Henrik Zetterberg’s approach a valuable lesson for Dylan Larkin

Ted Kulfan
The Detroit News
Henrik Zetterberg

Detroit – Dylan Larkin and his dad, Kevin, were having a conversation recently when Henrik Zetterberg’s name came up.

Zetterberg, the Red Wings’ long-time captain and organizational icon, has left a lasting impact on Larkin, now in his third NHL season.

Larkin and his father were discussing one of the traits that makes Zetterberg so dangerous on the ice.

“We talked about the way he plays the game and the way he’s so patient in a full 60-minute game,” Larkin said after Thursday’s victory in Buffalo.

Larkin scored the goal that cut Buffalo’s lead to 2-1 and triggered the Red Wings’ comeback in a 6-3 victory.

Zetterberg had an assist in the game, moving him into a tie with Sergei Fedorov for fifth all-time on the Red Wings’ career list with 954 points.

It’s because of Zetterberg’s patience that he’s gotten many of those 954 points.

“He understands that a lot of nights, if you play 19 or 20 minutes, nothing is going on for 19 minutes, 59 seconds, and it’s that one second where he makes it count,” Larkin said. “My dad and I were talking about how much we admire how he plays the right way.

“He waits for his opportunity and when he gets an opportunity, he makes the most of it.”

Zetterberg, 37, has mentioned several times over the last couple weeks about how much fun it is to still play, hinting he isn’t thinking about retirement.

The losing isn’t fun, but Zetterberg enjoys being part of this roster.

“I enjoy every minute with these guys and being part of a real tight group,” Zetterberg said. “Even last year, when we struggled, we had a good group of guys and it’s fun to be part of.”

How Zetterberg has carried himself on and off the ice, said coach Jeff Blashill, is a perfect example for any young Red Wings player.

“I don’t know if you can have a better role model than Henrik,” Blashill said. “No coach can do what somebody like that does. Henrik has been unreal with his approach. Dylan really looks up to him, and Dylan is a guy who wants to learn and get better, and he’s got a great respect for Henrik.

“There is not a better model in the NHL and there hasn’t been for a long time, for a guy who wants to be both an offensive and defensive center. Henrik has been one of the best winners, 200-foot players, in the league for a long time.”

Power meeting

The point in the schedule when Anthony Mantha’s performance took a more consistent upturn was just after the Christmas break.

Mantha and Blashill had a lengthy talk about where Mantha was, where he was going, where he was a player and what Mantha could become.

It was a heartfelt talk that appears to have reached Mantha.

“We talked about pretty much everything since I came up, since the day I got drafted,” Mantha said. “We just wanted to have the same mindset on where we were going in the future. It was a good conversation.”

Blashill wanted to make sure Mantha was still on the correct path to becoming the level of player Mantha wants to be.

“I don’t think there’s any question that Anthony is going to be a scorer in this league,” Blashill said. “But does he want to be a great player on a great team?”

Blashill views New Jersey’s Taylor Hall as an example of a young scorer who has matured into a new level of stardom.

“Taylor Hall’s a great example of a guy, to my understanding, talking to people around the organization there -- Taylor’s made a real conscious effort to go from being just a good scorer on honestly, bad teams, to a good scorer who’s got his team in the playoffs today,” Blashill said. “That’s what you can do if you make that decision.”

Emergency goalie

There were plenty of smiles regarding Scott Foster, an emergency goalie call-up for the Chicago Blackhawks who played the final 14 minutes in Chicago’s victory Thursday over Winnipeg.

Foster, 36, a former goalie at Western Michigan and now an accountant in Oak Park, Ill., stopped all seven shots he faced and will have a story to tell the rest of his life.

“It’s unreal,” said Blashill, a former goalie in his day. “To be able to make saves, it’s unbelievable. It has to be a dream come true. Who would have guessed?

“That’s cool for him.”

Every team must have an emergency goaltender for every game.

Blashill said Ryan Martin, the Red Wings’ assistant general manager, arranges to have the emergency goaltender at Little Caesars Arena.

The fact minor-league affiliate Grand Rapids is only two hours away has alleviated Red Wings emergencies.

Twitter @tkulfan

Senators at Red Wings

Faceoff: 2 p.m., Saturday, Little Caesars Arena

TV/radio: FSD+/97.1 FM

Outlook: The Senators (27-39-11, 65 points) trail the Red Wings by four points in the standings. …Ottawa is 4-6-0 over its last 10 games, with C Matt Duchene (24 goals, 30 assists) providing an offensive spark, after being acquired early this season.