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Wings' Vanek sidelined longer than expected

Ted Kulfan
The Detroit News
Thomas Vanek

Detroit – Thomas Vanek will be missing out of the Red Wings lineup longer than anticipated.

After results of tests, Vanek's “day-to-day” lower body injury is now being called “week-to-week," said coach Jeff Blashill.

“Worse than we originally thought,” said Blashill on Sunday before the game against Florida. “I don’t expect him back this coming week. I don’t know the exact number of days but it’s longer than shorter riht now.”

Vanek’s loss stings, considering he made such a positive offensive impact to start this season.

In seven games Vanek had four goals and four assists for eight points, which ties for the team lead with Gustav Nyquist (three goals, five assists).

The Vanek, Nyquist and Darren Helm line was arguably the Red Wings’ best and most offensively dangerous line, with Vanek’s shooting and playmaking ability a key factor.

“It’s a credit to Thomas than we’re talking about it as much as are,” Blashill said. “He did a real good job. He’s had a good impact early on our team. He’s a guy who can score, I say score easy, but he can score on one shot where some guys need a lot of volume to score. He doesn’t need it.

“This is part of the league. Everybody is missing guys and I’m more worried about the 20 guys dressing tonight and trying to go out and win a hockey games.”

With the Red Wings up against the salary cap and enough forwards on the roster, there’s no need to call anyone up from Grand Rapids.

“Not at this moment,” Blashill said. “If we needed to there’s some cap wiggling we’d have to do, probably involving long term IR (injured reserve) and stuff like that.

“But right now, we like the group we have.”

Defense change

Blashill sat Ryan Sproul on defense, putting Xavier Ouellet back in the lineup.

Sproul replaced Ouellet for the last five games, providing an offensive spark with two assists and using his speed and mobility as strengths.

But Sproul’s overall game tailed off the last couple of games.

“I want to get X back in, it’s a back to back (Saturday and Sunday games) and X played three good games and one okay one,” Blashill said. “Sproul played a couple of good games and a couple okay games.

“We have a lot of guys who are close and we wanted to get X back in.”

Ice chips

Forward Steve Ott was fined $2,222.22, the maximum allowable under the collective bargaining agreement, for spearing Boston defenseman Zdeno Chara Saturday in the 1-0 loss.

… Dylan Larkin received his Detroit Sports Broadcasters Assocaition rookie of the year award in a pre-game ceremony.

… Larkin’s goal Sunday was his fifth in six career games against Florida, more than any other NHL opponent.

… Larkin’s goal ended a Red Wings goal-less drought of 108 minutes 42 seconds.

... With a goal and assist, Brendan Smith scored his first two points of the season.

… The Panthers won their first road game of the season (1-3-1) and ended a four-game road trip with a much-needed victory.

“The first period was the key for us, getting those three goals,” coach Gerard Gallant said. “The way we skated and played, it was night and day from (Saturday’s loss in Buffalo).”

Practice habits

This busy part of the schedule is cutting into the Red Wings’ ability to practice, which in turn, Blashill is seeing having an effect.

“In our practices we kind of set to play to our identity, to do the things we want to be, which is relentless, fast and competitive,” Blashill said. “The first two (relentless, fast) especially, we’ve gotten away a little bit, we haven’t transitioned as quick the last couple of games and didn’t beat people up the ice as much.

“I’m sure some of that is due to not be able to create those habits in practice.”

Quality chances

The Red Wings have been outshot the last three games but Blashill looks at scoring chances against as a more crucial statistic.

“I look more at chances more than shots, the internal chances that we keep,” Blashill said. “If we’re getting out-chanced on a regular basis, then I’m really concerned.

“If you’re getting out-shot, you’re looking at it but way more if it correlates with being out-chanced. Then it’s a big concern.

“For the most part, we’ve done a good job with our chances, both regular chances and what we call Grade A’s.

“Shots are indicative of two things – who carries the play and our mentality."

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