The familiar No. 71 of Detroit Red Wings captain Dylan Larkin will be seen on the ice Saturday at Little Caesars Arena for the first time since he suffered a season-ending neck injury last spring. Larkin is in the lineup as the Red Wings face the Columbus Blue Jackets in an NHL preseason game.
Larkin missed the remainder of the 2021 NHL season with a neck injury suffered after he was cross-checked by Dallas Stars captain Jamie Benn.
“It’s like anybody else in the preseason, it’s their first game in a long time,”Red Wings coach Jeff Blashill said of Dylan Larkin. “It’s not his first game any longer than most guys.
“You don’t want to play somebody 25 minutes as a forward in a preseason game but in terms of easing into it, you can’t look at it that way at all. He’s cleared to play. If he wasn’t cleared to play, he wouldn’t play him. So he’s got to go full out and get used to the bumps and grinding he’s going to get through the season.”
Is Dylan Larkin Ahead Of Schedule For Detroit Red Wings?
This appears to be a positive development in the Red Wings’ preseason planning. Originally, the process was suggesting that Larkin wouldn’t be seeing action until later into the NHL exhibition slate. Instead, he’s getting back into action for the third game of preseason play.
“Our medical group did a really good job of putting a plan in place to get hm ready,” Blashill said. “You obviously go through a period of time with no contact and then we had him initiate contact and then contact was initiated on him. But that was when he knew it was coming, so you kind of work your way into it. So you’ve got to go from there into full (contact) and part of full is those battles.”
Aside from the serious injury, people many be forgetting how forgettable Larkin’s 2021 campaign was already proving to be. All of his offensive productivity numbers – goals (nine), assists (14) and points (23) – were career lows.
“Dylan and I talked and one of his good attributes is he’s really strong,” Blashilll said. “He’s got to use his body to win pucks, and if he doesn’t use his body to win pucks he won’t have the puck as much.
“He’s got to get back to playing normal in those circumstances. The reason I want to play him in preseason games is to prepare him, so when we play Tampa (in the regular-season opener) he’s not feeling his way into the game, he’s going all-out. The quicker he can get there the better.”
Lucas Raymond Will Play On Dylan Larkin’s Line
Another interesting development is seeing 2020 first-round draft pick Lucas Raymond skating on Larkin’s line along with Filip Zadina. Minus Jakub Vrana (shoulder surgery) for four months, the Red Wings need goals. They are giving Raymond every chance of showing them that he’s capable of scoring goals at the NHL level on a consistent basis.
“It doesn’t make much sense to me to put Lucas on a line that doesn’t accentuate his abilities,” Blashill said. “We want to see how good he is today and how ready he is right now. So let’s put him on lines that would be the types of lines we’d like to have him play on.
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“I’s not going to be a grinding line per se, though everybody’s got to grind a little bit. It’s going to be a little more of a line with skilled players. He certainly had that with Fabs (Robbie Fabbri) and Suits (Pius Suter). I thought that line did a really good job. Now he gets the chance to play with Larks and Zadina.
“I think the biggest thing on that line, and I talked to Lucas about this, is he’s got to make sure he’s part of the process of getting the puck. He’s got to make sure he doesn’t wait for others to get the puck for him. He’s got to go get the puck. Zadina has to go get the puck. Larks has to go get the puck. And if they all go get it, we’ll have the puck a lot and you’ll see a lot of skilled plays by them.
“It’ll be good to see them together.”