Red Wings get a boost from ‘big, strong, heavy’ fourth line

Ted Kulfan
The Detroit News
Justin Abdelkader skates to the bench during the Red Wings' game against the Maple Leafs on Saturday night.

Detroit – The Red Wings are off to western Canada for a three-game trip, knowing they have another line helping out with secondary scoring.

The line of Darren Helm, Jacob de la Rose and Justin Abdelkader, expected to be more of a grinding, physical line, has provided some unexpected offense – without losing any grit.

Helm and de la Rose each scored a goal, and Abdelkader assisted on both, in Saturday’s 5-2 loss against Toronto.

So, while the line of Tyler Bertuzzi, Dylan Larkin and Anthony Mantha has accounted for the vast majority of the Wings’ offense, the much-needed offense is arriving from another source.

“They’ve had three games in a row where they’ve been big, strong, heavy and created scoring chances,” coach Jeff Blashill said. “I don’t know if I knew how good Abby (Abdelkader) played in the Anaheim game until I went back and watched the tape. He set up a number of opportunities up front.

“That’s why I started them in Montreal and that’s why I started them (Saturday). They’ve been a real good line for us the last little bit and they can continue to be. You got a line with Larkin that’s really clicking, you got a line with de la Rose, Helm and Abby that is clicking. We need to keep finding chemistry on the other lines.”

The way the de la Rose line plays, with a strong emphasis on forechecking, physical play and a strong work ethic, should be sustainable, and not be prone to slumps.

“They understand how they’re going to be successful,” Blashill said. “They’re a group that wants to put pucks behind people, want to forecheck hard, and they want to be physical, get to the net.

“It’s repeatable and that line can be a successful line for us.”

The success of the line hasn’t surprised de la Rose, who ended a 38-game goal-less drought with his Saturday goal.

“Everybody is buying into who we are and we know what we need to do to be successful as a line,” de la Rose said. “We’re not the most skilled guys on the team, but if we play the right way, we’re going to get chances.

“We’ve been playing good here the last couple games. We have to work hard and play the right way for us to get chances and being physical is part of that.

“We’re similar players, so it’s easier.”

The Larkin line was relatively quiet Saturday, compared to the other games earlier in the week. But Larkin said the de la Rose line lifted the entire team.

“They were our best line. They played hard, scored big goals, they kept it simple,” Larkin said. “They got the puck on the net, supported each other, and they were our best line by far.”

On the road

The Wings traveled to Vancouver Sunday, getting an early start on what’ll be a quick trip of three games in four nights – Vancouver Tuesday, Calgary Thursday and Edmonton Friday.

All three teams have begun the season at least .500 through the first week, with Edmonton a perfect 5-0-0.

The Wings’ trips to western Canada are almost always challenging, and that is likely to be the case again this weeks if Detroit plays like it did against Toronto.

“They (the Leafs) were really competitive, they outworked us,” Blashill said. “We have to make sure we outcompete and outwork teams, and I don’t think – I know – we didn’t outcompete and outwork (Toronto).”

Thinking of Jimmy D

Blashill and everyone in the Wings’ organization was thinking of Jimmy Devellano, the long-time front office executive, after Saturday's game.

Devellano, 76, is having surgery Monday for a non-cancerous brain tumor.

Devellano, a member of hockey’s Hall of Fame, was owner Mike Ilitch’s first hire in 1982 as a general manager and was a key part of the Wings’ four Stanley Cups (1997, 1998, 2002, 2008) as either GM or senior vice-president.

He is currently a senior-vice president and alternate governor in the Wings' front office.

“I just want to pass along my thoughts, certainly my prayers are with Jimmy Devellano for a successful surgery,” Blashill said. “I hope in a month from now, it’s not a big deal at all. But, obviously, anytime anybody goes under surgery, there are certain risks. I’ve been thinking about Jimmy the last few days here. He’s a great man, a great Red Wing, and has been a great mentor for me.”

Twitter: @tkulfan