‘Heavy’ play will earn Svechnikov more ice time with Wings

Ted Kulfan
The Detroit News

Detroit — Even when describing the goal afterward, again and again, the smile wasn’t disappearing from Evgeny Svechnikov’s face.

This wasn’t really work. Svechnikov was retelling the description of his first NHL goal. No wonder the smile never left.

“I tried to feed Frky (Martin Frk), and he shot it and it bounced right on my tape,” said Svechnikov, who was in the slot, looking straight at Flyers goalie and former Red Wings teammate Petr Mrazek, who was trying to regain his footing. “I tried to shoot it again and it went in. (It was) best feeling.”

The goal knocked Mrazek out of the game. The fact the Red Wings went on to win 5-4 in a shootout Tuesday night made it doubly enjoyable and unforgettable.

“Last night was his best game,” coach Jeff Blashill said of Svechnikov, who saw 8 minutes 38 seconds of ice time on 13 shifts, was plus-1, and had four shots on net. “He held on to the puck and was real strong in the offensive zone, and that resulted in a few (offensive) chances.

“It’s a good step.”


What can separate Svechnikov from other players, potentially, and at least for now earn him more ice time and move him up the depth chart, is using his size to be strong on the puck.

At 6-foot-3, 212 pounds, the 2015 first-round draft pick has the strength to be a factor with the puck and be particularly effective around the net.

“He played the way he’s going have to play to be successful,” Blashill said. “He was heavy on the puck. Him and I talked about how can he be different than other players on our team. The one thing that he can do is be real heavy and be strong on the puck.

“He’s a big, thick guy. He’s got ability, so be heavy and strong. He doesn’t want to get into a track meet up and down the sheet. He wants to be a guy who can spend time in the offensive zone.

“He did that, to a large degree, (Tuesday), so that’s a great step. We need more of that.”

Since being promoted from Grand Rapids on March 8, Svechnikov has gradually adjusted to to the NHL level.

He isn’t nearly getting the ice time he was accustomed to with the Griffins, he’s been mainly seeing fourth-line duty, and his impact has been limited.

But Svechnikov has continued to learn and adjust.

“I feel better on the ice, feel more comfortable,” Svechnikov said. “You have to use your chances, every shift I go on the ice. I have to give everything I have and earn it, earn the ice time.

“It’s way different here (in the NHL). I get different ice time and I have to earn it. No one will give anything for free.

“Consistency is the key. Be a pro every day and just do everything right, on the ice.”

One example for Svechnikov, as he waits more opportunity, sits right across from him in the Red Wings’ locker room and was a former Griffins’ teammate.

Tyler Bertuzzi was called up in late December, saw limited time at first, but is now playing on a line with Henrik Zetterberg and Gustav Nyquist, and is getting rave reviews.

“Great example for sure,” Svechnikov said.

Bertuzzi, also, wasn’t given minutes immediately, and Blashill likes the way Bertuzzi has grown his game to its current level.

“You rarely are given minutes in this league,” Blashill said. “When Tats (Tomas Tatar) was traded, he (Bertuzzi) had played well enough in my mind to use him, and I was excited to put him in those spots and he’s done excellent.

“(Earning) minutes is about earning the coach’s confidence and the more (confidence) you earn, the more you play.”


Wednesday’s practice, in front of many season-ticket holders, was largely optional, with many veterans staying off the ice.

Blashill said everyone would be available for Thursday’s game against Washington, although forward Luke Glendening (foot) could be a question mark.

Glendening blocked a shot in overtime Tuesday, that may have helped prevent a goal.

“It’s an example of the way our guys have continued to battle,” Blashill said. “It’s totally indicative of the compete our team continues to have.”


Faceoff: 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Little Caesars Arena, Detroit

TV/radio: NBC Sports Network/97.1

Outlook: The Capitals (42-24-7, 91 points) are clinging to first place in the Metropolitan Division, having gone 7-3-0 over their last 10 games to slide into the division lead. … LW Alex Ovechkin is having another dazzling season with 44 goals.