Gustav Lindstrom continuing to earn trust of Red Wings' coaching staff
Detroit — The goose egg finally was removed from Gustav Lindstrom's official statistics last week in Minnesota.
Lindstrom shot from the point, and this time, in game No. 69 of his career, the puck found open space and eluded the opposing goaltender. Lindstrom finally had his first NHL goal.
It was a long time coming.
"I had some shots this year, so it was a good feeling to see that first one go in," Lindstrom said after Tuesday's practice. "I was so happy."
Lindstrom's goal was another highlight in what's been a promising season for a 23-year-old defenseman playing in his first full NHL season. Lindstrom, as he did toward the end of last season, is showing he belongs in the NHL and could grow into an extremely dependable defenseman.
"The last three years I've been in Grand Rapids for most of the year, then get called up at the end of the year, and it's been easier this year," Lindstrom said. "When you play more (in the NHL), you get more comfortable here, know your teammates and coaches better, and it helps."
Lindstrom has 10 points (one goal, nine assists) in 40 games, with a plus-two rating, but it's not offensively where he is, or will continue, to make his mark.
It's on the defensive side of the rink, along with the willingness to play and a physical style, where the 6-foot-2, 185-pound Lindstrom thrives.
"If you get a good chance you take it, but I'm not out there to look for the big hits," said Lindstrom, noting it's more important to stop plays, make sure of your gaps, and making quick plays in the neutral zone. "I just try to play a simple game and quick. I've been the same player my whole career, trying to move the puck quickly and play good defensively."
The Wings' coaching staff consistently has told Lindstrom to continue to work on his skating, feeling his increased mobility would be a huge benefit.
Lindstrom's skating continues to be a work in progress, but there has been improvement. Just the consistency in his overall game has been impressive, and has enabled Lindstrom to be in the starting lineup from opening night.
"His size helps him and he add an element for us with his size," coach Jeff Blashill said. "He has that over certain guys in our lineup and that helps. He has that and he has a physicality to him where he can be a hard player.
"He's a good defender but he's a real good passer, he can pass it well, and the area he has to keep improving on is his footwork to become a real good defender. If he can do that, he can solidify himself even more."
For a young player, and certainly a defenseman, earning the trust of the coaching staff is vital. Lindstrom appears to be doing so as the season goes on.
"It's how you play on a shift-to-shift basis, and he's done a pretty good job going back to a year ago," Blashill said. "He's not a high-risk player. He's a guy who can make a good first pass and get you out of your zone. He needs to improve his strength and feet and (if he makes that improvement), it'll continue to build that kind of trust."
Forward Dylan Larkin was unable to finish Tuesday's practice, because of some sort of injury, but Blashill was uncertain whether it could affect his availability for Wednesday's game against Colorado.
"He left the ice, so he's being evaluated," Blashill said afterward. "I'll know more (Wednesday). I don't have more than that, except that he wasn't able to finish the last (part) of PP (power play drills)."
Forwards Vladislav Namestnikov (undisclosed) and Carter Rowney (lower body) both practiced and are trending toward playing against the Avalanche, Blashill said.
Goaltender Alex Nedeljkovic hasn't been as sharp as earlier in the season, but the defense in front of him hasn't been that great, either.
All of it has contributed Nedeljkovic to only winning two of his last seven starts (2-4-1) with a 4.14 goals-against average.
Blashill feels Nedeljkovic is, like the rest of the Wings, attempting to raise his game to another level, and on a consistent game-to-game basis.
For a goaltender, it's complicated.
"We're a team that when you are goaltending on our team right now, you're not going to have a bunch of easy nights where you're protected by a great hockey team," Blashill said. "We're a team that is building toward wanting to be that, and we need our goalie to be a big factor.
"Ned has played fine over this stretch. All of us would like to be better and make sure we're playing at a high level as possible, and obviously that's a critical position and it's hard to win in this league without great goaltending.
"We're pushing our goalies to give us as much as they can but also recognize the better we play defense, the better chances you're going to get (of getting elite goaltending). It's kind of a back and forth between those two things. You have to make sure you are playing great defense and we haven't played that well enough. We have to get better in our own defensive game, and with that, the goaltending will continue to grow."
Avalanche at Red Wings
► Faceoff: 7:30 Wednesday, Little Caesars Arena, Detroit
► TV/radio: BSD/97.1 FM
► Outlook: The Avalanche (36-10-4) have the most points (76) and best win percentage (.760) in the NHL entering Tuesday's games, but are coming off an ugly 5-1 loss in Boston. ... The Avalanche won the only other game against the Wings this season, 7-3, on Dec. 10. ... C Nazem Kadri is having a breakthrough season (42 assists, 63 points) for Colorado.