Henrik Zetterberg

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Q&A: Dylan Larkin on captaincy, getting Red Wings back to playoffs

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The retirement of Niklas Kronwall saw another veteran leave the Detroit Red Wings dressing room. One year ago it was Henrik Zetterberg, and while the graybeards (30 years and older) still are in the double digits on the roster, there’s a young core that’s ready to lead the way, highlighted by 23-year-old Dylan Larkin.

Larkin, who has 213 points in four seasons, took away plenty being around Kronwall and Zetterberg, who retired with a combined 2,035 games of NHL experience and a Stanley Cup each to their names.

“They brought it every day,” Larkin told NBC Sports during the NHL Player Media Tour last week in Chicago. “They were professionals every day, that’s probably the biggest thing. They competed. They showed up and work and did all the right things every day.”

Larkin is part of the next group of Red Wings that is hoping to start another long playoff streak. Now that Steve Yzerman is back in Hockeytown replacing Ken Holland as general manager, there’s an expectation in Detroit that good times are on their way back.

We spoke with Larkin about the Red Wings’ encouraging finish to last season, getting back to the Stanley Cup Playoffs, the team’s vacant captaincy and more. 

Enjoy.

Q. What was it about the 8-3 finish that gives you encouragement heading into this season?

LARKIN: “When we finished the season the young players that were producing at the level that they were, obviously, it’s a small sample size and some people will call them meaningless games, but when you have the guys that we have that could be the young core of our team playing like that, it’s just excitement for myself, for our fanbase, for our staff, for us in the locker room. I’m excited to see how we start and as we get into camp how guys are looking. It seems like everyone’s ready, everyone’s excited, everyone’s refreshed after the summer. We’re just going to carry on from where we left off last season.”

Q. From a production standpoint you’ve been the best Red Wing the last few seasons. When you know you have that responsibility every night, how do you manage that pressure?

LARKIN: “I don’t think anyone puts more pressure on me than myself. I enjoy that. I enjoy being in high-pressure situations. I like playing hockey, that’s what it really comes down to. I love the game, I love being at the rink, I love working on my craft. For me, it’s really easy to be at the rink and spend hours trying to get better and I enjoy the pressure and day-to-day grind of playing in the NHL.”

Q. When you see the numbers you put up last season(32-41–73), do you have a specific goal in mind for 2019-20?

LARKIN: “I don’t. I always try to shoot for 30 goals. Last year was pretty special to be able to accomplish that. I don’t set a number, I just try and play hard every night. As I’ve gotten older I’ve tried to take more pride in playing a two-way game. Sometimes when you play that game it doesn’t lead to the big offensive production nights and you have to grind it out. That’s good and I think it helps our team more.”

Q. What areas of your game are you still trying to improve?

LARKIN: “I think I try and improve on every area of my game. If you don’t in the NHL it will slowly catch up to you and it will pass you by. It’s constantly thinking of different ways to play the game and to get better. Everyone has different trainers and different things that they do. I believe in what I’m doing and what I’ve done this offseason to make myself a better hockey player.”

[MORE: Rebuilding Red Wings counting on Larkin, Mantha, Bertuzzi]

Q. What’s it going to take to get the Red Wings back to the playoffs?

LARKIN: “Our young core taking the next step and taking over the team, I guess. We have the guys to do it, we all believe in each other, and as we all want to produce and build our careers, it’s going to help our team. There’s four guys: myself, Anthony Mantha, Tyler Bertuzzi, Andreas Athanasiou, if we can take that next step, become dominant players every night, it’s going to really help our team. I think it’s going to fast-track us to where we want to be.”

Q. How excited are you to be working with Steve Yzerman now that he’s general manager?

LARKIN: “The fan base is excited, the people in Detroit are excited to have him back. To look at what he did in Tampa Bay with the team they had, obviously there’s no guarantees, but he’s been through it, he’s had success at the position he’s at. We all have trust and faith in him. We understand that we have to produce on the ice right now and maybe there’s a little more pressure with having him back. I think it’s good for our team to push guys. For myself, I hope that we build a relationship where we can have conversations and relate to what’s going on in my life and he can help guide me through some things that occur to a young guy playing in the NHL.”

