Newest Red Wings Oskar Sundqvist, Jake Walman make fine first impressions
Detroit — Right after newest Red Wings forward Oskar Sundqvist talked to one legend, he was welcomed to the organization by another Hall of Famer. It's been a hectic arrival for Sundqivist, who scored an empty-net goal and assisted on Tyler Bertuzzi's empty-netter in Tuesday's 6-3 victory over Philadelphia.
But getting an opportunity to talk with general manager Steve Yzerman and vice president of hockey operations Nicklas Lidstrom after the trade from St. Louis on Monday was special.
“Yzerman called and welcomed me and said there was someone what wanted to talk to me,” Sundqvist said. “I talked to Nicklas Lidstrom a little bit, so it was a nice surprise. When you’re from Sweden, everyone knows who Nick Lidstrom is.
"It was awesome to talk to him. Got to meet him a quick little bit."
Playing on a line with Joe Veleno and Givani Smith, Sundqvist made a favorable first impression utilizing his size (6-foot-3) and diversified skill set. Coach Jeff Blashill put Sundqvist on the ice late to protect the lead with Bertuzzi and Pius Suter, showing early confidence.
“I played against him a lot in Sweden, and I knew him from Pittsburgh, he’s a great defensive centerman,” said forward Jakub Vrana, who scored two Red Wings goals. “He’s a two-way player, can create a lot of offense, as well. He does a lot of things people don’t see (that help teams win)."
Blashill likes Sundqvist's ability to help the Wings in a variety of ways.
"You could tell his veteran presence as soon as he stepped into my office," Blashill siaid. "He was super comfortable with himself, super comfortable in his own skin. Knows what he’s good at, knows how to win.
"His smarts, and his experience, is going to help our team."
Defenseman Jake Walman, who arrived from the Blues along with Sundqivst, had three shots on net and was noticeable with his speed and mobility, as well as his heavy shot.
“Both played real well,” Blashill said. “Jake used his two best assets, his skating and his shooting. He shot a lot and he was skating really good. He skated out of our zone. He’s a guy who can end plays early with his skating, defensively he can be a bit of a defensive weapon.
"Oskar played really good. He’s a hockey player. He’s strong on his stick. Very smart and he’s very good defensively, very good offensively. Winning pucks and being in the right spots.”
Vrana's two goals raised his total to five, in the seven games he's played since returning from shoulder surgery. Vrana scored eight goals in 11 games upon arriving from Washington in a trade last season.
On both goals Tuesday, Vrana displayed a deceptive and quick release that makes him an effective scorer.
“I’ve worked on it, it’s just, I don’t want to say it’s a gift, I just work on my shot and trying to use it as much as I can," Vrana said.
Despite the offensive production, Vrana isn't totally satisfied with his play.
“I’m looking at it in this way, outside of those two goals I scored, I still have a lot to prove out there," Vrana said. "It’s good when you win the game. It’s just I still find a way where I could do better decisions out there."
Blashill noticed a different Red Wings team, essentially, from Monday's practice after the Saturday giveaway loss in Seattle.
The Wings were more energetic and at ease, knowing the trade deadline had passed and this will be the roster for the remainder of the regular season.
"The road trip and the trade deadline both cause lots of stress,” Blashill said. “When you don’t sleep it’s hard in your body. (Monday's) practice, I thought there were some guys that hadn’t slept at all, they told me they had a real hard time. Then the trade deadline there’s angst involved in that, whether it’s you potentially being traded or everybody doesn’t know what’s going on. (But) we came out and played with good energy early and that was important part of the game.”
Larkin's two assists Tuesday gave him 61 points, in 58 games. It's the quickest any Wings player have reached the 60 mark since Zetterberg did it in 55 games in 2010-11.
In a season which Larkin has impressed in an array of areas, his playmaking has been an standout.
“I don’t think Dylan gets enough credit (for playmaking),” Blashill said. “He’s worked hard at it from his first year of pro until now. What Dylan has done a great job of this year is he’s skated.
"He’s been over the puck, got over it and made plays. Lately he’s done a good job of not forcing it and making a play when a play is there."
... Veleno scored his seventh goal, and provided a spark, but Blashill wants Veleno to keep pushing in games when things aren't going as good.
"He played at times good on the road and at times not good enough,” Blashill said. “It’s just the reality of understanding the level of intensity you have to play with every single night. There are going to be nights when your legs aren’t there. When his legs are there he’s real good. He’s got to find a way when his legs aren’t there to be real good.”
... By reaching the 20-goal mark Tuesday, Lucas Raymond became the fifth Red Wings' rookie in the past 35 years to score 20 or more goals in a season. Raymond joins Dylan Larkin (23, 2015-16), Henrik Zetterberg (22, 2002-03), Sergei Fedorov (31, 1990-91) and Shawn Burr (22 in 1986-87).
Red Wings at Islanders
►Faceoff: 7:30 Thursday, UBS Arena, Elmont, N.Y.
►Outlook: The Islanders (2725-9) have turned their season around, but it's too late after a star derailed by a season-opening 13-game road trip (due to new arena construction) and COVID issues. ... C Brock Nelson (27 goals) and LW Anders Lee (24 goals) lead offensively.
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