Confident Dennis Cholowski hopes he’ll be able to ‘play free’ with Red Wings

Ted Kulfan
The Detroit News

Detroit – Dennis Cholowski was back in the Red Wings’ locker room Thursday morning ready to attack.

Ready to be assertive. Ready to play aggressively and not think too much on the ice – rely on his instincts.

Dennis Cholowski

Cholowski, the Wings’ 2016 first-round pick, was recalled from Grand Rapids because of an injury to Gustav Lindstrom (undisclosed, day-to-day).

“It’s been good down there, just developing my game and continuing to play,” said Cholowski, who has 12 points (three goals) in 19 games with the Griffins. “Down there I’m just paying free and not really worrying about mistakes or turning the puck over, and just going out and attacking everything.

“I’m hoping I can translate that to here.”

Cholowski has played 33 games with the Wings this season, with eight points (two goals), and a minus-23 rating.

The defensive part of pro hockey has been Cholowski’s most difficult adjustment. But coach Jeff Blashill received favorable reports from Griffins coaches about Cholowski’s overall game in recent weeks, as the 22-year-old’s assertiveness has increased.

“Part of that (Cholowski’s assertiveness) is confidence, and part of the positive of going down to the minors is having the opportunity to grow your confidence, where you can play without thinking,” Blashill said. “The game happens too fast if you’re worried about doing something right or wrong, and you’re not going to be effective.

“If you can just go down and play, you have a chance to be way more effective and hopefully bring that confidence back up here.”

Cholowski was a natural fit, said Blashill, for what the Red Wings needed on defense.

“First of all, talking to the coaches in GR, they told me for the last few weeks they thought Dennis had played real good hockey, that’s No. 1,” Blashill said. “He’s gone down there and earned the opportunity to come back up.

“No. 2, from both a power-play perspective and a puck-moving perspective, and the left shot, all those things kind of made sense for us and went into the decision to call him up.”

Cholowski has been intent, in his time with the Griffins, to play a more assertive style, which Wings’ coaches have been adamant about with him.

“Just building confidence and attacking everything offensively and defensively,” Cholowski said. “Making sure I’m ending plays (defensively) and on offense, not really worrying about thinking and making mistakes – just attacking the game.

“Thinking less and relying on my instincts more, and doing as I see fit.”

Being vocal and assertive has been a challenge for Cholowski, who is naturally reserved and laid-back. But Cholowski is seeing improvement in that department.

“I’ve had to deal with that my whole career, basically just learning to attack more and be more aggressive and assertive,” Cholowski said. “I’m not generally the most assertive guy off the ice, but I’ve had to learn to bring up that other side of my game and it’s coming along well.

“When I was younger it was tougher. But I’m a little older and more experienced now, and you have to go and fight your job.”

Ice chips

Robby Fabbri (leg) and Lindstrom were both day-to-day, said Blashill. Fabbri, who had a knee-on-knee collision Tuesday with New Jersey's Jack Hughes, did take part in Thursday's optional morning skate.

... Defenseman Filip Hronek returned to the lineup after missing the last four games after taking a slapshot to the side of his helmet.

"He's an important piece for us, somebody that plays tons of minutes," Blashill said. "He's defending against some of the better players and creating offense. It'll be good to have him; we're a better team with him back in the lineup."

... Cholowski was disappointed when he heard defenseman Mike Green was traded Tuesday but appreciated the opportunity to learn from the veteran.

"A great guy, great leader, he was one of the my favorite players growing up," Cholowski said. "It was real cool to play with him for a while, and I wish him nothing but the best.

"Just watching him play, I've watched him for a long time, and getting to play with him and soak everything in, obviously he's one of the best offensive defensemen of the modern era, so it was real cool to just watch him and learn from him every day."

Twitter: @tkulfan