Detroit — The way he’s playing and competing, you have to think young defenseman Filip Hronek is telling the Red Wings he doesn’t need to return to Grand Rapids.
The big buildings and bright lights of the NHL, that’s where Hronek wants to stay.
Hronek, who didn't look ready when he was in the lineup because of a slew of injuries when the regular season started, looks more comfortable this time around.
“Is he making a statement?” asked coach Jeff Blashill, of Hronek. “Every time you play, you got a chance to make a statement, one way or another. He’s had a number of good statements.”
Hronek, 21, entered Tuesday’s game with seven points (three goals, four assists) in 18 games with the Wings, and a minus-6 rating, while playing almost 19 minutes per game (18:48).
Hronek had three points in the last two games, and has played over 20 minutes in three of the last four games.
The coaching staff appears to have growing confidence in Hronek, and he’s responding with the some of the better play of his young career.
And that better play has come after a particularly tough night on December 29, when Hronek was a glaring minus-3 with noticeable defensive mistakes that led to goals against.
“The Dallas game was a big step for him,” said Blashill, talking about Hronek’s development. “He can be hard on himself and he had a bad game, no question, no hiding from it. He was able to move on to the next game, and that’s a very important attribute for an athlete.
“You want to be self accountable, but you don’t want to be down from it.”
“He’s out there on a consistent basis in the last number of games against the best players lots of times. He’s played real well. He had one really bad game in Dallas, but what I like about it is he came back from that game and has been good ever since.”
Balshill talked about the importance of leaving a forgettable game like the one in Dallas, in the past.
“Something him and I talked about was making sure you put it behind you, have a short memory,” Blashill said. “He’s done a real good job of that.”
Hronek's immediate future is a bit murky once injured defensemen Mike Green and Danny DeKeyser return, along with Trevor Daley, who looks to be another several weeks out.
There's a possibility someone like Daley, or maybe Nick Jensen, could be dealt before the February 25 trade deadline, which could potentially create a full-time spot for Hronek.
But all that remains to be seen.
In his short pro career, Hronek has been a bit of a slow starter, which this season proved costly in that he began the year with the Red Wings, rather Grand Rapids.
With four veteran defensemen out because of injuries, and four rookies beginning the season on the Wings’ defense, Hronek’s slow start stood out.
But Hronek, mostly, looks like a different player this time around.
“It’s a hard league to be a slow starter,” Blashill said. “He made some big mistakes and they went in our net. Since he’s been back, he’s managed his game much better.”
Happy for Tatar
Tuesday’s game against Montreal marked another return of forward Tomas Tatar back to Detroit, and this one was much enjoyable than the last time.
Late last season, when Tatar returned as a member of the Vegas Golden Knights, he’d just been dealt at the trade deadline and was trying to find his way into their lineup.
It never happened, as Tatar became a healthy scratch while Vegas made its unexpected run through the playoffs.
Traded to Montreal before training camp, Tatar has found a home with the Canadiens, with 31 points (14 goals) and a plus-8 rating.
“I’m really happy Tats has had a real good year,” Blashill said. “It didn’t go his way in Vegas. It’s one of those things you get on a team late and sometimes they’ve got their spots filled.
“Tats is a real good player, he’s been a real good NHL player for a number of years. He’s a great person and competitor, and he wants the moment.”
The Wings might have Green (lower body) this weekend.
Green last played December 11, but has been skating for the last week and Blashill said a return Saturday in Minnesota is a possibility.
DeKeyser (hand) is expected to see a specialist by Wednesday.
“We’ll have a better idea of where he’s at and can push it more,” said Blashill of DeKeyser, who has been out since December 4 in an injury-marred season.
Blashill did say the January 15 game against Anaheim “is potentially in play” for DeKeyser.
Michael Rasmussen (lower body) missed his second consecutive game Tuesday, and Blashill wasn’t sure if Rasmussen would be ready for this weekend’s back-to-back in Winnipeg (Friday) and Minnesota (Saturday).
“He still has some pain,” Blashill said. “I don’t think it’s going to be a long thing, but we’re using this time to reset and getting him pain free.”