Sheahan's production goes beyond the scoresheet

Ted Kulfan
The Detroit News

St. Paul, Minn. — Statistics can tell a story, but not the entire story, and especially in hockey, where so many intangibles are at play.

Riley Sheahan's numbers didn't overwhelm anyone heading into Monday's game in Minnesota, with nine points (five goals) in 35 games.

But if you look beyond the statistics, you consider the defensive play, the net-front presence, and ability to make life easier for usual linemates Tomas Tatar and Gustav Nyquist, Sheahan's contributions go larger than statistics.

"I take pride in playing a two-way game and if I can help out my linemates," Sheahan said. "I just try to make some plays in the defensive zone, and also stay out of that zone and play in the offensive zone, that's something I take pride in."

What was positive to see for Sheahan and the Red Wings were the fact he had scored a goal in the last two games, maybe a sign the big center was getting confidence to shoot the puck and getting his offensive game in gear.

"It's ince to contribute," Sheahan said. "It wears on you a little bit (when not getting points). It helps your confidence (scoring) and it definitely felt good."

Coach Jeff Blashill has repeatedly mentioned the last several weeks Sheahan is a player whose contributions go beyond the scoresheet.

But Blashill feels there is room for Sheahan to be an effective offensive player, too.

Wings will get closer look at gritty Eric Tangradi

"I see him as a guy who can be in the 40-50 point mark consistently," Blashill said. "If he does that, with everything else he brings — his defensive ability, his size, his ability to cycle the puck and his net presence — you're a real good player in this league.

"He's played well for us and it's nice to see him get rewarded (with goals)."

Sheahan is gradually becoming a force around the net, in some ways reminiscent of Tomas Holmstrom, in the ability to obscure goaltenders' vision and with good hands, be an offensive threat around the net.

"He was so good at it," said Sheahan of watching Holmstrom in his prime. "It's not a spot where it's easy. You have to be willing to get hit (by pucks) and crosschecked, and if you can do that, usually good things will happen there."

Larkin ready

Dylan Larkin (upper body stiffness) took part in Monday's morning skate on a line with Henrik Zetterberg and Justin Abdelkader and appeared ready to play.

"I felt good, definitely seeing progress," said Larkin, who missed Saturday's game in Nashville. "That's good news. I'm excited to get back and ready to skate. The way I play, I don't see it holding me back or being afraid out there.

"I just want to get back and create some offense and play my game."

Said Blashill: "Larkin looked like he was ready, but until I know for sure and he comes back tonight and feels the same as he did (this morning) we'll wait and see."

Blashill only wants to see players return from injury when they're ready to play at maximum level.

"You're never going to feel like you're 100 percent but can you play like you're 100 percent?" Blashill said. "We think we have a depth of good players. So if a guy doesn't feel like he can play at 100 percent, or maybe we don't think it's the right thing (to play him), we'll hold him out and put somebody else in."

Ice chips

Jonathan Ericsson (upper body) missed his fourth consecutive game.

… Goaltender Jimmy Howard will start Tuesday in Winnipeg after Petr Mrazek started Monday in Minnesota.

"I have great belief in both guys," Blashill said. "We look at opponents, situations a number of factors as to who is going to play and when."

Kyle Quincey (ankle), Drew Miller (broken jaw) and Teemu Pulkkinen (shoulder) are on the trip and skating after practice. Quincey appears the closest to returning at this point, toward mid-January.

Red Wings at Jets

Faceoff: 8 Tuesday, MTS Centre, Winnipeg, Manitoba.

TV/radio: FSD/97.1

Outlook: The Jets (16-17-2, 34 points) are last in the Central Division. … Injuries and special teams (29th ranked power play, 26th penalty kill) have been problems. ... RW Blake Wheeler (25 assists, 35 points) leads offensively. ... The Red Wings will play their third game in four nights.