Defense not an issue, but Red Wings' Dylan Larkin searching for more offense

Ted Kulfan
The Detroit News

Detroit — Dylan Larkin is continuing to develop into a fine two-way center who can provide offense, and defend opposing teams’ best player as well.

Larkin's defense has been fine this season. The offense, though Larkin leads the Red Wings with 11 points (four goals, seven assists) heading into Thursday’s game, has been lagging.

Center Dylan Larkin leads the Red Wings with 11 points, but his shooting percentage is at a career-low 5.9%.

Larkin’s shooting percentage is 5.9%, a career low at this point. He continues to average about three shots per game, which gives Blashill confidence the goals eventually will arrive.

“Shooting percentages even out over time, that’s what all the statistical people tell you,” Blashill said. “He certainly has not had the production that we want him to have or he wants to have. But if he keeps getting shots, in time it will equal out closer to what that shooting percentage evens out.

“Like our team, he’s ebbed and flowed.”

Larkin entered Thursday’s game with no goals in the last 11 games (three assists).

The Wings have concentrated on becoming an effective defensive team that wins low-scoring games in recent weeks.

Larkin is one reason the Wings have had mild success in that regard.

“Ultimately for Dylan to be the type of player he wants to be, which is considered a high-end, elite player in this league, he has to be a great defender,” Blashill said. “He’s going to defend different than some other guys that are considered great in the league, He’s going to be a little bit different than a guy like (Boston’s Patrice) Bergeron, but he can do it with his tenacity and his legs, as long as he makes sure he stays on the defensive side of people at all times.

“If he does that, he’s going to be really hard to play against because nobody can outskate him and he’s real strong on the puck.”

Larkin was expected to center a top line with Anthony Mantha and Tyler Bertuzzi, a trio that had taken steps the last two seasons to becoming one of the dynamic lines in the NHL.

But Mantha has had a poor season from the start, and Bertuzzi missed his 13th consecutive game Thursday with an upper-body injury.

There’s been a revolving door of linemates for Larkin, and chemistry has been lacking.

Blashill continues to search for a combination that can provide goal scoring.

“It starts with each individual player playing to the best of their ability and you find what that chemistry is,” Blashill said. “We’re searching for scoring pop and doing things to see if that helps.”

Sit and wait

Forward Evgeny Svechnikov is currently on the Wings’ taxi squad, in limbo between the Wings’ roster and minor league affiliate Grand Rapids.

Svechnikov played three games for the Griffins (one goal, one assist) after clearing waivers.

“We’ve kind of cycled guys on and off the taxi squad,” Blashill said. “That gives us the ability to have guys here in case we need them and to get them into games. We’ll see what tomorrow brings, but that’s how we’re dealing with it right now.”

Svechnikov had major knee surgery two years ago, missing one entire season, then returned last season and worked to regain full strength.

The Wings want to see Svechnikov stay healthy and pounce on his opportunity when it arrives.

“He’s got to continue to be healthy; it’s been a hard thing for him,” Blashill said. “When he gets his opportunity, he has to show he’s a guy that can help our NHL team win.

“If he does that, whether it’s here or down there, then he’ll get more opportunity.”

Ice chips

Robby Fabbri didn’t practice Wednesday but was involved in Thursday’s morning skate and was expected to be in the lineup.

Troy Stecher (lower body) remains day to day and missed his third consecutive game.

Frans Nielsen was reassigned to the taxi squad Thursday. Blashill talked about how Nielsen, an alternate captain, has handled being in and out of the lineup this season.

“He comes with a great attitude every day and he’s an example with his leadership and the way he is selfless,” Blashill said. “Putting the team first, and that’s easy to talk about until you’re really tested like he’s been tested. He’s done a a good job of, going back to training camp, of putting the team first.”

Twitter: @tkulfan