Q. Are you ready to assume a bigger leadership role on the team if Jeff [Blashill] and Steve come to you?

LARKIN: “Yes, but ultimately it’s their decision. Wearing a letter, mentally, I’ve already taken on a bigger role as a leader on the team [as an alternate captain]. I think guys look up to me and I look up to other guys in the locker room, so we have a great core of guys that are leaders and we all rely on each other. It makes it easy for myself when everyone’s doing the right thing and everyone’s leading by example.”

MORE:
• ProHockeyTalk’s 2019 NHL free agency tracker
• Your 2019-20 NHL on NBC TV schedule

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

Yzerman’s game plan and other questions facing the Red Wings

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Each day in the month of August we’ll be examining a different NHL team — from looking back at last season to discussing a player under pressure to identifying X-factors to asking questions about the future. Today we look at the Detroit Red Wings.

Let’s ponder three questions facing the Red Wings in 2019-20…

1. What is Yzerman’s game plan this year? 

He’s made only a couple of depth moves and shocked the hockey world at the 2019 NHL Draft when he selected Moritz Seider sixth overall.

Yzerman seems content to let another year of the team’s rebuild run its course. There are low expectations in terms of the team’s success this year, and having a full season at the helm to assess where that rebuild is at will allow him to go into next summer armed with better knowledge (and more cash to work with.)

The Red Wings will have $13 million likely coming off the books after this year on defense alone, including Mike Green, Jonathan Ericsson and Trevor Daley — all aging players who likely won’t fit into the team’s long-term plans.

Jimmy Howard, 35, is also set to become a UFA. With Filip Larsson signing a three-year entry-level deal earlier this year, he will get a lot of action in Grand Rapids. If that pans out, perhaps he’s ready to make the jump in 2020-21.

Yzerman’s biggest challenge is finding what young up-and-comers are ready to make the jump to the Show this season.

Names like Filip Zadina, Taro Hirose and Michael Rasmussen are all waiting for their turn as regulars. There’s a fine line between a guy being ready and a guy being rushed. The Red Wings have no reason to rush anyone at this point, however.

[MORE: 2018-19 season review | Blashill under pressure? | X-factor]

2. Even if he wants to come back, should the Red Wings re-sign Niklas Kronwall

Yes, he’s a heart-and-soul guy who’s been with the club for ages. And even at 38, he still managed to come close to a 30-point season and missed just three games.

And there’s always that leadership component of a guy who knows what it takes to win.

But given his advanced age (in hockey years, of course) and the fact that the Red Wings already have a collection of older defensemen that can mentor some of the young guys like Filip Hronek, Dennis Cholowski and Madison Bowey, is it worth having Kronwall taking minutes from those guys?

The Red Wings aren’t going to be competing for a Stanley Cup this season.

They already added Patrik Nemeth, a just-in-case if Kronwall isn’t to return, so perhaps it’s time to move on.

3. Who is the team’s next captain? 

The good money is on Dylan Larkin and for good reason.

Despite being 22 (and age doesn’t matter much here), Larkin has shown he has what it takes between the ears to be the guy that leads this team forward.

The Red Wings rolled last season without one after the retirement of Henrik Zetterberg. Larkin filled in wearing an ‘A’ and handled those duties well.

Larkin also has a new GM who was once given the captaincy of the same team at age 21.

Larkin is doing the right things on and off the ice, which is exactly what a young captain on a rebuilding team should be doing. It seems like a no-brainer.

MORE:
• ProHockeyTalk’s 2019 NHL free agency tracker
• Your 2019-20 NHL on NBC TV schedule


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

Blackhawks vs. Bruins: 2019 Winter Classic by the numbers

NBC’s coverage of the 2018-19 NHL season continues with the 2019 Winter Classic between the Boston Bruins and Chicago Blackhawks. Coverage begins at 1 p.m. ET from Notre Dame Stadium. You can watch the game online and on the NBC Sports app by clicking here.

0 – Total hat tricks in NHL outdoor game history. 

2 – Number of outdoor games that Brad Marchand has missed playing in due to various circumstances. He was in the AHL during the Bruins’ 2010 game at Fenway Park and he was suspended for the 2016 game at Gillette Stadium.

