Red Wings center Michael Rasmussen showing his versatility playing on wing
Detroit — Are the Red Wings best served playing Michael Rasmussen at center, or wing?
Chances are, playing the 6-foot-6 Rasmussen in the middle anchoring defensive-minded lines is where the Wings see Rasmussen long term, and at his most effective.
But Rasmussen has played wing in his career, also, including several games in the last week. In those games, playing with Pius Suter and Robby Fabbri, Rasmussen provided size, net-front presence and chipped in offensively, showing his versatility.
"He (Rasmussen) played good the three games out there, especially the Anaheim and San Jose games; he played really well,” Blashill said. “Before we left (for the trip), he played well, so he’s done a pretty good job lately.”
Rasmussen was centering a line with Adam Erne and Filip Zadina that was slumping before the position switch, so it was a good opportunity for Blashill to try some new lines and put players in different roles.
Rasmussen always has been one of the more harder players on himself, so getting a fresh look on an offensive-minded line proved to be a tonic.
"He’s really hard on himself, and wants to be a great player,” Blashill said. “He wants to be perfect every shift and sometimes when you’re playing center, every mistake is magnified.
"You can make mistakes easier at wing than you can at center. So I gave him a little bit of a break there and then also just wanted to put some size with Fabbri and Suits. But ultimately when Larks (Dylan Larkin) went out, it was a pressing need to kind of get him back to center."
Larkin was injured Sunday in Anaheim and missed Tuesday's game in San Jose. Larkin was a game-time decision for Thursday's game against Winnipeg.
It's unclear where exactly Rasmussen will wind up with Larkin back in the lineup, but there's no doubt the Wings still envision Rasmussen as the big, shutdown center with skills around the net.
“Even before (Larkin's injury) I was going to move him back," Blashill said. "We like that 6-foot-6 frame in the middle, we like his growth in that area. We want him to still be a hard forechecker, still be hard at the other team’s net. Those are two things he can do really well offensively while still at the center ice position."
When Nicklas Lidstrom spoke Tuesday during his introduction as vice president of hockey operations, Lidstrom mentioned seeing defenseman Simon Edvinsson, the Wings' first-round draft pick last summer, play last season.
Edvinsson was loaned for two months last season to Vasteras, Lidstrom's hometown, and Lidstrom had opportunities to watch the future Red Wing.
“He was good skater,” Lidstrom said. “He’s a long, lanky kid, but you saw the skill that he had when he was skating the puck up the ice. He was 17, playing against men, but he could handle himself.
"This season I’ve seen him taking big strides to become more of a comfortable player playing against men. His ice time has increased. He can skate the puck up the ice all by himself, and he's playing a lot harder in his own zone.
“A lot of things happen when you’re 17, 18 years old. Things kind of develop even more, even better. But I’ve seen some big steps from one year to another.”
Larkin participated in Thursday's morning skate, but Blashill wasn't ready to commit to Larkin being in the lineup against the Jets.
“Those will be game-time decisions, so I can’t say for sure," Blashill said.
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"When I see him putting up 25 or 30 goals a year, it's no surprise," Nedeljkovic said. "He's underrated throughout the league as a goal scorer. I've trained with him since we turned pro, and he's in the gym every single day, or on the ice, and he loves to work on his craft."
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