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Wings Weekly: Larkin Rolling, Playoff Push? (Feb 12-18)

Updated: Apr 29, 2023

Jordan Wohl, Staff Writer

#71 Dylan Larkin with the puck against the Calgary Flames. Photo//Sergei Belski/USA TODAY Sports


The Red Wings are hot!


Welcome to Wings Weekly: a regular column giving you a quick recap of the week that was and the week that will be for the 11-time Stanley Cup Champion Detroit Red Wings.


Don’t have time to go back and watch 240 minutes of game film? Here’s what you missed:


Before a 4-2 loss in Seattle to the upstart Kraken, the Wings roared back into playoff contention shortly after the NHL All-Star break by peeling off five straight wins. They are currently three points away from the final playoff spot in the East, which is currently held by the New York Islanders.


Detroit is 5-2-0 since the All-Star break and are 7-3-0 in their last ten games, the fifth best in the Eastern Conference in that span.


Dylan Larkin is on fire. Larkin has stood out early in each of the four games on the current road trip, setting up his teammates with countless high-end scoring opportunities. The strong performance tails a statement showing at the All-Star Tournament where he trailed only Matthew Tkachuk with six points over two 3-on-3 contests.


Other off-ice headlines to follow:


The Jakub Vrana Saga Continues


On Tuesday the Red Wings called up forward Jakub Vrana after a long stint with the minor-league affiliate Grand Rapids Griffins. This has been a tumultuous year for the Czech forward who has not lived up to the expectations set when he was traded to Detroit early in 2021.


For context, the trade for Vrana with the Washington Capitals shook the hockey world at the time, but the trade has not aged well for either franchise. The trade for Vrana also included a second-round pick (used to get skilled Russian star Dmitri Buchelnikov who may never play in the NHL) and Richard Panik (no longer in NHL) for then-franchise cornerstone Anthony Mantha (now a regular healthy scratch in Washington). Does not seem like trade really has made a strong impact on either franchise yet.


Vrana finished the 2020-21 season with 11 points in his first 11 games in Detroit. He was given a three-year extension in the summer of 2021 based on his strong performance but sadly injured his shoulder ten minutes into the first practice of the 2021-22 campaign. The injury sidelined Vrana for the majority of the season, but he played the final 26 games of the year and posted a respectable 19 points doing so.


With two years left on his current contract, Vrana entered this season with heightened expectations, but he left the team for the NHLPA Player Assistance program for an extended period two games into the calendar. No reason for the departure has or likely will ever be given to the public, but shortly after returning to the team, Vrana showed clear signs of not being up to game speed. He was demoted to the American Hockey League in shocking fashion.


Vrana has played well in Grand Rapids and has seemed to hit his stride - posting eight points in his last six games. With Wings star Lucas Raymond injured, a spot for a top-six forward was opened and gave Vrana an opportunity to re-assert himself as a NHL-caliber player. What remains to be seen is if Vrana will stay a Red Wing long-term or if he will get traded before the March 3 Trade Deadline.


Olli Maatta Signed to a Two-Year Extension


The Finnish defenseman signed a one-year deal with Detroit this past summer and has played well enough to earn two more years on the team! A cup champion in Pittsburgh, Maatta has been a calming presence on the left side and has seemed to establish really strong chemistry with Filip Hronek on the second pair.


Maatta has also been functional on the third line and will be a helpful depth defensemen that coach Derek Lalonde will rely upon to help shelter incoming defensive prospects Simon Edvinsson and Albert Johansson as they rise to prominence.


Players to Watch:


1. Anything Red Wings related these days starts with Dylan Larkin. The Michigan native and captain has been the team’s best player the entire season and is in the middle of publicly contested contract negotiations in advance of his expiring deal. If a deal is not made between Detroit and Larkin by July 1, Larkin will become an unrestricted free agent and can sign with any team. This is the biggest headline in Wings world so more to follow.


2. Jonatan Berggren, who is now known as Jonny (pronounced Yonny) Burgers. The 2018 second-round pick has impressed recently with his high hockey IQ and has been rewarded with power play time and increased minutes.


3. Michael Rasmussen: the 6’6” former 2017 9th overall pick has blossomed into a reliable middle-six forward and continues to play well.


Current Projected Lines


Bertuzzi-Larkin-Kubalik

Rasmussen-Copp-Fabbri

Berggren-Veleno-Perron

Zadina-Suter-Sundqvist


Walman-Seider

Chiarot-Hronek

Maatta-Oesterle


Husso

Hellberg


IR: Lucas Raymond, out indefinitely


Courtesy of Jordan Wohl

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