Red Wings' Dylan Larkin embracing challenge of facing opponents' best players
Detroit — Dylan Larkin’s line with Tyler Bertuzzi and Anthony Mantha has been among the best — if not, the best — in the early going of this NHL season.
With that comes added pressure and attention.
Opposing teams are gradually paying more attention on Larkin’s line, putting their best players and defenders on them.
Larkin understands that challenge, and the responsibility of continually putting up points on a Wings’ team that deeply needs the line to be a big-time, consistent threat.
“You have to bring it every night,” Larkin said. “You have to. We’re in a position now where we’re all three together and our second line is looking very dangerous and (Darren) Helm and Rosie (Jacob de la Rose) and Abby (Justin Abdelkader) are playing real well and when we get four lines rolling, any team is dangerous.
“But for us to carry the play we want to carry, you have to bring it. It has to be there mentally every night.”
Larkin is seeing opponents attempting to key on his line.
“You do get tough matchups,” Larkin said. “You look at the first two games we had, you could tell the guys in Anaheim they wanted it, they took pride in shutting us down. Especially when you’re hot, that’s when you find they’re keying on you, they know the plays you run. They key in.
“But you have to battle, you have to play your game every night, because if you don’t, it’s going to go the other way and you’re going to be minus-3, fishing the puck out of your net all night.”
Coach Jeff Blashill is enjoying the Wings’ quick start, especially the numerous positive signs Thursday in Montreal.
But Blashill doesn’t believe the Wings are completely turned around by just one victory.
“I don’t believe in one-game deals, at all,” Blashill said. “I believe in taking 10,000 steps forward and as few steps back as possible. You’re going to have some steps backwards and that’s how you wake up at the end of the year and you’re a way better team than you were at the beginning — by those little steps, not by any big, giant leap.
“We’re just going to try to take tons of little steps.”
Blashill liked many facets of the victory in Montreal, but the Wings can’t rest on their laurels.
“We played a real complete game, we didn’t give them many chances,” Blashill said. “That team (Montreal) has dominated our net front in the past. (Thursday) we were better in front of their net, so that’s a step in the right direction.
“(But) the thing about this league is, it’s relentless, so you better be great every night. The other thing about this league is confidence matters. Everybody is so close that when you get confident, you get on a roll, you have a chance to be a real good team. But it can go away fast. You have to keep making sure you’re on top of your game so you can keep your confidence going.”
Filip Hronek (head) will be a game-time decision Saturday. If Hronek can’t play, Alex Biega will make his Red Wings’ debut.
Trevor Daley (undisclosed), Frans Nielsen (upper body) and Jonathan Ericsson (lower body) are eligible to return during the upcoming western Canada road trip. Nielsen could return Tuesday in Vancouver.
…Goaltender Jimmy Howard will get the start against Toronto, as Blashill continues alternating Howard and Jonathan Bernier in the early weeks of the regular season.