Namestnikov continues to show Red Wings versatility, production

Ted Kulfan
The Detroit News

Vladislav Namestnikov hasn't garnered the headlines this season. He hasn't been talked about often as he probably should. But there aren't many Red Wings having better seasons.

Namestnikov proved his worth again Monday, scoring a third-period, short-handed goal that sparked the Wings' rally in a 3-2 overtime victory in Buffalo.

It was Namestnikov's 11th goal, converting a nice odd-man rush with Moritz Seider, that ended Buffalo's momentum. The goal came shortly after the Sabres had taken a 2-0 lead on a challenged goal.

Red Wings goaltender Alex Nedeljkovic (39) makes a save in traffic during the second period.

"We get it back on the shorty to get us going and get the offense going," said Dylan Larkin, who scored the game-tying goal, and game-winner in overtime.

Said coach Jeff Blashill, of Namestnikov's goal: "It gave us a ton of energy."

Namestnikov came to the Wings last season with the reputation of being a versatile player who can contribute up and down the lineup.

He has proven to be that type of player. Namestnikov is currently playing on the Wings' top line, after having played in a checking, shut-down role, and on the second scoring line.

He's been exactly the type of player the Wings envisioned when they signed him.

"Vlade has had moments in his career of playing real good hockey, going back to his days in Tampa (where Namestnikov scored 20 goals in 2017-18)," Blashill said. "He has great versatility and can play in a lot of different situations. ... The puck doesn't die on his stick. He's real smart and makes good plays. He's a good net-front guy for not being a super big guy.

"Vlade has earned this opportunity. He played the best of the group that wasn't those getting minutes. He's earned this opportunity and I've told him that."

Ned to rescue

Goaltender Alex Nedeljkovic came up with some key saves in the third period.

He made a pair of breakaway saves that kept the Wings within range. He backstopped wins in all four starts against Buffalo this season.

"He's a good goalie," Larkin said. "He shows up and he has a quiet confidence to him. If he has an off game or an off goal that goes in, he's there on the next play, or next game."

Dominant in circle

The Wings dominated the faceoff circle with a 65-35% advantage over Buffalo.

Winning a draw in overtime enabled the Wings to possess the puck and eventually set up Larkin's game-winning goal.

"I used to think you had to score in transition (in overtime), but we've had more success when we've had the puck the most," Blashill said. "Larks had a good day in the circle and he wasn't alone. We had the puck the whole time (in overtime)/ They didn't get the puck into our end and that happens sometimes. We've had happen the other way (against the Wings).

"A big part of that is winning the faceoff."

Two scoring lines

Blashill's decision to flip Tyler Bertuzzi onto a line with Pius Suter and Robby Fabbri, while putting Namestnikov with Larkin and Lucas Raymond on Saturday continues to pay dividends.

For the second consecutive game, both lines delivered and showed the potential to provide scoring depth.

"You look at Tyler's game tonight, he's playing at a high level," Larkin said. "He's carrying the puck and the play, and it just adds a different dynamic to our team. 

"It's really nice to have all four lines, just roll them over, and play with confidence."

Bertuzzi, Suter and Fabbri played junior hockey together for Guelph (Ontario League). They've shown chemistry in the two games against Buffalo.

"They've been real good the two games," Blashill said. "Fabs and Bert are real close, too, and have good chemistry. It's been a good move for us so far in two games. The Larkin line remains a dangerous line and now you have another dangerous line. And you have two other lines that can create more (offense) and will create more. They didn't get tons of ice time but they're reliable and play against other teams' good players and that's a good formula."

Ice chips

Goaltender Thomas Greiss was put on the COVID-19 protocol list before the game. Calvin Pickard, who was placed on the taxi squad the day before, backed up Nedeljkovic.

... The Wings don't play again until Friday. Tuesday's game in Philadelphia was rescheduled for later in the season, helping the Flyers and New York Islanders make up a logjam of games they need to make up.

The postponement actually comes at a good time for the Wings.

"It can help immensely," said Larkin of a few days off. "We have to take advantage of it and be really smart here. Rest is a weapon this time of year and we have big games coming up."

Twitter: @tkulfan