Rookie Lucas Raymond is off the COVID-19 list and will be eligible to play for the Detroit Red Wings against the Washington Capitals in their annual New Year’s Eve game.
Defenseman Nick Leddy is now the only Detroit player still on the COVID-19 list.
This will be Detroit’s first game in 13 days. After defeating the New Jersey Devils on Dec. 18, the Red Wings had four games postponed as COVID-19 overran the NHL.
“It was good to watch last night’s game (Nashville-Washington) and you could see there was a lot of emotion,” Blashill said. “That’s great, just getting back at it. This is what we do and to a large degree what we live for, so it’s great to get back going.”
The Lucas Raymond news is important because originally it was thought he might not be cleared until after the Washington game. Raymond is the team’s most skilled goal scorer. The Red Wings were preparing as if Robby Fabbri would play in Raymond’s spot on the top line. At one point, the Red Wings had nine players on the COVID-19 list during the break.
“I think we were really lucky,” Detroit defenseman Moritz Seider said. “A lot of guys didn’t even have to sit out for even one game. We had a really good practice today. I think we can build on that and go form there and get excited for tomorrow. Obviously a big advantage for us (is) we don’t have to travel much. Hopefully we can focus a bit more on practices, and go back to work here.”
What Happens to Joe Veleno?
With all the forwards back, the question now is what to do with rookie Joe Veleno.
“That’s a conversation between myself and Steve (Yzerman),” Blashill said. “Steve would ask me where I’d have him and then ultimately if Steve thinks it’s best for him to develop with more ice, depending on where I have him and what roles I have him slotted in, then certainly he might make that decision to say, ‘If that’s the case then I want to send him down.’ Obviously, if I have him in a ton of big roles that would be an easy decision for Steve. We just found out this morning that Raymond is available.
“That puts us in a decision on who the 12th forward is and who the 13th guy is. I’ll go through that process after practice. Ultimately, we want Joe to develop. So whatever is best for Joe’s development is what we’ll ultimately decide and that’s for further conversation.”
Veleno is a responsible, hard-nosed player. He needs to create more offense to earn a permanent spot on the team.
“A consistent level of winning puck battles and being physical on the puck will allow him to have the puck more,” Blashill said. “At other levels, the puck comes to you easier when you’re a good player and the higher level you go up the harder you got to work to make sure you’re winning it. I think he’s going to produce offense ultimately. He’s a good transporter of the puck and he’s got a good shot. I think those are two strengths of his that he can produce offense. I think his give and go game will have to continue to improve. “
Fans would like to see Veleno stay up with the team. But the Red Wings will send him back to the AHL if they think he would learn more by playing on a scoring line in Grand Rapids.