Night off gives Red Wings' Larkin fresh perspective

Ted Kulfan
The Detroit News

St. Paul, Minn. — It's not often Dylan Larkin has watched a game from the press box, and only an upper body injury put Larkin in street clothes Saturday in Nashville.

But Larkin — who still appears doubtful for tonight's game in Minnesota because of upper body stiffness — took something from missing his first NHL game Saturday.

"You don't want to sit out, but watching from above, it was good to watch and see stuff," said Larkin, who was involved in much of Sunday's practice at Xcel Energy Center. "It was good to take positives out of it and learn a little bit."

Larkin slid hard into the boards Tuesday after getting tangled with New Jersey defenseman John Moore. Larkin was able to turn and protect himself so the impact didn't involve his head.

He finished the game against the Devils, but was stiff the remainder of the three-day holiday break.

"I was pretty sore, that was the big thing, dealing with the soreness," Larkin said. "I did wake up Wednesday and it was pretty stiff. Adrenaline was kicking in (during the game) and I was able to finish.

"(But) it was pretty stiff (last week)."

Larkin participated in most of Sunday's drills but coach Jeff Blashill didn't sound optimistic about Larkin playing against the Wild — although Blashill didn't rule out Tuesday in Winnipeg.

"He skated well (but) we didn't do any contact," Blashill said. "I haven't had a chance to speak with (trainer) Piet (Van Zant) but I believe he'll be out (Tuesday).

Wings star Larkin out with upper-body injury

"We'll make sure he's 100 percent from a physical and mental standpoint, able to go out there and not be tentative at all."

When Larkin does get back he'll try to use what he learned from watching in Nashville.

"Just watching guys like Pavel (Datsyuk) from up top," Larkin said. "It's a little different from the bench, the game seems so fast. But when you're up there (press box), obviously it's not slow but you see how patient he is with the puck.

"Definitely I learned something from that. Several times he held on to it and used his body to make plays and it's something I'm going to work on."

There was a significant amount of speculation after the Devils game as to whether New Jersey was targeting Larkin and attempting to play a physical game against the rookie, taking him out of the game mentally.

But Larkin doesn't feel there was any extra physical attention from the Devils.

"No, when we were in New Jersey (earlier in the month) it was a physical game there and it carried over," Larkin said. "I just think it was a physical game, two huge points (up for grab) and I don't think there was any targeting. Maybe I started it, I don't even know what started it, but it was a physical hockey game."

As for the collision with Moore, Larkin doesn't feel it was dirty in any way.

"I was bracing myself for contact, the contact came, and my feet came out from under me," Larkin said. "I was just happy I was able to turn and not go head first.

"It's a hockey play and it happens. I put myself in that situation. I'm happy my head wasn't affected."

Block party

The Red Wings were credited with 20 blocked shots Saturday in the victory against Nashville.

"We show block shots in our (video) clips and we label them winning hockey," Blashill said. "That's part of winning. We're not a team that just stands around in the middle and wants to just block but you certainly needs blocks at critical moments and certain situations.

"Our guys played a real committed game (Saturday)."

Ice chips

Defenseman Jonathan Ericsson (upper body) participated in practice but Blashill felt Ericsson will not be ready for the Wild.

… Blashill said goaltender Petr Mrazek will start against the Wild, with Jimmy Howard playing Tuesday in Winnipeg.

… Defenseman Brendan Smith has four points (one goal, three assists) in his last four games.

"It's hard to score in this league and sometimes they go in and sometimes they don't," Smith said. "Now, they're going in, knock on wood. Before, I was making plays but they weren't going in.

"Just being in the lineup, that helps."

Red Wings at Wild

Faceoff: 8 Monday, Xcel Energy Center, St. Paul, Minn.

TV/radio: FSD/97.1

Outlook: The Wild (18-10-6, 42 points) came out of the break with a disappointing loss to Pittsburgh…The Wild have been tough at home (13-5-1)…LW Thomas Vanek (11 goals) and C Mikko Koivu (21 assists) lead offensively.