New Red Wing Taro Hirose seeks better Madison Square Garden experience

Ted Kulfan
The Detroit News
Former Michigan State standout Taro Hirose will make his NHL debut with the Red Wings on Tuesday at Madison Square Garden.

Detroit — Hopefully this game at the legendary Madison Square Garden will go better for Taro Hirose than the last one.

Hirose will make his NHL debut Tuesday for the Red Wings, as they face the New York Rangers at MSG.

Hirose already has played at the historic arena last season while at Michigan State, as the Spartans played Minnesota in a college hockey showcase..

The experience didn’t last long for Hirose, though.

“I got hurt in the first period and didn’t play after that,” said Hirose, who was nursing a minor shoulder injury. “Fingers crossed, it doesn’t happen again.”

Hirose skated at Monday’s practice on a line with Frans Nielsen and Thomas Vanek, which on paper appears to be a crafty line.

Hirose, who has drawn comparisons to former Red Wing Gustav Nyquist in terms of style of play, looked comfortable on Nielsen’s line.

“Not super fast, not super big, but real crafty, real smart and he has tricks in little ways to get open and create space and create scoring chances,” coach Jeff Blashill said. “It’ll be interesting to watch.

“He (Hirose) has to be the player he is. You have to be who you are, and use your attributes to the best of your ability. The thing that’s hardest for all these guys when they come in is they can’t necessarily play totally to their instincts. They have to think a little bit because the systems are different, linemates are different, so we’ve tried to ease both (Hirose and Ryan Kuffner) guys into it.

“Rosie (Hirose) will have had a couple of practices, not as many as we’d like, but it’s a way to ease him into it and see how he does.”

Hirose will have his parents and brother at the game, which will make the game even more memorable.

Getting a chance to play with Nielsen and Vanek should also ease Hirose into the situation.

“They’re both unbelievable players,” Hirose said. “It certainly makes it easier for me. When they get you the puck like they can, it just makes it a lot easier for me.”

Seeing a little more of Hirose during Monday’s practice, Nielsen was impressed with the skill level and creativity of Hirose.

“He has some soft hands, and you can see what kind of player he is,” Nielsen said. “He’s skilled, no doubt. Definitely talented, you can see that.”

Lengthy road trip

Had the Red Wings still been in the playoff chase, you’d be hearing more about this lengthy road trip beginning Tuesday.

The team will start the five-game road trip in New York and end it in upstate New York (Buffalo), while touching down and playing in a different time zone — Tuesday in New York, Thursday in St. Louis, Saturday in Vegas, Monday in San Jose — before returning home to practice for a day or two, and finishing March 28 in Buffalo.

“Start in New York and end in New York,” Nielsen said. “It’s hard, but we’re not in it (playoff chase), so we just have to keep building, and road trips are always great for bonding and keep getting together.”

With this current roster in flux, and several new players being added in the last few weeks, this will be a good opportunity to get acclimated with new teammates.

“(We’ll) get to know a lot of these guys; it’s a good opportunity to get away and get to know everyone,” said Nielsen, adding there’s plenty for the Wings to still play for. “Everyone, it doesn’t matter if you have a contract or not (for next season), you are still being evaluated every night. I’m sure (the front office) is looking ahead to next year and who is going to help us win.”

Blashill wants to see the Wings continue to progress.

“We have to keep getting better as individuals and keep getting better as a team,” Blashill said. “We want to be better than we were today.

“Against the Islanders (a 2-1 Wings’ victory) we did some good things offensively and created a good amount to win a hockey game, (but) we gave up way too many chances.”

Ice chips

Blashill said defensemen Jonathan Ericsson (leg) and Trevor Daley (back) will make the road trip.

Daley is essentially day-to-day and could play if his back feels up to it. Blashill is hopeful Ericsson can begin skating in the next couple days, and maybe play by the end of the road trip.

Evgeny Svechnikov (knee surgery), who has missed the entire season, has begun skating and taken part in several practices and morning skates. But some soreness persists, and when Svechnikov could even think about playing is unknown.

“I’d say he’s up and down,” Blashill said. “There are time he starts to build, and suddenly he has some soreness and we take him out of skating, and I don’t think that’s abnormal.

“He really wants to play, so he is pushing it, (but) I don’t know if it’s going to happen or not.”

… The Wings signed forward Chase Pearson (2015, fifth round) to a two-year entry-level contract.

Pearson, 21, will join Grand Rapids later this week.

Pearson (6-foot-2, 205-pounds) spent the last three years playing college hockey at Maine, where he had 78 points (37 goals, 41 assists) in 107 games.

Red Wings at Rangers

Faceoff: 7 p.m. Tuesday, Madison Square Garden, New York

TV/radio: Fox Sports Detroit/97.1 FM

Outlook: The Rangers (28-31-13, 69 points) are playing out the string, just as the Red Wings. … The Rangers have lost three consecutive games, and only won one in their last 10 (1-5-4)…G Henrik Lundqvist (3.01 GAA, .909 SVS) has a much younger lineup in front of him these days.

Twitter: @tkulfan