has.”
Zetterberg hasn’t yet officially retired, and isn’t likely to do so until his contract expires in three years. If Zetterberg were to officially retire, the team would be penalized in terms of the salary cap.
Defensemen Jonathan Ericsson and Niklas Kronwall were both ruled out for Thursday’s opener, Blashill said.
Ericsson said he was hurt one of the first exhibition games this season and progress hasn’t been as quick as anticipated.
Kronwall left the ice early during Sunday’s practice and has been ruled day-to-day since.
Both players will travel to California this weekend, for the Wings’ games in Los Angeles (Saturday) and Anaheim (Sunday).
Meanwhile, defensemen Filip Hronek and Joe Hicketts, both of whom were assigned Tuesday to minor-league affiliate Grand Rapids, are expected to be called up by the Wings with Ericsson and Kronwall unavailable.
Blue Jackets at Red Wings
Faceoff: 7:30 Thursday, Little Caesars Arena
Outlook: The regular season opener for both teams. … Columbus made the playoffs last season but were eliminated in the first round by eventual champion Washington. …G Sergei Bobrovsky and LW Artemi Panerin are key Blue Jackets, and both could be free agents July 1.