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'Puck poise' aids confident Cholowski's case for Wings job

Ted Kulfan
The Detroit News
Dennis Cholowski

Detroit — Everyone else is analyzing and predicting who will wind up surviving the competition and landing on the Red Wings’ opening night roster.

Dennis Cholowski, despite being in the mix of it, isn’t bothering with it.

Cholowski is one of four defensemen who are suddenly, likely, playing for two available jobs after Mike Green has gone down with an infection that’ll keep him out indefinitely.

But Cholowski isn’t sweating the day-to-day analysis.

“I don’t even think about it,” Cholowski said after Saturday’s morning skate. “I just focus on the playing. That’s all you can do. You can’t stress yourself out about other things. You just have to go out and play and whatever happens, happens.”

Cholowski, a 2016 first-round draft pick, followed an excellent regular season in Portland (WHL) with a fine development camp and prospects tournament during the summer.

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He played well in his only exhibition game thus far, and with the confidence he’s playing with, certainly appears one of the leaders for the roster openings.

“I’m just trying to practice hard every day and show them I want to step up and keep playing well,” said Cholowski, who added he’s much more confident heading into this exhibition season. “Last year I was a young kid in his first camp and I thought I did pretty well, but I went back to junior.

“This year my confidence is up and I had a good prospects tournament and I’m carrying it over into the exhibition (games).”

The confidence Cholowski is playing with and his willingness to hold on to the puck until a play is there to be made is impressing coach Jeff Blashill.

“Great puck poise, and he has real good ability to make plays with the puck,” Blashill said. “I’ve seen a lot of confidence out of him.

"What does need to do to win a job? Night in and night out make an impact on the game, and he’s done a good job of that, just making a positive impact.”

Line blender

Blashill shook up his lines heading into Saturday’s exhibition game against the Bruins, with one unit surely holding much interest for Wings’ fans.

Filip Zadina, looking to rebound from a mediocre first game, was on a line with Joe Veleno and Gustav Nyquist.

Zadina and Veleno — the Wings’ two first-round picks in June — incidentally were on competing teams in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League last winter.

“I’m pretty excited to finally get the chance to play with him,” Veleno said. “By watching him you can see he’s a great player, he uses a lot of his speed, he’s a smart hockey player. It should be fun out there. We should be creating some space out there.”

Veleno tried to agitate Zadina in junior by simply outworking him.

“We played each other a lot being in the same division,” Veleno said. “I was just playing hard on him, and finishing the body (checks) and trying not to give him too much room.

“We finally get a chance to be teammates, and even linemates, so it’s pretty special.”


Twitter @tkulfan