Larkin to return Saturday against Islanders at LCA
Dylan Larkin will return to the Red Wings lineup on Saturday afternoon (1 p.m., Fox Sports Detroit) when Detroit hosts the New York Islanders at Little Caesars Arena.
Larkin, Detroit’s leading scorer with 27 goals and 62 points – one shy of his career high last season – and the team’s best player, has missed five games with a neck strain.
“It happened a couple of weeks ago. I got tangled up with a guy and I came out of it with a strained neck,” Larkin told www.mlive.com. “I don’t really know, increased soreness … it was something I tried to play through, it wasn’t getting better. I thought I was hurting the team, I wasn’t able to turn my head full range of motion.
“I decided to take some time off and get it looked at further and I had to go to New York to see a specialist. Luckily it was nothing major or nothing that needed more attention or will hold me back down the road. So, (I’m) lucky for that, and now feeling 100 percent, feeling ready to play.”
He practiced Friday on a line with Anthony Mantha and Darren Helm.
Report: Wings, Blashill to begin negotiations soon
According to TSN Insider Bob McKenzie, Detroit could begin talks with coach Jeff Blashill on a new contract before the end of the season.
This is the last year of his four-year deal, worth $800,000 annually.
"The Detroit Red Wings don’t like being at or near the bottom of the league, but that won’t negatively impact head coach Jeff Blashill who’s on the final year of his contract," McKenzie said on TSN’s Insider Trading. "The expectation is the Red Wings, even before the end of this season, may begin extension negotiations with Blashill.”
Despite being 30th out of 31 NHL teams this season, the Wings think he is still the man for the job, according to McKenzie.
“They’ve liked the way Blashill has handled the young kids and that they’ve continued to develop,” McKenzie said. “And in spite of the fact that they don’t have nearly as many points as they’d like, the Wings have been very competitive, well-structured and well-coached over the course of this season. So the fault of the Detroit Red Wings’ season is not being laid at the feet of the head coach."
Kuffner to make NHL debut
Winger Ryan Kuffner will play his first NHL game on Saturday, against the Islanders.
Kuffner, 22, who finished his four-year career at Princeton last weekend, signed a two-year entry-level contract with the Red Wings earlier this week.
Coach Jeff Blashill’s message to him is simple: Shoot the the puck.
“(If) that (shot) is one of your best assets, do it,” Blashill toldwww.mlive.com about Kuffner. “If you over-shoot a little bit, you over-shoot a little bit, especially early.”
Kuffner scored 22 goals this season with Princeton and holds the school’s all-time career goal record with 75.
Blashill said he’ll limit Kuffner’s minutes. Taro Hirose of Michigan State, the other free-agent forward the club signed on Tuesday, joined the team for practice Friday and will debut Tuesday at the New York Rangers.
“Ultimately, if Kuffner’s going to make our team better, he’s going to be a guy who’s going to score, who’s going to be a power-play type guy,” Blashill said. “We’ve got other guys who can penalty kill and be depth guys and stuff like that. So let’s put him in that position and see what he does. And it will be the same thing with Taro.”
Kuffner participated in Thursday’s morning skate and got in his first full practice with his new teammates on Friday, skating on a line with Frans Nielsen and Thomas Vanek.
Kuffner played on the right flank on a power-play unit with Nielsen, Tyler Bertuzzi, Michael Rasmussen and Niklas Kronwall. The Red Wings hope to set him up for one-timers.
“I played a similar spot there and down low (in college),” Kuffner said. “I think we tried to work it around, but for the most part I was around there, looking for the one-timer and just trying to get open for the guys. Just try to attack as much as possible.”