Though eight exhibition games, the Detroit Red Wings looked like they’ll have the depth to be competitive.
Only so much can be read into the 3-1 loss in Saturday’s finale at Buffalo, and the Wings’ 4-4 record — no one plays with a full NHL lineup — but the past two weeks have been a time for players to acclimatize and coaches to evaluate.
“It’s good to go through them,” coach Jeff Blashill said. “It’s experience for a number of guys. It shows how hard the league is — it’s not the teams we’re going to face in terms of the makeup of each roster, there’s going to be a lot better players in the lineup, but it does show our young guys the relentless nature of the league. That’s good experience and good for evaluation purposes.”
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The Wings didn’t have much spark in the first period Saturday. Sam Gagner scored off a setup by Mitchell Stephens, tying the game shortly after JJ Peterka’s goal in the second period. The downfall was a goal given up during a power play, when Zemgus Girgensons capitalized on goalie Alex Nedeljkovic mishandling the puck and made it 2-1. Vinnie Hinostroza put it away with an empty net goal late in the third period.
After making do with scrimmages in lieu of exhibitions last season, the Wings having a preseason, even a hectic one, was a welcome return to some normalcy.
“Just getting back into the flow of things is nice,” Gagner said. “Last year, as fortunate as we were to be playing, it was a different year. Everyone is happy to be back on the regular schedule and looking forward to getting things started.”
Pius Suter looks like he’ll build on his rookie season, when he recorded 14 goals and 13 assists in 55 games with Chicago. The Blackhawks didn’t re-sign Suter, and Steve Yzerman took advantage to add a skilled 25-year-old forward. Suter has looked good with all of his linemates — Saturday it was Bobby Ryan and Filip Zadina — and consistently was involved in offensive opportunities. It was only preseason, but Suter looked like he’ll be a good fit.
“I think he’s a really smart player,” Gagner said. “Just one of those guys that’s in the right position at all times, offensively, defensively. Makes a lot of good plays out there, good reads. He’s going to be an important part of things for us.”
Moritz Seider appeared in six games, playing with poise and assertiveness. He’ll make the defense corps stronger and help the team score more. “He’s been really impressive with the poise with the puck, his ability to read the play, be physical, assertive, everything,” Gagner said. Saturday was his least impressive game, but even as he adjusts to the NHL, Seider looks like he’ll be a net positive.
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“He’s got a confidence and moxie to him, he’s got a competitiveness to him,” Blashill said “Those are all really good qualities. He’s got to learn as he goes. Learn how to use his assets to the best of his ability, when to move a puck, when to jump in the play, when to use his poise, when to take a chance, when not to. That’s the thing about young defensemen — no matter how talented you are, you have to learn. The good thing for him is, he’s talented enough that he can make a number of good plays while he’s learning and making some mistakes.”
Waiting to exhale
The Wings have Sunday off, their first real break since training camp began Sept. 23 and segued into eight games in 11 days. Then they’ll have three days of practices before their season opener Thursday against Tampa Bay. Blashill said nobody other than Jakub Vrana (shoulder, sidelined through January) has been ruled out for the opener, but multiple players are banged up, including Michael Rasmussen and Givani Smith, and considered day-to-day. The Lightning — who have won back-to-back Stanley Cups — are as good a test as there is, but there’s confidence within the Wings that they can be competitive.
“If we can execute, we have four lines and three D pairs that can have success,” Gagner said. “We’re excited. It’s been good to get the preseason, it’s been a long one and we’re looking forward to getting the regular season started.”
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Contact Helene St. James at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @helenestjames. Read more on the Detroit Red Wings and sign up for our Red Wings newsletter. Her book, The Big 50: The Detroit Red Wings is available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Triumph Books. Personalized copies available via her e-mail.
This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Detroit Red Wings look like they will be competitive in 2021-22