Wings will debut Larkin-Datsyuk combination
Kanata, Ontario – Pavel Datsyuk is one of the most creative offensive players in the NHL, and Dylan Larkin is learning to be one.
So, why not put them on the same line and see what happens?
That's what coach Jeff Blashill did at Monday's morning skate, adding Tomas Tatar, in an effort strengthen the Red Wings' offensive attack.
Larkin, 19, has been a Datsyuk linemate during practices, but Monday would be the first game the two would be together.
Growing up in Waterford, Larkin was a fan of Datsyuk's.
"He has some good moves and obviously everyone has seen them before," said Larkin, who has played often with Henrik Zetterberg this season. "He's a special player. It's the same thing as playing with Hank -- try to get open, use my speed and create some space.
"I'm excited to have the puck a lot tonight and try to get to the net."
Larkin has also centered his own line with Tomas Tatar and Gustav Nyquist, as Blashill has looked for ways to maximize Larkin's ability to get other players going offensively.
"It's good playing with different players and finding chemistry," Larkin said. "It doesn't matter what line I'm on. I just try to work hard and try to create energy and try to make the players around me better."
There was one more new challenge for Larkin to tackle against the Senators. Blashill had Larkin as the net-front man on the Red Wings' second power-play unit (Larkin, Datsyuk, Tatar, Teemu Pulkkinen, Jakub Kindl).
Larkin admitted it's been a while since he's played that position.
"But I'm excited about it," Larkin said. "You get a lot of chances to score, you're right there when the pucks come in. I'm just trying to use my body as a screen and look for rebounds and tips."
Teemu Pulkkinen returned to the lineup after missing Saturday's game in Boston with a sore neck.
Pulkkinen doesn't remember a specific hit or incident that triggered the pain.
"After (Friday's) San Jose game, my neck was really bad, I couldn't move my head," Pulkkinen said. "But we did some treatments and now I'm good, I'm 100 percent.
"It's kind of difficult to play when you can't move your head."
Blashill put Pulkkinen on a line centered by Andreas Athanasiou, with Drew Miller on the other wing.
Pulkkinen was looking forward to playing with a speedy center like Athanasiou, with whom Pulkkinen played with in the minor leagues in Grand Rapids.
"He has so much speed and he can create chances," Pulkkinen said. "The games I've played with him, we've had chances. We just have to score with those chances."
There are advantages playing with a fast player such as Athanasiou, who can put opponents on the defensive.
"He can put pucks behind (the opposition) and be the first guy on the puck," Pulkkinen said. "When you have a guy with great speed, it can be a big help."
The Wings signed defenseman Xavier Ouellet to a one-year contract extension. He has appeared in 11 games for the AHL's Grand Rapids Griffins this season, with three points.
... With Pulkkinen returning, Joakim Andersson was to be a healthy scratch.
... Brendan Smith was to miss his third consecutive game with an illness that limited him the entire weekend.
... Landon Ferraro (knee) and Brad Richards (back) both skated before the Red Wings took part in their morning skate. No timetable for a return is set for either player.