Top Wings line begins getting acquainted against Leafs

Gregg Krupa
The Detroit News

Detroit — Mr. Zetterberg, meet Mr. Nielsen.

Mr. Nielsen, meet Mr. Tatar.

Of course they have met before, the Red Wings forwards Henrik Zetterberg, Frans Nielsen and Tomas Tatar. But meeting is not playing together, let alone doing it in the NHL.

That started Saturday against the Maple Leafs for the trio who composed the top line. All three are key to the Wings offense heading into the season that begins Thursday against Steve Yzerman’s considerably talented Lightning.

In the eighth exhibition game of the 2016-17 season, before which the Wings had more than their share of turnover on the roster, the fellas were just sort of getting acquainted on the ice, because of the World Cup of Hockey, and required a five-game rest period.

It is like that for all NHL teams, of course. But some did not change the roster as much as the Red Wings.

“Coming to a new place, it probably would have been good to get a couple more weeks with the guys, just for repetition,” said Nielsen, 32, who played 10 seasons with the Islanders before signing a six-year deal as a free agent in the offseason.

“But, on the other side, you know you’re coming in from a tournament with high pace and you know you’re more ready than you would have been just playing preseason games.”

Zetterberg has looked fairly frisky in practice despite continuing to recover from a knee injured in offseason training.

“Well, we’ll see,” he said, when asked about developing timing with Nielsen. “We haven’t gotten that many practices with each other, but we get tonight and all next week and we should be ready to go.”

Tatar said the tournament, in which he starred for Team Europe, got him in good “game shape.”

“Our main focus, here, is getting the system into our blood so we know what to do like a Red Wings team now,” Tatar said. “I think it’s more about that than the chemistry.

“The chemistry will work, somehow. But just get the system down and work on that stuff right now.”

Nielsen said he was a little nervous and quite excited before the game about his first game with the Wings.

“It’s going to be fun,” said Nielsen, the first Danish citizen to play in the NHL.

“It’s always a little nervous before you start with the new team, but it’s going to be good to get a game and just get that one out of the system and get ready for the opener.”

Svechnikov shows offensive skills

Evgeny Svechnikov is 19 years old and on his way to Grand Rapids with a big, deserved smile on his face.

The kid from Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk, Russia with the good English skills impressed folks in the preseason, including scoring both goals in a 2-1 win in London, Ontario against the Maple Leafs Friday.

“Obviously, it’s really exciting for me and I’m really happy about it,” Svechnikov said.

“Just from the first shift, I felt really in good shape in the game, and I felt the first couple of shifts was good and I just got a chance off a penalty.

“I just went in the zone and Millsie (Drew Miller) chipped the puck and it bounced to me, and I got it and went in the zone and shot it. It went in, and I was really happy about it.

“The coaches said to shoot more.

“The second goal was (Tyler) Bertuzzi was getting up to the blue line and he just threw a shot up and I went in on net and, just a rebound. I got really lucky.”

Good fortune or not, Svechnikov’s offensive skills are evident. But his hockey maturity is to come.

“I’m just learning about `Svech’ as we move along,” Coach Jeff Blashill said. “I heard great things about his inner drive and desire, which ultimately is probably the difference whether guys make it to the level they should or not.

“From what I’ve seen this year, I thought right away he was noticeably quicker. So, he trained hard off ice to get quicker.

“Last night was the first game when he did some real, real special things with the puck,” Blashill said. “He showed a little bit of high-end ability in those areas.

“So that was a good step in the right direction.”

Street ‘going to be fine’ after scary injury

It’s not often a coach opens a conference with the media on such a serious note, but the Wings center Ben Street took a skate blade to the neck during the game in London Friday.

“Just one announcement on Ben Street,” Blashill began, facing a media huddle after the morning skate.

“Ben was cut in the neck. They explored the wound. There was no major damage.

“He was taken to the hospital just to make sure,” the coach said.

“He was released last night, and he’s on his way home tonight.

“We’d like to thank the Toronto doctors,” he said. “They did an outstanding job. Our medical staff couldn’t say enough good things about them.

“We’d like to thank them for caring for him, but he’s going to be just fine. There should be no issue moving forward.”

During the action, Blashill said he realized Street had been hurt, but not the nature of the injury, at first.

“I didn’t realize right away he had been cut by the skate,” Blashill said. “But he came to the bench, and he had unreal composure, actually, for somebody that that had just happened to.

“He had his hand on his neck.

“I looked up and saw the replay, and that’s when I really got scared. I was hoping everything was OK.”