Red Wings' Dylan Larkin returns to practice, hopeful of big second half
Detroit — As the Red Wings returned to the ice Sunday for a full practice there was one big addition to the lineup: Dylan Larkin.
Now, just because Larkin took part in Sunday’s practice doesn’t mean he’ll be ready to play Tuesday against Tampa Bay.
But having missed the entire four-game road trip last week nursing an upper-body injury, just seeing Larkin on the ice and participating in hockey activities was a huge step forward.
“I felt pretty good,” Larkin said Sunday after practice in a Zoom chat with reporters. “It’s kind of a day-to-day thing. The big thing is (Monday) and see how it feels and take it from there.”
Larkin is aiming to play Tuesday, but it’s not a lock.
“I'd say that exactly,” Larkin said.
Coach Jeff Blashill wasn’t sure about Larkin’s availability for Tuesday, either.
“We have two days to find that out,” Blashill said. “I don’t anticipate one way or another right now. We’ll find out as we go through it. He finished the practice today, so that’s a good sign.”
With the Wings reaching the halfway mark of the season after Thursday’s game, Larkin is hopeful the Wings can finish strongly and put a positive spin on this season.
At 7-16-3, the Wings have the exact same record as last season, when the Wings went on to finish last in the NHL.
“We have to find a way, we’ve stuck together, but we have to find a way to get some wins here and some positive energy,” Larkin said. “I felt it was coming, but it’s hard when the team is on the road and you’re at home and you’re not really in the room with the guys, but I know we battle for each other and we just need some results.”
The Wings had a stretch where COVID-19 protocol tore through the Wings’ lineup, plus key injuries decimated their depth, and lessened the impact of free-agent and trade additions in the offseason.
“You go into a season and you see the pickups we made in the summer and, yes, you hope,” Larkin said of the expectations heading into the season. “(But) we knew it would be a tough year (with COVID-19) and we were going to need everyone, guys from the taxi squad and guys from Grand Rapids and a lot of them have done a good job.
“But we need our guys, we need our team to be out there and it’s been frustrating in that aspect. But we knew it would be like that and we needed to be ready for everything.”
While Larkin and Troy Stecher (lower body) were on the ice Sunday — Stecher has missed the last seven games — there was still no Tyler Bertuzzi.
And no one really knows when Bertuzzi (upper body) will return, having missed the last 17 games.
“He’s progressing, moving in the right direction, but I don’t have a timeline (for a return),” Blashill said. “I would just say he’s progressing.”
Blashill didn’t anticipate Bertuzzi would be out of the lineup as long as he has. He last played on Jan. 30.
“It’s just been a longer process than what we realized and that happens sometimes with injuries,” Blashill said. “So we just sit and wait until he’s fully healthy and can get back at it.”
Bertuzzi’s absence has hurt the Wings in numerous ways.
“He’s a guy who does a lot of different things,” Blashill said. “When he went out he was killing penalties, he was on the power play, he was our leading scorer (five goals, seven points in nine games), he scored around the net, good defensively and he was out there at the end of games five-on-six (skaters).
“He’s been a key piece for us over the years and he’s a winning hockey player.
“We’re missing a real good player, (but) we have to find ways to be successful without him. We’re not the only team (missing players). We’re not as deep as other teams, so when you miss a guy like that, it has an effect. It’ll be nice to have him back, whenever that is.”
During a congested schedule, the Wings are in the midst of four days off between games.
They had two days off the ice (Friday, Saturday), something Blashill hopes will rejuvenate the roster.
“Rest and rejuvenate, and just resetting and solidifying our structure and habits,” Blashill said. “It was great, something we needed for sure. What happens during the season, and especially this season, you keep plugging along and it’s hard. This gives us a chance to reset.”