3 – The Bruins will take part in their third Winter Classic on Jan. 1. They previously participated in the event in 2010 (Fenway Park vs. Flyers) and 2016 (Gillette Stadium vs. Montreal Canadiens).

4 – Number of Winter Classics that have gone past regulation. Two of which (2008 – BUF-PIT and 2014 – TOR/DET) needed the shootout to determine a winner.

5Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews, Brent Seabrook, and Duncan Keith are the only current Blackhawks who have played in all five of the franchise’s outdoor games. If they all hit the ice at Notre Dame Stadium they will be the only NHL players to play in six outdoor games.

6 – The Blackhawks are outdoor game veterans. They have played in six total outdoor games and the meeting with the Bruins will be their fourth Winter Classic. They are 0-3-0 in Winter Classics (2009 vs. Detroit Red Wings, 2015 vs. Washington Capitals, 2017 vs. St. Louis Blues) and 1-1-0 in Stadium Series games (2014 win vs. Penguins, 2016 loss to Minnesota Wild).

6 – All-time outdoor game points by Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews, second to Henrik Zetterberg’s seven.

6 – The NHL returns to Indiana for its sixth regular-season game in the state and first since 1992. The Blackhawks have played in all five previous matchups, including a 3-2 loss to the Bruins on Jan. 21, 1954 at the Indiana State Fairgrounds Coliseum in Indianapolis.

[WATCH LIVE – COVERAGE BEGINS AT 1 P.M. ET – NBC]

10 – Record for goals scored in a Winter Classic, set by the Blackhawks and Detroit Red Wings in 2009 (6-4 Detroit win). The Red Wings’ six goals is the most by one team in a Winter Classic.

11 – This will be the 11th NHL Winter Classic and the second to be held in a college football stadium (2014 – Toronto vs. Detroit at Michigan Stadium). Six others have been held in baseball stadiums and three in NFL stadiums.

13 – Degrees in Fahrenheit of the coldest recorded temperature at puck drop for a Winter Classic (2014, Ann Arbor, MI).

19 Average low temperature, in degrees Fahrenheit, for South Bend, Ind. on Jan. 1, according to accuweather.com.

26 – This will be the 26th NHL outdoor game. The first outdoor game was the 2003 Heritage Classic in Edmonton between the Oilers and Montreal Canadiens. Chicago vs. Boston is the first of two outdoor games this season. The Pittsburgh Penguins will play the Philadelphia Flyers on Feb. 23 (8 p.m. ET, NBC) from Lincoln Financial Field.

32 – Average high temperature, in degrees Fahrenheit, for South Bend, Ind. on Jan. 1, according to accuweather.com.

36 – Total number of games in Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy’s NHL career, all of which were played with the Blackhawks, who drafted him in the first-round in 1983.

50 – Degrees in Fahrenheit of the warmest recorded temperature at puck drop for a Winter Classic (Pittsburgh, 2011).

84 – Number of Notre Dame Fighting Irish hockey players drafted to the NHL, including four Stanley Cup Champions; Bill Nyrop (1976, 1977, 1978 with Montreal), Don Jackson (1984, 1985 with Edmonton), Ian Cole (2016, 2017 with Pittsburgh) and Bryan Rust (2016, 2017 with Pittsburgh) according to University of Notre Dame Hockey.

350 – Gallons of paint used to make the ice at Notre Dame Stadium white.

708 – Number of players and coaches who have participated in the NHL’s 25 regular-season outdoor games to date.

1995 – Year in which Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman graduated from Notre Dame University.

Mike Tirico will host the network’s Winter Classic pre-game coverage alongside the NHL Live studio team of host Kathryn Tappen, and analysts Mike Milbury, Keith Jones and Jeremy Roenick. Six-time Emmy Award-winner and La Fontaine, Ind., native Mike ‘Doc’ Emrick, U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame member Eddie Olczyk, and ‘Inside-the-Glass’ analyst Pierre McGuire will have the call from Notre Dame Stadium.

