Wings need Pulkkinen to be ‘complete’ player

Ted Kulfan
The Detroit News
Teemu Pulkkinen

Kanata, Ontario – How hard is Teemu Pulkkinen’s shot?

Darren Helm can tell you after Saturday’s morning skate, given that Helm took a sizzling Pulkkinen slap shot during a special teams drill at Canadian Tire Center, ahead of the game against the Senators.

Helm took the shot around the side of his leg and was in obvious pain momentarily before skating it off and resuming his workout.

“I keep telling Pulky to shoot it and Helmer wasn’t happy (about it), but he’s fine,” coach Jeff Blashill said.

Pulkkinen could be re-entering the lineup Saturday since Dylan Larkin missed the morning skate because of illness. Blashill said Larkin is a game-time decision.

Pulkkinen hasn’t played in eight games and is aching to return to the lineup. He admits sitting and watching has been difficult.

“Everybody wants to play,” said Pulkkinen, who has six goals and six assists (12 points) in 29 games. “When you’re not playing, you’re not going to be happy but it’s pro hockey and there’s only a number of guys who dress and some guys have to sit.

“Just work hard and be ready every day. There’s not much you can do. Just stay positive and work hard.”

Larkin out sick vs. Senators

Pulkkinen appears to be mired in a numbers game, stuck behind offensive players such as Gustav Nyquist and Tomas Tatar. Pulkkinen is not physical enough to play a grinder’s role.

“It’s not a lack of confidence in him, I like him a lot as a player,” Blashill said. “We’ve got different players at different roles. Teemu is a real good player and ultimately he’ll score goals in the NHL and the more he scores, the more he’ll play.”

But Pulkkinen needs continued development in his all-around game.

“He has to play a complete game,” Blashill said. “When he struggles is when he cheats too much to try to get offense. When he’s really good, he anticipates well. It’s a fine line there.”

Pulkkinen felt bad about nailing Helm with the shot but explained there was a good reason for the mishap.

“The shot wasn’t too hard,” said Pulkkinen, adding he took something off the velocity. “It was unlucky. Helmer told me Tats (Tomas Tatar) usually plays that side and he likes to go (shoot) short side. I was trying to go far side.

“It was kind of unlucky.”

Looking out for No. 1

The Wings appear headed for a wild ride to the end of the regular season.

Going into Saturday’s games, the Wings had 67 points, good for sixth in the Eastern Conference. But they were just two points from fourth place -- and also two points from ninth.

Blashill keeps track of the standings, but insists it’s important to concentrate on getting his own team to be as good as it can be.

“The No. 1 focus is just making sure we play good hockey and giving ourselves the best chance to win every game,” Blashill said. “I see the standings, I’m not blind to that. But you can control what you can control and that is your own play.”

Ice chips

Blashill made no changes to his lineup, other than the possibility of Pulkkinen playing for Larkin if the rookie is out due to his illness.

… Defensemen Jonathan Ericsson (lower body) and Niklas Kronwall (knee) are skating but remain out of the lineup. The lack of actual practice time is making it difficult to gauge their game-readiness.

Red Wings at Rangers

Faceoff: 7 p.m., Sunday night, Madison Square Garden.

TV / radio: NBC Sports Network / 97.1 FM, 1270 AM.

Outlook: It’s late in the season, but in a scheduling quirk, this will be the first meeting between the Wings and Rangers. They also play March 12 in Detroit and April 9 back at MSG in the regular-season finale. … The Rangers are 7-2-1 in their last 10 and G Henrik Lundqvist is regaining his elite form (.922 save percentage, 2.33 GAA) after a brief slump.