Detroit — The Red Wings say they hope some of their younger players “take the next step” this season.
Tuesday proved a good night for hope.
And, as the Wings’ second consecutive win demonstrated, victory is often a byproduct of development.
They got both improving performances by some younger players and the win against the Blue Jackets. More of the same would improve their season.
Michael Rasmussen can remember that his first goal in the NHL opened the scoring, the play began with winning a faceoff in the Blue Jackets’ zone.
He went directly to his office, about 15 feet in front of the goal, received a deft pass from Thomas Vanek and finished with as snap shot.
Eight minutes later, in the neutral zone, killing a penalty, Dylan Larkin forced the issue.
He took the puck away from the Blue Jackets attacking power play. In a flash and with some evasive action, Larkin skated in and scored on his backhand.
The sequence looked like something off Steve Yzerman or Sergei Fedorov’s 1997 highlight reels.
Five minutes later, Anthony Mantha attacked with the puck, about 30 feet from the net.
His brisk wrist shot provided the first three-goal lead of the season for the Wings.
After familiar snafus in defensive zone coverage cost the Wings their rare, big lead, Dennis Cholowski took the matter in hand. Carrying the puck deep into the Columbus end, he made the play that produced the winning goal.
Tyler Bertuzzi capped the win with his fourth goal and seventh point in 12 games.
Given the Red Wings’ circumstances, evidence of development is more important than wins. But, the fact is they often arise together.
The Wings have won two games in a row.
They have released Christoffer Ehn, Joe Hicketts, Filip Hronek and Libor Sulak to Grand Rapids since the start of the season.
With injuries to Thomas Vanek, Andreas Athanasiou and Frans Nielsen, they returned 28-year-old journeyman center Wade Megan to the roster Wednesday.
While it may feel like the rebuilding has slowed, it is on the course plotted by Ken Holland in April, when he vowed to put “two or three new players” in the lineup, this season.
Cholowski is in the NHL to stay.
Rasmussen rewarded management by scoring Tuesday and looking considerably more confident after his first one went in, after he was told he would stay for the season.
Returning veterans have provided stability.
Despite some difficulty between Mike Green and Cholowski on two of the Blue Jackets goals, the veteran’s return to the lineup has helped the Wings play better hockey.
Trevor Daley had a similar impact earlier.
Playing the right way is integral to development. It also produces more wins than poor performance.
The Red Wings had considerable difficulty playing right with so many regulars unavailable.
That does not argue for Cholowski as the only new face on the blue line for the rest of the season. But rebuilding the right way required more stability than playing several of their new players at the same time.
Getting that balance right is an important gauge for evaluating the season.
“I think we have some good young players here, and you just have to take that next step,” Henrik Zetterberg said.
“It’s easier to take that next step when you are winning. You get some peace and calm and you enjoy the rink, instead of, ‘Oh, my God, we haven’t won!”
Zetterberg remains around the team, attending practices and home games.
“It’s been a tough start,” he said.
“But, you can see it coming. You can see how hard they are working.
“It’s how you are a Red Wing. You work. That is the one thing we’ve always been proud of here is work ethic.
“And, we did the right things on the ice,” Zetterberg said. “Pavel Datsyuk and a lot of other players could have had a lot more points than they had. But we played as a team.”
It argues for playing well enough to win. It argues for having enough veterans around to make a difference.
The Red Wings have positioned themselves to move some players back and forth between Grand Rapids and Detroit, this year. More injuries will create more churning.
What the Wings must manage is the playing well enough to properly develop talent, while freeing enough ice time for prospects to properly rebuild.
Next season, about $23 million of cap space becomes available. A good season of development this year can compound the impact of roster moves that space may secure.
Devils vs. Red Wings
Faceoff: 7:30 p.m., Thursday, Little Caesars Arena
TV/radio: Fox Sports Detroit, 97.1FM
Notes: The Red Wings have won two in a row to improve to 3-7-2. After defeating the Blue Jackets Tuesday, they are no longer the worst team in the league with the worst goal differential, for the first time in a few weeks… Taylor Hall has five points, a goal and four assists, in four games played for the Devils against the Wings.