Raleigh, N.C. – Dennis Cholowski was one of the last players off the ice after Friday’s morning skate, a sure sign he was a healthy scratch for the second consecutive game.
It’s another minor bump in the road, another learning block for a young defenseman in the NHL.
“I know what I have to do,” Cholowski said. “It’s just a matter of getting back in when I get my chance, and be ready for it.”
The message from the Red Wings’ coaching staff is simple, or at least it sounds simple: be more assertive.
Taking that onto the ice and executing it, that’s a different matter for a young defenseman. But Cholowski understands the needs to be more aggressive.
“Just having a bigger impact on the game, not playing so safe and not being so passive,” Cholowski said. “Attacking more, and being more in the offense and being more aggressive in the defensive zone, too.”
The difficulty with being more aggressive, in both zones, is finding a balance and not being overly aggressive.
“It’s kind of a yin and yang – to know when to be in the rush and when to be safe, and not be risky and play stupid,” Cholowski said. “Just being more aggressive – more assertive is the biggest word – and make more plays.
“And that goes with the power play, too. Being able to carry it up (the ice) and knowing what play I’m going to make and being confident.
“It’s another learning point. Just have to get through it and keep battling.”
Coach Jeff Blashill inserted Joe Hicketts into the lineup for Tuesday’s victory over Edmonton – Hicketts was called up from Grand Rapids earlier that day – and Hicketts’ performance, plus the Wings’ victory, ending an eight-game losing streak – made keeping the lineup identical for Friday’s game an easy call.
After Friday’s morning skate, Blashill again laid out what Cholowski needs to do once he returns to the lineup.
“When Cholo gets back in there, assertive is a word we’ve used in the coaching staff, and Steve Yzerman – more assertive all over the ice,” Blashill said. “Taking charge with the puck, and he’s made some nice outlet passes, but we haven’t seen him attack the game with the puck, be real impactful both offensively and defensively, be assertive to end cycles, assertive in the gap and with the puck.
“He understands that. Again, he’s a real young defenseman playing in the NHL and that’s a hard thing. He’ll get back in, and he has to go in and play great hockey.”
Kids being kids
Thursday’s between-the-legs goal by Calgary’s Matthew Tkachuk and a lacrosse style goal by Carolina’s Andrei Svechnikov dominated the highlights this week.
The goals showcased the talent level of the young stars around the NHL.
It doesn’t surprise Blashill.
“I’ve got a 9-year-old in hockey and the stuff they do at a young age is beyond anything that guys I played with in junior hockey or college did,” Blashill said. “It’s honestly amazing, the talent level.
“I heard Svech used to do it (lacrosse move) all the time in practice and Roddy (Carolina coach Rod Brind’Amour) was pushing him to do it in a game, so he did it in a game. I’m glad it wasn’t against us; we’ll try to avoid that.”
Blashill was eager to see the Tkachuk goal.
“I was watching that game and l left early – I should have stayed for the whole thing. I heard the goal was really neat,” Blashill said. “In the end, I still think it comes down to, for all those highlight-reel goals, the majority of goals in the NHL are dirty goals around the net.”
Dylan Larkin, who took a maintenance day Thursday, was back on the ice for Friday's morning skate and Blashill expected Larkin to be in the lineup.
... Justin Abdelkader, who missed the last three games with a leg injury, was expected to return to the lineup, with Christoffer Ehn being a healthy scratch.
... Friday began a stretch where the Red Wings play nine games over 16 days, including alternating a game day and day off for two consecutive weeks (with three games in California to end the stretch).
Red Wings at Panthers
Faceoff: 7 p.m. Saturday, BB&T Center
TV/radio: FSD Plus/97.1 FM
Outlook: The Panthers (6-3-4) have been steadily earning points and moving up in the standings. … C Jonathan Huberdeau (15 points) and C Aleksander Barkov (14 assists) lead offensively, while G Sergei Bobrovsky (5-2-3, 3.70 GAA, .873 SVS) has yet to hit his stride.