Red Wings' Dylan Larkin could be sliding back to center

Ted Kulfan
The Detroit News

Detroit — Dylan Larkin could be moving back to center.

Coach Jeff Blashill had Larkin in the middle at the start of the season, moved Larkin to wing after a slow start offensively, and Tuesday had Larkin back at center during practice with Gustav Nyquist and Thomas Vanek on the wings.

Detroit center Dylan Larkin was practicing with Thomas Vanek and Gustav Nyquist on the wings in practice on Tuesday.

Nyquist and Vanek formed an effective line with Darren Helm to start the season, but Vanek (hip) got hurt and now Helm (dislocated shoulder) is gone for six weeks.

“Nyquist and Vanek had real good chemistry and Helmer provided a lot of energy on that line,” Blashill said. “They’re not the same player, Larkin and Helmer, they’re different players, but potentially it could result in that (new line forming).

“We’ll see if we go with it.”

Blashill thought Larkin was “fine” at center, but just wanted to increase production throughout the lines.

“I thought we could move him just to see if that opened up a little bit of offense for him,” Blashill said. “He hadn’t created as much on the scoresheet as you wanted, but he was fine there.

“I’ll let it play out. If he excels, maybe he’ll play there longer. For me, the focus is right now just on Buffalo (Wednesday) so if I decide to go with it, I’m thinking to see if that gives us our best chance to win.”

Larkin didn’t feel comfortable back at center until near the time he moved back to wing.

“It’s not easy to play that position, you have to be able to move your feet and be quick in your own zone, it’s hard to battle every faceoff,” said Larkin, who is excited about the possibility of playing with Nyquist and Vanek.

“(They are) skilled guys who are ready to make plays,” said Larkin of his linemates.

Conditioning assignment

Tomas Jurco (back) is headed to minor-league affiliate Grand Rapids for a two-game conditioning stint.

Jurco has yet to play this season after having minor back surgery in the offseason.

“I’m excited, it’s been a while, but I’ve been working hard to be ready and I’m feeling good,” Jurco said. “I was trying to think positive and working hard and not thinking about sitting and not playing.

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“It happened for a reason and I feel way better after this surgery. It’s good thing for me and I’m excited to play.”

Blashill feels Jurco will be an important addition to the Red Wings.

“You have to remember when he was playing in the American League, when he left me (Blashill coached in Grand Rapids) when I was down there, he was in top five or 10 of scoring as a young kid,” Blashill said. “He was a huge impact player in the Calder Cup (championship) run. When he’s been sent down there on conditioning stints, he’s dominated. He has a lot of ability.

“He’s at a body weight he prefers. He’s thinned out, he has a real good skill set and he could help us.”

Basement panic

The standings board near the training area provided a shock to Red Wings players Tuesday as they walked by.

The Red Wings were in last place in the Atlantic Division.

“Maybe it’s a wake-up call for everyone in here to let’s get going,” goaltender Jimmy Howard said.

The Red Wings were only three points ahead of the New York Islanders for last place in the entire Eastern Conference.

“We have to realize where we put ourselves,” forward Frans Nielsen said. “The good thing is, it’s still early. But it has to stop now, we have to stop the bleeding.

“We know we can put a streak together, we’ve done it before. We dug ourselves a hole, now we have to realize we have to start playing here soon or it’s going to be too late.

“You can say everyone goes through ups and downs but it’s just been too long.”

Red Wings at Sabres

Faceoff: Wednesday, 7 p.m.

TV/radio: FSD, 97.1 The Ticket.

Outlook: Buffalo moved past the Red Wings in the standings Monday — pushing Detroit into last place — after defeating Calgary 4-2 … RW Kyle Okposo (12 points) has been a good free agent signing, while G Robin Lehner (.920 SVS) has been effective.