Filip Zadina enjoying life on Red Wings' top line
Detroit — Filip Zadina wanted to make it perfectly clear: He'd enjoy playing on a line with any of the other Red Wings forwards.
And at one point, or another, Zadina probably has.
But getting the opportunity right now to be linemates with Dylan Larkin and Lucas Raymond, let's just say Zadina is enjoying this opportunity while it lasts.
Zadina scored his seventh goal during Wednesday's 5-2 loss to Colorado, and his second in four games since being put on that line five games ago.
"It's good to play with everybody on this team," said Zadina, noting he'd be comfortable with any line combination coach Jeff Blashill draws up. "But with them (Larkin, Raymond), they're real skilled offensive players, and with them it's good to play with the puck, and stuff like that. It's a little easier."
The ability to create offense and plays is what has made Larkin and Raymond so effective this season, and whoever has been on the other wing (Tyler Bertuzzi, Vladislav Namestnikov, Robby Fabbri) has experienced the offensive benefits, as well.
Zadina has been the latest lucky Red Wing, and is gaining confidence after a prolonged offensive slump this season.
"For sure it's been great to play with those guys," Zadina said. "We had good chances (Wednesday), and I do feel comfortable with them and way confident. It's been great."
It was actually defenseman Moritz Seider who made the key play on Zadina's goal.
Seider and Raymond were skating on a 2-on-1 rush with Zadina trailing. Seider made an instinctive play of placing a shot off the pads of goaltender Pavel Francouz, the puck going directly to Zadina down the slot. Zadina had no trouble putting in the rebound.
"I thought he (Seider) was going to pass to Razor on the other side for a one-timer," Zadina said. "(Instead) he played it off the pad and it worked out. It was a great play by (Seider)."
Blashill was happy to see Zadina score, which builds the confidence and self-esteem of any goal-scorer. But Blashill wants to see Zadina keep building and growing his overall game.
"It's good to score," Blashill said. "I've seen him play with more confidence, and part of that is obviously you're going to play with more offensive players and when you're playing in those situations, you play more (minutes). There's some positives he did (Wednesday) and some areas he has to keep working on."
The Wings are now 1-2-0 in this seven-game stretch against seven of the top eight teams in the NHL's overall standings.
Next up, the Wings host Toronto on Saturday.
Zadina insists the Wings aren't far behind these top teams.
"We're pretty close," Zadina said. "We have the ability to score goals. We just have to avoid those kind of small mistakes and we'll be fine.
"We just have to play good hockey, and if we play good defense, we'll have more offense."
Blashill sees it in simple hockey terms.
"We have to play good hockey, (and) do it for 60 (minutes)," Blashill said. "Obviously last time we played Toronto, we outplayed them for a good period of time, but we didn't finish the job (Toronto rallied in the final 10 minutes of regulation). We're going to have to make sure we find a way to give up less goals.
"You can't try to outscore these teams. We have to defend better in those situations."
Defenseman Danny DeKeyser was minus-3 in over 18 minutes of ice time Wednesday, and was moved off a pairing with Seider to play with Gustav Lindstrom.
Since returning from back surgery two seasons ago, DeKeyser has appeared to struggle at times with his strength and skating. Blashill said Thursday that's the physical reality right now for DeKeyser.
"Before the surgery he had certain strength and skating power that he might never have to the same level again; that's the just reality of having a major injury and it was a major injury," Blashill said. "Is he at that same strength and power and skating and fluidity? Probably not. He doesn't have the same level of strength, and I don't know if he'll have it again or not. I just don't know that answer. Is he striving (to regain that strength)? Yes, he works extremely hard off the ice and with our sports-science staff to be the best he can be.
"At the same time, as you get older, it's harder. Danny has played good hockey and is a real good, smart player and makes good decisions."
Larkin didn't practice Thursday.
Larkin hurt himself during Tuesday's practice, but played Wednesday and had two assists.
"Maintenance day," Blashill said of Larkin not practicing. "He was questionable for (Wednesday), and I can't sit here and say for sure he's playing Saturday. I don't know that. But we felt it was best to keep him off (the ice Thursday)."