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Detroit – In a way it was a fitting that Filip Zadina’s first NHL preseason game would be against the Chicago Blackhawks.

Growing up, Zadina was a huge Blackhawks fan.

“Huge fan of Chicago,” said Zadina, who recovered from a sore groin to return to the lineup Thursday against the Blackhawks, after missing Wednesday’s night’s 3-2 overtime win over the Penguins. “It was my favorite team when I was growing up. My favorite player was Patrick Kane.

“It’s going to be a huge game for me.”

Zadina was scheduled to be on a line with Andreas Athanasiou and Thomas Vanek, a line that worked well in Sunday’s intra-squad scrimmage in Traverse City with Zadina having several good chances and scoring on one.

Both Athanasiou and Vanek are creative playmakers and can find Zadina on the ice. The 18-year-old rookie enjoys the possibilities of working with the two veterans.

More: Joe Veleno winning over Blashill, Red Wings with outstanding camp

“They’re special players, it’s good for me to play with them,” Zadina said. “I just want to learn from them.

“I’m a little more confident because I scored a couple of goals in the scrimmages.”

Coach Jeff Blashill likes the quiet confidence and swagger Zadina brings to the ice.

“He has swagger but not an entitled swagger,” Blashill said. “He has a competitiveness and work ethic, and inner drive, that great players have. He certainly has the makeup that you look for in a guy who can be real good.

“I love swagger. The best players I’ve coached all have (it). There’s a difference between fake confidence and real confidence. Guys that are real braggadocios are the insecure guys. He’s not that way. He has a quiet belief in himself and has a real confidence. In my mind, he has an inner belief in himself and he competes hard.”

Zadina has shown the talent that was projected of him at the draft.

“He can create space, he’s strong on his skates,” Blashill said. “He wants to make plays, which I want him to, but he has to figure out how much time and space he has. It’s an adjustment when you turn pro.

“Obviously, he can shoot the puck.”

Youngsters pushing

Dylan Larkin has noticed a different camp than the past few years, largely because of all the younger players competing for roster spots.

There’s a lot of competition within the team, and the young players add energy and enthusiasm. Larkin thinks that will make everyone better heading into the regular season.

Young players? Yes, even younger than Larkin, who is 21.

“These young guys are pushing, and it’s going to push everyone to be better,” said Larkin. “There’s opportunity there for jobs and guys understand there’s minutes, power-play time, and these young guys are pushing.

“I’m excited about it. It’s definitely in the back of my mind a little bit, that these guys are coming and they’re players and they’re going to help us.”

Larkin notices that he isn’t the youngest player in the locker room anymore.

“It could be the first time I’m not the youngest guy on the team,” Larkin said. “That’s why I’m growing out this beard.”

Ice chips

Blashill went back to defenseman Joe Hicketts Thursday when comprising the lineup. Blashill said all of the young defensemen competing for a roster spot will play back-to-backs at some point in the exhibition season.

… There are no plans to keep Henrik Zetterberg’s locker around once the regular season begins. But the Wings won’t move it out until a roster is set.

“Let’s see who makes the team before I put guys in certain stalls,” said Blashill. “I know Zetterberg won’t be with us this year so we won’t keep that, but I didn’t feel like moving everyone around until we know exactly who is on the hockey team.”

ted.kulfan@detroitnews.com

Twitter @tkulfan

 

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