Detroit – The Detroit Red Wings’ miserable season got even worse on Thursday.
Coach Jeff Blashill said after the morning skate that Dylan Larkin would miss Thursday night’s game against the New York Rangers because of lingering back issues.
Also, the Wings will shut down defenseman Mike Green for the season because of a relapse of a virus that hindered Green early this season.
The Red Wings enter Thursday night’s game with 56 points. Only one team has fewer (Senators, 52), and the Kings also have 56.
The Wings could end up with the worst record, enhancing their chances of landing the No. 1 pick in the NHL draft lottery.
“It’s a heck of an opportunity for probably a whole bunch of guys,” said Blashill of the rest of the lineup. “Larks eats up a lot of minutes, he’s gotten a lot of opportunities, he’s earned that ice time. There are other guys in this room who want more ice time and this is a great opportunity for them to show that with more ice time, they can help us win a hockey game.”
Larkin has been dealing with back pain, said Blashill, for “the last number of games,” but it got to the point where the team decided to sit him Thursday.
Given the timing in the schedule, it’s likely Larkin – who leads the Wings with 62 points, with a team-high 27 goals and 35 assists – could miss the upcoming three-game road trip through Tampa, Florida and Montreal.
“He’s tried to play through (it),” Blashill said. “He had an MRI this morning. Right now we’re holding him out (Thursday). Our back specialist will look at the film in the next few days and we’ll know more in the next few days where he’s at.”
Larkin has been dealing with the back problem for some time.
“It’s something that he’s had a little bit early in the year and it went away and then he’s had in the last little bit,” Blashill said. “I don’t know if it was a hit. He’s tried to play through it, and it’s really bothered him at different times. I didn’t know if he would finish some games.
“He worked his way through it.”
Green missed the opening nine games this season because of the virus, then missed a month beginning in mid-December because of a foot injury.
The virus began to resurface in mid-January and Green has been dealing with fatigue since.
“His body hasn’t fought off that virus,” Blashill said. “He saw a specialist and the recommendation for him is multiple weeks of rest, which puts him out for the season.
“My understanding is that it (the virus) went away but basically from the western Canada trip (in mid-January) on, including the break, he’s felt fatigued.
“We tried to manage it with some missed practice, but his body hasn’t fought off the virus.”
In 43 games, Green had 26 points (five goals, 21 assists) with a minus-1 rating.
Blashill said the Wings will keep forward Filip Zadina for five more games before returning Zadina to Grand Rapids, so as not to burn a year in Zadina’s entry-level contract.
Blashill said defenseman Filip Hronek will stay with the Wings the rest of the season.
Another forward from Grand Rapids could be recalled in the coming days.
Hronek played more than 27 minutes in the loss Tuesday in Colorado, playing on both special teams, on a top-pairing with Danny DeKeyser. He is earning more trust and responsibility from the coaching staff with each game.
“He earned our trust prior to the trade deadline,” Blashill said. “When (Nick) Jensen was moved (at the trade deadline) he (Jensen) was put into that role with DeKeyser, so now you’re in a role where you’re playing against the other teams’ best.
“You’re playing on the penalty kill, second penalty kill, on the top power-play unit, and it equaled to 27 minutes the other night. Now, it’s overtime, but there was a lot (of minutes) before the end of regulation.
“He’s proven himself to be a guy that looks like a top-four defenseman, and that’s great for our organization.”
With no Larkin to center the top line with Anthony Mantha and Tyler Bertuzzi, Blashill wasn’t sure after the morning skate how lines will be reconfigured.
Blashill was hesitant about moving Andreas Athanasiou with Mantha and Bertuzzi, given that the line of Athanasiou, Filip Zadina and Luke Glendening line was forming positive chemistry.
“Zadina played his best game that he’s had with us (Tuesday), and that was with Andreas and Glennie,” Blashill said. “I like that line. I like the (Frans) Nielsen, (Thomas) Vanek and (Darren) Helm line. Helm was excellent last game.
“Mantha, Larks and Bert have been our best line on a consistent basis, so I have to figure that part out. The reticence I have with moving Andreas away from Zadina is I do think they’ve played well together, formed chemistry, so we’ll see.”