Detroit — It’s not often players get nervous before an exhibition game but Saturday was different.
The Red Wings were opening up Little Caesars Arena — even it was a preseason game — so it meant a little more.
Coming out with a 5-1 victory over Boston, even if it was a minor-league dominated Bruins lineup, felt good on many levels.
Red Wings forward Frans Nielsen discusses team's first preseason win, in first hockey game at Little Caesars Arena. Ted Kulfan
“Guys were saying there was a little bit of butterflies, and it’s not every day you feel that for a preseason game,” said forward Frans Nielsen, who had two goals and had an assist in the second period, when the Red Wings took control. “It was fun. We definitely needed this one, and to get a little confidence.
It was the Red Wings’ first victory in four games during this preseason (1-2-1).
“We knew a long time ago we were going to have a pretty good lineup (Saturday), but it’s the first game (at LCA) so it means a lot to come out and win this game,” Nielsen said.
Goalie Jimmy Howard stopped 19 shots, as the Red Wings outshot Boston, 28-20.
The first hockey game at Little Caesars Arena was about half full most of the night, typical of any NHL preseason game.
After a lackluster first period, fans got more excited as the Red Wings got going, as well.
Red Wings coach Jeff Blashill talks about trying establish an identity after the team's first game in Little Caesars Arena. Ted Kulfan
“We dressed a real strong lineup and they’re obviously missing some real good players, so that’s always sometimes to take into account,” coach Jeff Blashill said. “But with that said, we’re trying to cement a foundation and an identity and part of that identity is being relentless and being past and we were that in the second (period).”
Coaches and players alike were attempting to get used to the new arena.
“It was cool to be part of it,” Blashill said. “It’s going to be a loud building. In the end when they were celebrating, it was real loud, so you put more people in the stands it’s going to be a real loud building.”
Having a game in the rink for the first time, players were attempting to get acclimated as quickly as possible.
“In the beginning, we were trying to figure out where the penalty clock was,” Nielsen said. “There was a lot of new stuff out there. We were trying to figure it out and get more comfortable out there.
“But it was awesome.”
Frk, battling for a possible available roster spot, made a good bid for it with his two goals while playing on a line with Dylan Larkin and Anthony Mantha (who each had two assists).
Frk, arguably, has one of the hardest shots in the organization and showed it on his third-period power play goal.
“He’s got a weapon, it’s a flat out weapon,” Frk said. “When he hits the net one of two things happen. It’s either a great rebound chance or it’s in the net. It’s as good a shot as is out there.
“He did the things he needed to do to show he wants the job, and there’s a spot open here. He certainly made a good case for himself.”
Frk enjoyed playing with Larkin and Mantha.
“I played with Mo back in Grand Rapids, I didn’t have too much time with Larks,” Frk said. “It’s a treat to play with those guys. I enjoyed it. I’m trying not to be in their way and just trying to find the (open) spots.”