Newcomer Robby Fabbri has ignited Red Wings' turnaround, strengthened lineup

Ted Kulfan
The Detroit News

Detroit – The Red Wings acquired forward Robby Fabbri late in the evening of Nov. 6, after another discouraging loss to the New York Rangers.

The loss was the Wings’ 12th in 13 games, and nothing was looking good with the roster. Hope was slipping away, the losses were one-sided, and the immediate future looked bleak.

Since Fabbri has put on a Wings’ sweater – acquired from St. Louis for forward Jacob de la Rose – they’ve earned a point in all five games. They’ve won three games, and lost two either in overtime or a shootout, which was what happened Saturday in San Jose, the Sharks defeating the Wings 4-3 (1-0 in shootout).

Not perfect, but considering where the Wings were, it counts as a turnaround.

Robby Fabbri

It’s partially a coincidence – the Wings' upswing and Fabbri's addition. But it’s also easy to see how Fabbri has strengthened and balanced the Red Wings’ lineup, creating some other dangerous lines beyond the Tyler Bertuzzi, Dylan Larkin and Anthony Mantha top line.

“Fabbri’s been, obviously, real good,” said coach Jeff Blashill. “He’s a pretty responsible player. You can tell he’s been well coached by three good coaches in St. Louis.

“He’s a responsible player and he’s played hard for us. He’s given us a good boost.”

In five games with the Wings, Fabbri has six points (two goals, four assists) and a plus-1 rating. He made his debut scoring two power-plays goals in a much-needed victory over Boston, and been a noticeable factor ever since.

On Saturday Fabbri assisted on both Andreas Athanasiou goals, and was credited with three shots, one hit and one giveaway in 17:04 of ice time, and was a plus-2.

Fabbri is playing on a line with Valtteri Filppula and Athanasiou, which has given the Wings another scoring threat beyond the Larkin line. Bashill has also been able to cobble together a third line of Frans Nielsen centering Brendan Perlini and Taro Hirose, which also produced a goal Saturday (Hirose's first in 18 games this season).

Athanasiou has four goals since Fabbri joined the Wings, and in all, Athanasiou has eight points in his last nine games, further igniting a turnaround that was slowly developing.

“(Fabbri’s) a really good player, a lot of skill, he’s fun to play with,” Athanasiou told reporters after the Sharks’ game. “We’re still building our chemistry, all three of us. We’re getting better each game, each shift.

“That’s just the main goal, take steps forward every day and be the best we can be.”

Detroit Red Wings center Robby Fabbri moves the puck against the San Jose Sharks on Saturday night.

Blashill has been pleased with the way the Filppula line is evolving, with the veteran Filppula capitalizing on the speed and offensive capability of the two younger wings.

“That line has been dangerous, they’re creating chances,” said Blashill, after Saturday’s game. “Filppula is playing real good hockey, Fabbri has been a good addition to that line. They look like a dangerous line. That helps for sure.”

Before leaving for the road trip, Fabbri talked about the relief and excitement of joining the Wings, and it appears to be an outstanding fit for both sides.

Fabbri, 23, was not playing much for the Stanley Cup champion Blues. An opportunity like the one the Wings can give could reignite his career.

“It’s been tough,” said Fabbri of the last few years in St. Louis, also noting the two major knee surgeries that completely wiped out one season. “I’ve just kept my head down, kept staying in the right mindset, and if I got the opportunity I wasn’t going to let it slip away.

“Here it is, and that’s just motivating me.”

What Fabbri has shown with the Wings in a short period of time is the ability to create scoring chances.

“A real heads-up player,” said Larry Murphy, the former Hall of Fame defenseman and now a Fox Sports Detroit analyst. “What a great addition. He knows where the net is and he has patience with the puck. He’s a treat to play with because if you get into a scoring opportunity, he’ll get you the puck.”

Larkin remembers many battles against Fabbri going back to their youth hockey days. Both have the ability to make plays and score goals, though Larkin is likely to do it with more speed and Fabbri with craftiness.

It’s early in Fabbri’s tenure with the Wings, but the thought of two young players anchoring scoring lines has to give Detroit optimism going forward.

“He’s a playmaker. He gets the puck and it’s going to someone with a purpose,” said Larkin of Fabbri. “Adding a guy like that who can make plays – he’s a crafty guy – it’s a huge addition.”

Twitter: @tkulfan