Dylan Larkin’s season-ending surgery provides rookie Joe Veleno with another opportunity to prove he can be an NHL scoring center.
He could see some No. 1 center time tonight when the Red Wings play on the road against the Tampa Bay Lightning.
“I might play with the lines a little bit as we go but he’ll certainly get increased opportunity,” Detroit coach Jeff Blashill said. “I think he’s had decent opportunity through the season but this is even increased opportunity. It gives him a chance to jump through that window. He needs to I think seize this moment and show over the next games that we have remaining that he can be a guy who can help us win.”
Veleno, 22, has seven goals and 14 points in 60 games. At the very least, Veleno will have expanded playing time over Detroit’s last six games.
“None of us want to continue to be in this spot where we’re at right now, so we need guys that are ultimately going to boost our fortunes higher,” Blashill said. “And he’s got a chance here to show he can be one of those guys.”
No Berggren Yet
The Red Wings did not announce any call-ups from Grand Rapids. For now, Jonatan Berggren is staying with the Grand Rapids Griffins.
“I would say I have lots of conversations with Steve about that,” Blashill said. “I would say there’s fluidity to our situation. Obviously, Grand Rapids is in a spot where they’re trying to fight for their playoff lives right now. We are cognizant of that. And we’re cognizant of individual player’s development. We’re cognizant of who helps us the best and I don’t know who will play and who won’t play. Ultimately, the Berggren conversation is a decision made by Steve on what’s best for Jonatan Berggren.”
Berggren leads the Griffins with 54 points, and they have an important game against the Iowa Wild tonight. This seems like a must-game for the Griffins.
Detroit forward Oskar Sundqvist (injury) and goalie Alex Nedeljkovic (illness) will be a game-time decision. Freshly-signed goalie Magnus Hellberg is expected to be the backup. Blashill hasn’t revealed his plans for using Hellberg whose contract is only for these last six games.
“I won’t go further than tonight,” Blashill said. “I think there’s a decent likelihood he’ll back up tonight. And I would just take it from there.