Final weeks of Red Wings' schedule are important for young players

Ted Kulfan
The Detroit News

These final 10 games of the regular season are important for every Red Wings player in different ways.

But especially for young, unproven players who are still learning their way in the NHL, or showing what they can do for the first time at this level.

Red Wings defenseman Gustav Lindstrom.

“Certainly for the young guys, you can really make a statement to where you think you can fit in within our organization,” coach Jeff Blashill said after Monday’s morning skate on Zoom call with media. “How much can you help the organization win? I’ve said it a lot, it’s not about guys coming up to play, it’s about guys helping us be a better hockey team and win more games in the future.

“Its important for them, but everyone has stuff on the line.”

There are many players within that group who can make a statement and solidify their spot in the organization.

Certainly defensemen Dennis Cholowski and Gustav Lindstrom are two young players who could use a strong finish.

Given the guidelines of the expansion draft, it’s likely one of the two, either Cholowski or Lindstrom, could be left off the protected list and exposed to the new Seattle franchise this summer.

Cholowski has played the last four games, Lindstrom in the last three, as both attempt to take advantage of their latest opportunity.

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Cholowski went over the 20-minute mark in ice time (21 minutes, 19 seconds) in Saturday’s loss to Chicago, a season-high, along with a season-high 22 shifts.

In six games with the Wings this season, Cholowski is still looking for his first point and is minus-1.

“Still evaluating,” said Blashill, of what’s he’s thought of Cholowski. “He’s had some good moments last game when he got more ice time than previous games, and it’s built up a little more game by game (playing time), but this (playing Dallas) will be a real challenge for him, for all our defensemen.

“They have a real good, fast, big group of forwards, so it’ll be a real challenge. We’ll keep evaluating, he’ll get his opportunities, to show exactly what he can do.”

But Blashill was also quick to add it’s just not young players who are under the microscope these final weeks.

“Guys have contracts up, they’re playing for their livelihoods, and as a team we want to grow as a group,” Blashill said. “There’s a whole bunch of stuff on the line for all of our guys.”

Familiar opponent

The Wings will see Dallas four times this week, similar to what a playoff series would be like, with adjustments being made on the fly.

Scouting comes to play early in the games, but after that, it’s largely how well a team executes what it does best.

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“As you get through the four games, it becomes maybe slight adjustments,” Blashill said. “The first game is a reminder to our guys of some the keys, what they’re (the Stars) good at, and what we need to do a great job in, and areas potentially where we could exploit, or how we could create offense.

“But as you go through the series, it’s probably like everything, it still comes to your play and execution and your compete level.”

Hat-trick bid

Teammates were all over defensemen Troy Stecher on Thursday after he had scored two goals, and was within reach of getting his first career hat trick.

Stecher was told to shoot early and often, and from anywhere, in an attempt to get that third goal.

“Some of the guys in the room wouldn’t not let me think about it,” said Stecher, who was attempting to keep it out of his mind. “They told me to shoot everything. At the end of the day, you just got to play your game, take what they give you and if you get an opportunity to shoot the puck you have to try to score.”

Blashill was heartened by the encouragement.

“It’s the camaraderie of the bench,” Blashill said. “Stech works really hard. It’s awesome they wanted him to get the third one, it’s something important.”

No Veleno

Blashill said forward Joe Veleno, who was assigned to the taxi squad, took part in Monday’s morning skate.

But Veleno, who just completed a seven-day quarantine after returning from Sweden, will not play in either of the two games in Dallas.

Veleno also missed the final two weeks of the Swedish season with a mild concussion and whiplash, after a collision on the ice.

Veleno is a 2018 first-round pick, who has yet to make his NHL debut.

Blashill also said forward Robby Fabbri (upper body) is still unavailable, but the coach expects forward Evgeny Svechnikov, who was hurt in Thursday's pregame skate, to return Monday.

Red Wings at Stars

►Faceoff: 8:30 p.m. Tuesday, American Airlines Center, Dallas

►TV/radio: BSD-plus/WWJ 950

►Outlook: The Red Wings and Dallas conclude the two-game portion of the series in Dallas, before heading to Detroit for two more games.

Twitter: @tkulfan