Larkin returns to wing as Blashill shakes things up

Ted Kulfan
The Detroit News
Dylan Larkin

Detroit – Looking for something that'll trigger an upswing, coach Jeff Blashill reshuffled his lines at Thursday's practice.

Dylan Larkin went back to a wing on Henrik Zetterberg's line, alongside Justin Abdelkader, while Gustav Nyquist dropped down to a line with Riley Sheahan and Tomas Tatar.

Darren Helm centers the third line, with Tomas Jurco and Teemu Pulkkinen on the wings, while Luke Glendening centers Drew Miller and Landon Ferraro (or Joakim Andersson).

Blashill has tried different variations, and this is the latest attempt at getting the Red Wings going. After starting the season 3-0 the Wings have lost five of their last six.

"We have better in us," Blashill said. "Part of my job as a coach is try to find the best combinations to put them in the best chances to be successful."

By moving Larkin back on the wing, Blashill reunites what has been the Red Wings' most effective line and gets Larkin away from the faceoff circle, where the young player has struggled.

Also, putting Glendening back in the middle gives Blashill and his staff an opportunity to pit Glendening defensively against opponents' better offensive players "where he can be the most effective," said Blashill.

Turnovers hinder Red Wings early in season

Blashill talked about the Red Wings' depth entering the regular season as one of the team's strengths.

"Now we have to make that a reality," Blashill said. "I can think that, it can be my opinion, but we have to prove that we have a group of guys who are better than they've been."

After a day off Wednesday, the Red Wings returned to the ice not necessarily concerned about the 1-4-1 stretch.

"Obviously we're not playing the way we want but I don't think there's much worry," Sheahan said. "It's early in the season and we're comfortable and confident with the guys we have."

Out of the blocks

The Red Wings have often been a team that's been able to get off to quick starts, securing valuable points in the standings to compensate for inevitable slumps and lulls later in the season.

There's still time to straighten out this particular slump, but the Red Wings understand the importance of early points.

"The key is to get points while you're healthy and we've had injuries, and maybe that's played a little bit of a role," said Justin Abdelkader, referring to injuries to Pavel Datsyuk (ankle), Johan Franzen (concussion), Mike Green (upper body), Brad Richards (back) and Kyle Quincey (concussion).

"You try to bank those points for when injuries come. Unfortunately they (injuries) came early.

"Thanksgiving is isually a measuring point, 20 or 25 games in, so we have to just keep improving. Limit turnovers and play better defensively."

Abdelkader's dry spell

After getting four goals and an assist in the season's first two games, Abdelkader has hit a lull – no points in the last seven games.

"I have to be better," said Abdelkader, who is coming off a career-best 23-goal season. "A lot of us offensively, the stats are not where we want them to be. We're not scoring enough goals, scoring chances are down, nobody is happy with their production.

"We have to be better as a team and individually."

Ice chips

Blashill said goaltender Jimmy Howard will get the start Friday at home against the Senators, with Petr Mrazek getting the start the next evening in Ottawa.

... One aspect of the power play that's been struggling is simply entering the zone, which was worked on during Thursday's practice. After a promising road trip, the power play faltered against Carolina in two attempts.

"All five guys have to be on the same page," forward Tomas Tatar said. "We have to battle for pucks and spend more time in their zone."

Senators at Red Wings

Faceoff: Friday, 7:30 p.m., Joe Louis Arena

TV / radio: FSD+ / 97.1 FM, 1270 AM

Outlook: Senators D Erik Karlsson (nine assists) is off to another great start and G Craig Anderson (.914) has been effective.