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Teammates help Larkin adjust to hectic NHL lifestyle

Ted Kulfan
The Detroit News
Dylan Larkin celebrates his goal against the Washington Capitals in the first period on Wednesday night.

Detroit -- Dylan Larkin continues to adjust to the NHL and it’s never-ending schedule of games and hectic lifestyle.

But Larkin believes a couple of things have helped him not get caught up in thinking about his early success or slowing down on the ice.

First, his approach.

“(Just the) next game, they come fast and it feels like there’s game every other day which is awesome,” Larkin said. “I don’t get much time to think about it (his early success). Sometimes when you’re on the plane, and have some alone time, it’s cool.”

Second, living with Riley Sheahan and Luke Glendening, two young players who’ve handled life in the NHL at a young age, has been a positive experience.

“It’s been great,” Larkin said. “They’re good pros who take care of themselves and have shown me the ropes. Rest and nutrition are huge.”

Star power

There was still time, so coach Jeff Blashill was thinking about heading to his office and making a quick call.

“I should call (Pistons coach) Stan (Van Gundy) and get some tips, for sure,” said Blashill, a day after the Pistons defeated LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers.

The Red Wings were about the face the LeBron James of the NHL — Alex Ovechkin, and his Washington Capitals on Wednesday night.

They’re completely different sports, but interestingly, similarly offensively gifted and dynamic, capable of outthinking and demoralizing opponents.

How do you stop them? In Blashill’s case, how do you limit Ovechkin?

“Elite players create their own offense,” Blashill said. “In this league, it’s so hard to create offense. Only the best are able to get so many chances, and that’s because they can create it themselves.

“You can’t give anything easy to them. You have to make sure when he’s on the ice to be above him and be tight on him.

“When you’re in the defensive zone, you have to make sure you’re not giving him any looks and rebounds.

“On the penalty kill, limit shots and make those shots contested.”

Basketball coaches often talk about making life as difficult as possible for James, although knowing, ultimately James is likely to have some sort of positive impact for the Cavaliers.

Likewise, it’s rare that Ovechkin isn’t going to get a quality scoring chance during the course of a game.

“He’s an elite player in this league, he’s going to get his opportunities for sure,” Blashill said. “You hope to limit them as much as you can and try to make it hard for him, and make him earn every inch of the ice.”

Goaltender Petr Mrazek turned aside 15 Ovechkin shots the last time the teams played (Nov. 10), a 1-0 Red Wings victory.

There’s not much of a plan or strategy, said Mrazek, other than being ready for the challenge.

“He’s one of the best in the league,” Mrazek said. “One of the best scorers in the NHL right now. He can shoot it from everywhere and he has a real good shot.

“You can’t think about (the last game). It’s a new challenge. You have to be big in net and be ready.”