Red Wings set to begin playing busy exhibition schedule
Traverse City — The first stage is done, now it's on to the next part for the Red Wings.
They completed the training camp portion of the exhibition season Tuesday with a sixth consecutive day of practices, and raced out of Centre Ice Arena back down Interstate 75 to Detroit.
Now, it's on to an eight-game exhibition season, beginning Wednesday in Chicago, and the next part of the process leading into the regular-season opener Oct. 14 against Tampa Bay.
Given the state of flux of the Wings' lineup, these eight games will be extremely interesting for a lot of players.
"They're valuable from an evaluation standpoint, for sure," coach Jeff Blashill said. "Whoever can grab jobs, grab jobs. It's as competitive here as it has been for a long time."
Nearly every NHL team has, essentially, two rosters during the exhibition season to play the onslaught of exhibition games, and to evaluate so many players.
Blashill was going to have a "Detroit" lineup and a "Grand Rapids", minor league-heavy lineup for these next two weeks.
"But I don't know who is on that Detroit team, yet," Blashill said. "I stayed with two split groups and we keep going. We'll see during the exhibition season to determine who is on the team."
An injury to forward Jakub Vrana (shoulder), and keeping forwards Dylan Larkin (neck) and Tyler Bertuzzi (back surgery) on a planned schedule heading into the regular season (both were hurt at the end of last season), all have impacted the lineups.
"It's a little like that movie 'A Beautiful Mind'," said Blashill, as to how the coaching staff devises exhibition lineups. "You have all these numbers, and we have an Excel spreadsheet, and three guys get hurt and you have to re-plan it.
"We're in the re-planning stage."
Blashill said no one will play back-to-back games, and Larkin, Bertuzzi, and veteran defensemen Danny DeKeyser and Marc Staal all will sit out for the first two games.
"We have a set number of games for each player depending on where they're at (physically)," said Blashill, noting he'd like to get Larkin and Bertuzzi into about three games each.
The Wings have three consecutive games beginning Saturday at home against Columbus, which also will play havoc with putting together lineups.
Price of fame
Defenseman Troy Stecher starred for Team Canada at the men's world championships last spring, while producing an all-time highlight assist in Canada's overtime semifinal victory.
Around where he lives in Vancouver, Stecher became noticeable everywhere he went after the play, and Canada's victory.
"I kind of went viral," said Stecher, of the game-winning play. "So a lot of people knew who I was, they were saying congratulations, they were very impressed. It was pretty cool."
But for the humble Stecher, the attention "got old pretty quick."
Still, going to the tournament, being part of Canada's leadership group, and playing big minutes and doing so productively, was a confidence boost for Stecher, who was disappointed in his second-half performance with the Wings.
"I played a ton there (at world championships) in an important role for the team," Stecher said. "More than anything, it gave me a lot of confidence and reassurance in myself as a player that I can play at this level and I can be a factor."
There is none.
Blashill said there was no update on Vrana (shoulder), who was injured during his first practice Saturday, and Monday saw a specialist.
"I'll let you know when I know more," Blashill said.
Bertuzzi returned to practice Tuesday after taking a maintenance day Monday. Bertuzzi is returning after having back surgery last season.
Forward Kirill Tyutyayev was a 2019 seventh-round draft pick, almost an afterthought.
But the 5-foot-10, 176-pound winger had an eye-opening prospects tournament, then has been impressive in camp practices and scrimmages, using his fearlessness effectively.
"No aversion to traffic," Blashill said. "No aversion to holding onto the puck. No aversion to playing extremely hard. We'll see how it goes in exhibition season, if he can continue to impress the way he has so far, but he's done a good job so far."
Tyutyayev isn't big, and isn't a blur skating-wise. But he seems to be always in the right place, and makes the teammates around him better.
"He's got a lot of good instincts," Blashill said. "He doesn't totally look the part, a little undersized, and he's not an elite skater. Those guys aren't flying around the NHL a whole bunch, but some guys do make it.
"He knows how to create space for himself. He's slippery. He's smart. He's heavy on the puck for a smaller guy, and he works his tail off."
Red Wings at Blackhawks
► Faceoff: 8:30 p.m. Wednesday, United Center, Chicago
► TV/radio: NHL Network (in progress)/950 AM
► Outlook: The Wings open their eight-game exhibition season with a trip to Chicago. ... Expect a more youthful Wings lineup in this game, while it'll be interesting to see if Chicago plays C Jonathan Toews, who missed the entire last season due to illness.