Injuries challenge Wings as road stretch begins

Ted Kulfan
The Detroit News

Nashville — The first day back after Christmas break wasn’t a cheerful one for the Red Wings.

The Red Wings found out they’d be without forward Dylan Larkin (upper body) and defenseman Jonathan Ericsson (upper body) for Saturday’s game in Nashville.

Coach Jeff Blashill said after Saturday’s 3-2 victory Larkin will be re-evaluated Sunday and remains day-to-day.

Not having Larkin was particularly jarring as the rookie leads the Red Wings in goals (13) and leads the entire NHL with a plus-21 rating.

Larkin, 19, slammed into the end boards head and shoulder first on a hit by New Jersey defenseman John Moore during Tuesday’s 4-3 loss to New Jersey.

Larkin briefly went into the locker room but returned quickly returned and finished the game.

“We’re not going to put him out there if he’s not healthy and can’t play,” said general manager Ken Holland, who hopes Larkin can return to the lineup druing this three-games-in-four-days road trip that includes games Monday in Minnesota and Tuesday in Winnipeg.

Still, he wouldn’t pinpoint an exact timetable.

“Right now, we’re saying day-to-day,” Holland said. “It could be tomorrow, it could be more days than that.”

Larkin’s 24 points are second on the team to Henrik Zetterberg. Because of his all-around play, Larkin has emerged as the leading contender for the Calder Trophy (best rookie).

With no Larkin, rookie Tomas Nosek, who was called up from Grand Rapids last weekend, made his NHL debut.

Nosek played 7 minutes, 26 seconds on 12 shifts.

Nosek was a healthy scratch for two games before the holiday break and had two goals and six assists in Grand Rapids, while used primarily in a checking and penalty-killing role.

As for Ericsson, the defenseman will miss his third consecutive game with what appears to be a shoulder injury suffered in Dec. 18 game against Vancouver.

“It’s the same thing as Larkin, we’re calling it day-to-day,” Holland said. “We’re hoping he’ll play (at some point on this trip). He hasn’t been able to practice, and test it, so we’ll see if he’s ready for the next game (Monday in Minnesota).”

The Red Wings and the rest of the NHL were off the last three days, with no games or practices scheduled.

With Ericsson out, Jakub Kindl remained in the lineup on defense for the Red Wings.

Back to work

No games for three days, then fly to Nashville on the day of the game. Playing that first day back from the holiday break, and particularly on the road.

“For sure it’s huge,” Riley Sheahan said of the impressive victory. “We played a pretty good game, Sometimes it’s hard after the break to get the legs going.

“You’re at home with your families, maybe eating some things that maybe you shouldn’t be eating, things like that. It can be a little tough coming back.

“But our leadership group did a good job of making us feel ready and bringing intensity to the locker room.”

Ice chips

Blashill went with goaltender Petr Mrazek in net against the Predators.

Mrazek replaced Jimmy Howard in net Tuesday after Howard allowed three goals on six shots against the Devils.

Mrazek stopped 24 of 26 shots to earn the victory.

…Blashill was quick to point out the improved play of forward Tomas Jurco, who was on a line with Riley Sheahan and Tomas Tatar with Larkin out of the lineup.

“That’s four games in a row I’ve thought Jurco has played real well,” Blashill said. “He skated and pursued the puck on the forecheck and on the track and when he does that, he’s a real good player.”

… Saturday’s game in Nashville opened a stretch of three road game in four days, and overall, nine of 10 games on the road.

The Red Wings will have three home games the entire month of January.