Flu interrupts line change for the Red Wings

Ted Kulfan
The Detroit News

Detroit — They need some more offense, so the Red Wings have shuffled their lines once again in an effort to potentially create goals.

Problem was, the flu interfered somewhat.

Coach Jeff Blashill intended on putting together a line of Pavel Datsyuk centering Tomas Tatar and Dylan Larkin, a unit certainly with offensive potential.

But just before game time Wednesday, Tatar came down with flu-like symptoms and was a late scratch.

So Darren Helm was shifted over to take Tatar’s spot.

Blashill is looking at anyone, anything, to produce more offense at even strength.

“We’ve played good hockey but in order to continue that, we’ve got to score a little more 5-on-5,” Blashill said. “It’s not a reflection on anyone’s particular play, it’s a reflection on trying to find the best line combinations to score a little more 5-on-5.”

Hockey coaches are constantly juggling combinations to find offense. Sometimes the chemistry works instantly — and sometimes it never happens.

Once Tatar returns, there’s no guarantee the mix will work.

“Obviously those are three talented players (Datsyuk, Tatar, Larkin) but that doesn’t (necessarily) result in chemistry,” Blashill said. “Until we try it, we don’t know. Sometimes that can backfire. We’ll have to see how it works, make our reads and determinations, and we’ll move forward.

“They’re dynamic offensive players. Let’s see if that results in more 5-on-5 production on that line.”

As far as the other Red Wings lines Wednesday, Blashill put Riley Sheahan between Brad Richards and Teemu Pulkkinen, while the fourth line had Luke Glendening centering Tomas Jurco and Joakim Andersson.

The only line that stayed intact was Henrik Zetterberg in between Gustav Nyquist and Justin Abdelkader.

Beyond the stats

Forward Brad Richards didn’t have a goal or assist in the last five games, and only one goal and one assist in the last 10 games, but Blashill isn’t concerned.

Blashill likes the way Richards has played in nearly every other area.

“He’s been excellent,” Blashill said. “That doesn’t always translate into points, but he’s been a winning hockey player.

“By that, I mean he’s done an unreal job defensively, been extremely accountable, and he’s added offense at moments in plays you think of the great pass he gave Larkin (in New Jersey on Jan. 4, springing Larkin on a breakway), he has the ability to make those types of plays.

“He’s done a good job, he’s a real winner and he’s been that the whole time he’s been here. His game is at a real good spot.”

Rivalry night

National television was billing the Red Wings’ game against St. Louis a rivalry.

Blashill wouldn’t disagree, but added there are factors into two teams becoming intense rivals.

“We’ve had some battles with St. Louis,” Blashill said. “It’s dictated by a number of things. Who are you playing a lot? They kind of take on a life of their own every season based on animosity built up.

“Certainly a playoff series have a big thing to do with it. I don’t know if I’d narrow it down to one (rivalry) but certainly St. Louis and Detroit has been one that’s been a good rivalry.”