Detroit — The Red Wings’ offensive success is not all up to Henrik Zetterberg this season
Andreas Athanasiou, Dylan Larkin and Anthony Mantha are taking take larger roles in the lineup and the Wings have more secondary scoring.
In the club’s first non-playoff season in a quarter-century, Zetterberg generated so much of the offense that only players on the ice with him last season contributed much to scoring. Jeff Blashill repeatedly moved players on-and-off Zetterberg’s line to try to balance things.
This year, the three prospective stars are generating more of their own scoring, playing more defensively and logging more time on ice.
Meanwhile, with 20 games played, nine players have four or more goals, compared to five last season.
Zetterberg averaged 19:43 last season. The next most-played forward, Gustav Nyquist, averaged 17:26.
While he had 21:23 against the Sabres in the Red Wings’ 3-1 win Friday, Zetterberg logged 16:47, 17:12 and 18:01 in three of the past five games.
“The way we’re playing now, we’re using a lot more forwards,” Zetterberg said, after practice at noon, Saturday. “The ice time is pretty equal, at least between the top nine.
“Everyone gets a little bit more feel for the game, and we have good energy on the top lines, too.”
The captain credited Athanasiou, Larkin and Mantha for seizing the reins and earning more time on ice.
“It’s been great, seeing it,” Zetterberg said. “I talked about ‘Larks’ the other night and the steps he’s been taking.
“But also Mantha and Double-A, when they get chances to play, they create a lot of stuff offensively.
“I think for Mo and Dubs it’s just knowing when to go, and when to play simple,” he said, of Mantha and Athanasiou. They’ve got so much in them, they want to play every time they’ve got the puck.
“And I think you’ve seen that Larks, he’s played more games, and he realizes you’ve got to wait for your chances sometimes, too.”
When each of the trio gets wound up to strike into the offensive zone, or has a scoring chance, fans at Little Caesars Arena have begun offering “ohs and ahs” in anticipation of the action.
“They’re dangerous; both Mo and Double-A,” Zetterberg said.
“When they come with that puck you don’t want to be backing up against them.”
Luke Witkowski continues to practice with the team, despite his 10-game suspension.
The automatic penalty, assessed by the NHL, is required by rule when a player ordered to the dressing room returns to the bench or the ice.
Witkowski said he understands his situation offers no route to a successful appeal. But he has received strongly positive appraisals from his teammates for his actions late in the 8-2 win over the Flames.
"I have decided not to appeal the 10-game suspension stemming from what happened against the Calgary Flames on Wednesday, November 15 in Detroit,” said Witkowski, in a written statement issued by the Red Wings.
“After consulting with the NHLPA and reviewing the options, I accept and understand that the wording of the rule, combined with what happened during the incident, leaves little to no chance of a successful appeal.”
NHL Rule 70.6 is: “Any player or goalkeeper who has been ordered to the dressing room by the officials and returns to his bench or to the ice surface for any reason before the appropriate time shall be assessed a game misconduct and shall be suspended automatically without pay for the next ten (10) regular League and/or Play-off games.”
Avalanche at Red Wings
Faceoff: 6 p.m. Sunday, Little Caesars Arena, Detroit.
TV/radio: FSD/97.1 FM
Outlook: It is 15 years since the heat of the bitterest of NHL rivalries generated from the games played between these teams. Along with another dominant team of the late 1990s, the Devils, the Wings and Avalanche are rebuilding their lineups to varying degrees. … The Avalanche play the Predators in Nashville Saturday night. … Nathan McKinnon, 22, in his fifth NHL season and the 2014 Rookie of the Year, entered the game against Nashville with 15 points in the previous seven games. … The Red Wings are on a 6-2-1 run. … Danny DeKeyser will return to the lineup after missing 17 games with a broken foot. DeKeyser played in the first three games of the season before stopping a shot with his foot against the Stars on Oct. 10.