The Detroit Red Wings will face a heavy road this afternoon, hoping to rebound from a 5-4 OT loss to Chicago against a St. Louis Blues team that was embarrassed 7-2 by Toronto last night. Today’s game takes place at 3:30 PM, and will air on Fox Sports GO and the Red Wings’ YouTube channel.
Three forwards, three defensemen and three goaltenders took part in today’s optional practice at Centre ICE Arena, though goalie coaches Jeff Salajko and Brian Mahoney-Wilson, skill development coach Brandon Narauto and Grand Rapids Griffins assistant coaches Matt McDonald and Todd Krygier oversaw their charges.
It’s highly likely that Chad Yetman, Thomas Casey, Troy Loggins, Gustav Berglund and Alec McCrea will be today’s scratches; Jared McIsaac is a ways away due to a shoulder injury; in goal, Kaden Fulcher will start, Anthony Popovich will back him up, and Filip Larsson’s being held out of the tournament due to lingering groin soreness.
I still owe you some assessments, so, bearing in mind that we’re talking about an optional morning skate, here’s what I saw:
#79 Troy Loggins: Loggins is a Grand Rapids Griffins signing, and the 5’9″ scorer from Northern Michigan University played OK in last night’s game, but his lack of size and strength may limit him to the practice squad from here on out. He’s got great hands, as evidenced by his back-to-back 40+ point seasons at NMU, but he needs to round out physically.
#79 Thomas Casey: I’m surprised that the try-out center may not play today. Another small bugger at 5’8″ and 185 pounds, the Charlottetown Islanders forward did a very good job of pairing with Elmer Soderblom on the Wings’ fourth line last night, displaying oodles of jam and grit. His number won’t be called today, and that happens when you’re a perimeter-of-the-roster player. The Wings may be actively trying to get bigger after being bumped around by the Hawks.
#88 Chad Yetman: The 5’11,” 176-pound Erie Otters scorer didn’t look comfortable in the lineup last night, and that’s why the young man won’t be playing today. He’s got hands, and he skates well, but he’s inconsistent.
#63 Alec McCrea: McCrea was “fine” last night–not great, not terrible–providing no-frills, no-fuss defense as the 6’3,” 212-pound Griffins signing nurtured Berglund along. The Wings may feel that their third pair needs to get a little faster.
#97 Gustav Berglund: Berglund had a superb pro debut, at least by 18-year-old standards, but I can understand why his mistakes caused the Wings to offer him a breather. The 6’2,” 187-pound Frolunda Indians defender is a superb communicator and he has a very good sense of situational awareness. Again, there’s a lot of work to be put into his raw game, but there’s no bullshit in his game, and there’s no bullshit in his comments to the media, either.
#36 Kaden Fulcher: Fulcher looked calmer, more patient and less leaky today. There was a slight concern regarding the final five minutes of his goalie drills, when he let up goals in bunches, but he was otherwise far more composed and controlled in his stance and ready to anticipate instead of simply reacting to shots. Here’s hoping that he can step up a bit against the Blues, because the Wings are going to go as far as the 6’3,” 182-pound goaltender can take them.
#38 Filip Larsson: It was plain old good to see Larsson doing his thing, even on a limited and very cautious basis under the tutelage of coach Salajko. Larsson spent a good amount of time at center ice, working on his stickhandling skills (which are not great), and he spent a lot of time working on his c-cuts and positioning while standing on his skates, but toward the end of the drills, he was able to butterfly freely and drop into his stance as necessary. Larsson looks a little “thinner” in the net, and he stated that he’s narrowed his stance on purpose, per Jimmy Howard’s advice, to try and be more prepared to move and anticipate shots.
#80 Anthony Popovich: A free agent try-out, Popovich is a bit of a wild card. He leads with his chest protector (which is very big) and tries to maximize a 6’1,” 182-pound frame by puffing himself up and blocking pucks narrowly wide of his cage. He posted 30 wins for the OHL champion Guelph Storm this past season, and he’s consistently won games at the OHL level, but he possesses a career save percentage around .900, and most professional goaltenders have save percentages around .910-.920. If he gets into the net, will he be able to battle his way through adversity?