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Red Wings Look to Depth, Not Call-Ups, to Replace Vrana and Bertuzzi



Filip Zadina, Detroit Red Wings

The Detroit Red Wings’ brain trust didn’t need a lengthy debate to determine whether they should call up younger players from their Grand Rapids farm team to replace missing players Tyler Bertuzzi and Jakub Vrana.

“It was an easy conversation,” Red Wings coach Derek Lalonde said.

Thanks to Red Wings general manager Steve Yzerman’s offseason acquisitions, the Red Wings still have 12 forwards and seven defensemen they trust. The depth of this team is far more impressive than it was a year ago.

“We’re comfortable with this right now,” Lalonde said. “With (Grand Rapids) being so close, if something happens and we need to pull somebody we will, but for the meantime we’re comfortable where our lineup is at.”

Last summer, Yzerman didn’t foresee losing three of top six forwards. But he clearly wanted to add more players who could contribute on a regular basis. Ten different players have scored goals for the Red Wings in the first three games.

“I obviously was not here last year – but if this team would have went through three of their top six, two of
their first-line guys go down, I don’t think they’d have much of a chance,” Lalonde said. “I think that is the luxury we’re having with more depth.”

In addition to Bertuzzi being out with a hand injury and Vrana absent because he’s in the NHL/NHLPA Assistance Program, Robby Fabbri is out with a long-term knee injury

Red Wings Line Changes

In preparation for Friday’s road game in Chicago, the Red Wings’ Thursday practice had Dylan Larkin centering Dominik Kubalik and David Perron. Andrew Copp was between Filip Zadina and Lucas Raymond. The Sky Line or Tree Line of Oskar Sundqvist, Michael Rasmussen and Elmer Soderblom remained intact. Adam Erne, Joe Veleno and Pius Suter were on the fourth line.

Lalonde cautioned into reading too much into Thursday’s pairings. Larkin was with Raymond in Tuesday’s practice.

“I think you’ll see different looks in the top six,” Lalonde said. “Those guys will get some time post power play
just the way the lines are gonna flow. I think we trust many guys indifferent roles, different situations, especially now, when we talk about three of our top six out. You’re gonna see different guys movingup and down the lineup within a practice week, within preparation,even so within a game.”

Expanded Opportunity

Regardless of what line Perron or Raymond play on, Bertuzzi’s injury and Vrana’s entry into the NHL/NHLPA Assistance Program, opens the door for Kubalik and Zadina to have an expanded role.

Kubalik seems to be exceeding expectations just a bit. Lalonde said coming into camp he didn’t give him enough credit for being a skater.

” When I competed against him in the American Hockey League even the National Hockey League in the past few
years, he’s a shooter, he’s a finisher,” Lalonde said. “But he’s helped our 5-on-5 game with his skating. He’s getting above, he’s keeping plays alive on the forecheck. He’s turning tracks into offense because of his skating. There’s a perfect example of a guy who was playing in the bottom of our lineup a week ago and now he’s seeing some top-six time.That’s the luxury of depth we have that we just haven’t had in the past.”

Under former Red Wings coach Jeff Blashill, Zadina moved up and down the lineup as the Red Wings waited for his game to mature. This season, he was a healthy scratch for the Red Wings’ first two games.  Then Lalonde moved him into Vrana’s spot in Game 3. He had no shots and no points, but he didn’t look out of place.

“You could see even last game out he managed his game a little better,”  Lalonde said. “We want him to take what’s given
offensively. If there’s room, there’s time and space, if there’s time for a clean entry, gaining middle ice, of course. But what has in his game that I think he’s working on is reading that type of play. He tries to force it, ends up being some turnovers in some dangerous areas. I thought last game he managed his game good. There’s some good signs there. He’ll still get some opportunities with some really good players, get some power play time.”

Lalonde believes the Red Wings are still strong enough to compete without Vrana and Bertuzzi.

‘I think Steve did a good job of depth,” Lalonde said.  “We’re getting tested probably a little more than we want this early. But with that said, I don’t care who you are, if you have three of your top six, arguably two of your top three out, it’s gonna challenge your depth. We still have a winnable roster, which is exciting. We see it like that. That’s a positive.”