Saturday, August 11, 2018

Three questions facing Detroit Red Wings

1. Will Henrik Zetterberg return?
Zetterberg is signed for three more seasons and has said he will play as long as he's healthy, but he turns 38 on Oct. 9 and has back problems. A decision on this season could come down to his physical at the start of training camp.
"I have talked to his agent a number of times over the course of the summer, and I know he's had a tough summer," general manager Ken Holland said. "He hasn't been able to train anywhere near close to where he's been able to train past summers due to his back. So there is a real unknown right now with Henrik Zetterberg.
Zetterberg had back surgery in 2014 but hasn't missed a game the past three seasons.
"I'm expecting him to play, but do I have a clear green light? No," Holland said. "It's hard to read the future when it comes to health. Obviously, that's a key piece for us."
Zetterberg is the captain, a mentor for younger players and a key contributor at center. He ranked second on the Red Wings, behind Dylan Larkin, last season in points (56) and average ice time among forwards (19:30), and was first with 18 power-play points (one goal, 17 assists).
2. Which younger players will make the team?
Four players 24 and under already have spots: forwards Larkin, 22, Andreas Athanasiou, 24, Tyler Bertuzzi 23, Anthony Mantha, 23.
Holland said two or three others likely will make the opening roster, but it depends on who seizes the job. It's uncertain whether the Red Wings will carry 14 forwards and seven defensemen, or 13 and eight.
"If two young defensemen make our team, maybe we'll carry eight defensemen," Holland said.
The Red Wings will give long looks in the preseason to forwards Evgeny Svechnikov, 21, Michael Rasmussen, 19, and Filip Zadina, 18, and defensemen Joe Hicketts, 22, Dennis Cholowski, 20, and Filip Hronek, 20.
Whoever doesn't make it could come up later in the season.
"Everybody obviously focuses in on opening day," Holland said. "But it's six-month season, and lots happens."
3. Can Larkin take the next step?
Larkin was the Red Wings' leading scorer last season with an NHL career-high 63 points (16 goals, 47 assists), and they need him to continue to develop as a leader as they transition to the next generation. Detroit took a big step in that direction when it signed Larkin to a five-year contract Friday.
"I want to be a way better player," Larkin said. "I know I can be a way better player to help myself and our team, and I've got a long way to go."
Where does he need to improve?
"Everywhere," Larkin said. 
He had a 6.9 shooting percentage last season, the lowest of his NHL career, and had eight points (one goal, seven assists) on the power play for Detroit, which ranked 24th in the NHL (17.5 percent). Larkin was also minus-9 and won 49.92 percent of his face-offs, the best percentage of his NHL career.
"There's a bigger picture, a more complete game, I think," he said. "Yeah, you could say pretty good year, but it's that next step where superstars are, and that's where I want to be."

No comments: