Blashill says Hronek will play, develop in return to Red Wings
Philadelphia — Maybe it was a little bit of a surprise.
The Wings recalled defenseman Filip Hronek from Grand Rapids Saturday, two days after sending down defenseman Dennis Cholowski.
The move to promote Hronek is mildly surprising considering a key reason to send down Cholowski was that the top six defensemen in the lineup are set and there’s potentially little playing time for a seventh defenseman.
Cholowski was also regressing, and not playing as well as he was earlier this season.
But Hronek is going the other direction, playing his best hockey of the season, with 23 points (seven goals, 16 assists) in 28 games in Grand Rapids (Hronek has 10 points in 23 games with the Wings this season).
And coach Jeff Blashill said after Saturday’s 6-5 overtime loss in Philadelphia he will get Hronek into the lineup.
“Filip will play tomorrow (Sunday), yeah, he’ll play,” Blashill said. “I’ll make the rest of the lineup decision (Sunday) but he’ll play 100 percent.”
The Wings wanted Hronek to work on his defense and penalty killing when they sent him down last month for a second time this season.
“He’s been sent down twice and in both cases he got better,” Blashill said. “In this last game I watched, he was great. (General manager) Ken (Holland) and I have talked about this for a little bit, that potentially we’d make that flip between the two of them (Hronek and Cholowski).”
Cholowski made the Wings out of training camp, started well offensively, but struggled defensively as the season progressed as well as slumping on the offensive end.
“Dennis earned his way onto the team out of camp,” Blashill said. “It’ll help him to be at a level where he can improve on some of those deficiencies from a defensive standpoint and produce a little more offense than he was here in the last little bit.
“Every case is a little different. Fil will play lots with us. We’re bringing him here to play. Part of it, too, is continue his development, as good he can be as we start camp next year. It’s the same as we said with Cholowski. Sometimes different moves are important for development. It’s not always just come up and play, just like it’s not always just send them down. There are different times.
“In this case, it’s the right time for Fil to come up. (But) he has to come up and play good, that’s the important thing.”
Anthony Mantha scored two third-period goals Saturday — both redirects near the net — helping the Wings tie the score and force overtime.
Mantha broke a 9-game goal-scoring drought, and his ability to thrive and produce around the net was something the Wings were looking for.
“We’ve got him off the net on the power play this year,” Blashill said. “We were trying to utilize his shot. We’ve got some other good net-front guys with Ras (Michael Rasmussen) and Vanek around the net.
“But sometimes Adam Nightingale (video coach) is on me all the time to put him back in front of the net, just to emphasize it to him and help his 5-on-5 game. He’s a big, big body.”
Blashill and Mantha discussed being a net-front presence last week.
“He’s got to find ways to score more of those offensive-zone, greasy-type of goals,” Blashill said. “That’s h ow you get your production really high, by scoring those — I don’t want to call them easy — but by scoring those net-front goals. Then you can use your skill to score a few goals.
“But you have to score the dirty goals if you want high production.”
Tyler Bertuzzi returned to the lineup after missing seven games with concussion symptoms and had a goal and assist.
“You never not remember how to play hockey, you’ve been playing your whole life,” Bertuzzi said. “Maybe the first period I kind of just got back into it and then I felt back at home. I actually felt good.”
Bertuzzi replaced Frans Nielsen Saturday, as Nielsen was out with the flu. Blashill expressed optimism that Nielsen would be ready to play Sunday at Little Caesars Arena.
… Thomas Vanek wasn’t necessarily surprised by the Wings’ third-period comeback.
“I’ve always said it, the one thing this team has is good leadership, good culture,” Vanek said. “After 40 (minutes) we talked in here, we weren’t happy with how we played. I don’t think we played with a lot of passion, energy. We regrouped pretty good.”
Flyers at Red Wings
Faceoff: 6 p.m. Sunday.
Outlook: The two teams complete the rare back-to-back on consecutive days, which used to be a staple around the NHL. … The Flyers have won both games between the teams this season.