Wednesday Night Hockey: Streaky Wings look to end losing skid vs. Blues

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NBCSN’s coverage of the 2018-19 NHL season continues with Wednesday night’s matchup between the St. Louis Blues and Detroit Red Wings at 7:00 p.m. ET. You can watch the game online and on the NBC Sports app by clicking here.

The Red Wings season has been a rollercoaster so far. They started the year with 0-5-2 and through 10 games, they were the worst team in the NHL (1-7-2). But they followed that up by winning nine of their next 11 contests. Now, they’ve lost three games in a row. Who are the real Red Wings?

With Henrik Zetterberg no longer in the picture, Dylan Larkin has been forced into a leadership role. The 22-year-old has put together a solid season, as he has nine goals and 21 points in 24 games this season. The speedster still has some work to do, but he’s looked good.

“He’s gotta be a great defensive player in order to allow that production to be enough to be a great player,” said head coach Jeff Blashill. “Very few guys can outproduce their poor defense, let’s say … and I think what he’s done is whenever he’s had to he’s reset himself, and make sure that he knows he’s gotta check for his chances. … It appears to me just a little more — I don’t know if confidence is the right word, swagger’s the right word, controlling the play is the right word — he seems to really, really be on top of it offensively.”

Andreas Athanasiou (10 goals, 15 points in 20 games) and Anthony Mantha (nine goals, five assists in 24 games) have helped carry the load offensively.

The Wings have also received some quality goaltending from veteran Jimmy Howard, who the Blues are reportedly interested in, per TSN hockey insider Darren Dreger. Howard owns a 7-6-3 record with a 2.68 goals-against-average and a .922 save percentage.

As for the Blues, you can understand why they’d be interested in acquiring a proven goaltender. Both Jake Allen and Chad Johnson haven’t been able to carry the load. Allen has been better over the last little while, but we’ve seen enough of him to know that darker times are ahead. Johnson, who has always been a backup goaltender, can’t be relied upon to win consistently.

St. Louis has already made a coaching change this season, as they let Mike Yeo walk. They replaced him with Craig Berube, but the results haven’t been there for Berube so far. They’re 1-2-0 since he took over, including an embarrassing 8-4 loss to Winnipeg over the weekend.

“There were missed coverages in a lot of areas,” Berube said. “We let that game slip away from us…I thought we lacked energy in that Winnipeg game, which I expected, but our brains kind of turned off too, which was not a good thing.”

Joey Alfieri is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @joeyalfieri.

PHT Morning Skate: Zetterberg on his injury; importance of Subban

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Welcome to the PHT Morning Skate, a collection of links from around the hockey world. Have a link you want to submit? Email us at phtblog@nbcsports.com.

• Detroit Red Wings captain Henrik Zetterberg talks about the injury that ended his playing career. [Detroit News]

• How smaller goalie equipment will impact scoring in the NHL. [Sportsnet]

• Gone are the days when top pairing defensemen are carrying heavy minutes. [TSN]

• Why P.K. Subban may be the NHL’s most important player. [Tampa Bay Times]

• IIHF president Rene Fasel plans to retire when his term is up in 2020. [TASS]

• Willie O’Ree, who will be inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame later this month, gets the honor of having a street hockey rink named after him in Boston. [NHL.com]

• Examining the tough start for the Toronto Maple Leafs’ blue line. [The Leafs Nation]

William Nylander remains unsigned. So how might the Philadelphia Flyers fit in as a possible trade destination? [NBC Philadelphia]

• It’s been quite a road to 1,000 games for Buffalo Sabres forward Jason Pominville. [Buffalo Hockey Beat]

• A good read on the way New Jersey Devils head coach John Hynes balances coaching and using analytics. [NJ.com]

• If Bruce Cassidy broke up his top line, how would the Boston Bruins look? [Bruins Daily]

• The Vancouver Canucks are off to a good start, but there’s reason to be cautious and optimistic. [Pass it to Bulis]

• Why Tyler Myers should be on Jim Benning’s shopping list this summer for the Canucks. [Daily Hive]

• A look at Filip Chytil‘s start to the season with the New York Rangers. [Blue Seat Blogs]

• Finally, Patrik Laine talks about his hat trick on home soil Thursday vs. the Panthers:

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.