Of Red Wings-related note this evening:
- Tomas Tatar returned to Detroit as a member of the Vegas Golden Knights today, and Tatar spoke with the media regarding his return. Here’s the Free Press’s Helene St. James’ Tatar article…
Tomas Tatar wasn’t sure what to pack, how much to pack, or what to do. His Feb. 26 trade from the Detroit Red Wings to the Vegas Golden Knights was a jolt, a sudden, life-altering event.
“The first hour was pretty stressful,” Tatar said Thursday morning as he prepared to face his former teammates for the first time. “I didn’t really know what to do. It was my first time traded. Should I start packing? What should I pack and for how long? Then when you realize what kind of team you are joining, it was fun. I was really excited.”
Tatar was home watching TV when he saw the trade announced, simultaneously as Wings general manager Ken Holland called to inform Tatar he’d been moved. It came seven months after the Wings signed Tatar for four years and $21.2 million. The Wings are in rebuild mode and Tatar was an opportunity to flip for a first-round pick in June, a second-round in 2019 and a third-round pick in 2021.
“When you sign this kind of deal, you are thinking you are going to be here,” Tatar said. “But I knew we had to start playing better. Unfortunately we didn’t so something had to change. I’d heard rumors teams were interested about me. I was a little ready for it.”
St. James continues, and she posted a video of Tatar speaking with the media:
Tatar’s former teammates were eager to see him after the morning skate, and were anticipating playing against him for the first time.
“It’s going to be a little weird seeing him on the other side,” said forward Andreas Athanasiou, who was Tatar’s locker neighbor for the last two seasons. “I caught up with him a little a bit after the skate. He likes it over there and it’s a good opportunity for him.”
Gustav Nyquist has been texting with Tatar since the trade happened.
“Texting quite a bit the day he got traded and a little bit after, just checking in with him and how he’s doing,” Nyquist said. “It goes both ways. It’s hard for him to leave a team he’s been with a long time. We lost a good character in the room, a funny guy, but I wish him all the best.”
Coach Jeff Blashill was in Grand Rapids when the Griffins won the Calder Cup in 2013, with Tatar winning playoff Most Valuable Player honors.
“I’ve said it before, Tats is one of the favorite players I’ve coached, just a great guy,” Blashill said. “He’s a great competitor and a real winner. It’ll be different for our guys (going against Tatar).”
3. As did MLive’s Ansar Khan:
“I didn’t really realize how meaningful he was in our locker room and to our team until he left,” Dylan Larkin said. “He’s a big voice and a bit of a character and I miss that, I miss his energy, he’s always happy.”
Vegas coach Gerard Gallant said Tatar is good for the room.
“He’s a character guy, guys really like him and he’s pretty loud out there, so it’s good,” Gallant said.
Nyquist said Larkin has assumed Tatar’s duties of selecting pregame music in the room.
“Tats was good at getting us pumped up,” Nyquist said. “He likes that house-techno sort of stuff. Larks, it’s been more variety. Some old-time rock and even some country music.”
As far as what it’s like for a single guy like in Las Vegas, Tatar said: “It’s a different lifestyle there for sure, but I didn’t get to enjoy that too much. Play two games and then we went on the road, so it’s been pretty hectic.”
4. DetroitRedWings.com’s Dana Wakiji also took note of Tatar’s former teammates‘ take on his return:
Winger Anthony Mantha echoed what his teammates had to say about Tatar.
“It should be fun. Tatar was a great guy here. I can’t wait to see him out on the ice again,” Mantha said. “He was usually pretty quiet when we played, but I hope tonight he’s going to bring a couple of chirps out on the ice.”
Mantha may be the only Wing to label Tatar as quiet. Many of the Red Wings expect Tatar to be chirping the whole game.
“He probably will be talking Z’s (Henrik Zetterberg) ear off, Kronner’s (Niklas Kronwall), Ny’s (Gustav Nyquist) for sure, he’ll be chatting out there for sure,” Jimmy Howard said. “I can’t really speak for the rest of the guys. I won’t exchange words.”
Nyquist knows Tatar will be a chatterbox.
“I’m sure he’ll probably chirp some of our guys and I think he’s going to hear quite a bit back,” Nyquist said. “Even for a short guy like him, he’ll get on guys. I think he’d go after Abby (Justin Abdelkader), he’d go after me, Hank (Zetterberg) a little bit. too.”
When Tatar was asked if he’ll be trashing his former teammates and are there a couple of Wings he will center in on, he was diplomatic.
“I think it’s part of hockey for sure so I bet there’s going to be a lot of chirps out there,” Tatar said. “I just want to focus on my game. It’s a new team for me so I have to establish myself here. I want to focus on myself first.”
5. Evgeny Svechnikov was recalled by the Red Wings, and Svechnikov, his teammates and coach spoke with the Free Press’s Helene St. James regarding his recall:
Like fellow first-round pick Dylan Larkin, Svechnikov is an incredibly driven player, someone who holds himself accountable every shift. As the Wings enter the last month of the season, the Wings want Svechnikov use his audition to show where he belongs in their rebuild.
“We hope he develops into a real strong power forward that can add offensive punch,” coach Jeff Blashill said after Thursday’s morning skate. “He’s a big, thick body who’s hard on the puck, who’s strong on the puck, who has a good skill set.
“When he first came into pros, my take on him was he was real interested in making great plays instead of necessarily what it takes to score a goal. It was a lot about pretty plays. Almost the opposite of Tyler Bertuzzi. Over time he’s learned how to use that skill in a more efficient manner, in that it’s not necessarily how pretty the play is, it’s how effective the play is. As he learns that, he hopefully will become a real good power forward.”
Svechnikov, 21, was called up to offset the loss of veteran center Frans Nielsen, who is out at least through the weekend with an upper-body injury. Svechnikov was pencilled in to start the evening game against Vegas on a line with Andreas Athanasiou at center and Justin Abdelkader on the other wing.
“I played with him at the of last year,” Abdelkader said. “He’s really strong, good skater, strong on the puck. He has a good combination and I’m excited for him to get the opportunity.”
The Wings drafted Svechnikov at 19th overall in 2015. He had a great first year in Grand Rapids last season, reaching 20 goals and 51 points and then helping the Griffins to the Calder Cup championship. The Wings expected him to push for a spot in Detroit last fall, but an injury derailed that plan.
Then came a stretch with the Griffins that saw Svechnikov score only two goals the first two months. It was hard for Svechnikov to deal with such a slump.
“I just wasn’t good enough,” he said. “I was struggling with myself and was trying to find a way to get out from that time. I think it’s all right to go through it. I learned a lot.”
6. The Detroit News’s Ted Kulfan also penned an article about Svechnikov…
“I just want to play my game, just want to do what I did in Grand Rapids,” Svechnikov said. “I want to play the same way I did, be responsible defensively, be real good down low, strong on the puck and hang on to the puck.
“It was helpful to have the chance last year. I know guys on the team, the trainers. It means a lot.”
The Red Wings have long envisioned Svechnikov (6-foot-3, 212 pounds) as a potential elite power forward.
His first-half struggles aside, what Svechnikov showed last season in his first season of pro hockey and what he’s produced the second half of this season provides hope.“He has an extremely great work ethic,” said Blashill, who wants to see Svechnikov balance that work ethic. “He wants to be great and he’s extremely hard on himself. The balance, the self-accountability, is a great thing but you have to balance it with being too hard on himself. He has to learn to make sure he’s accountable and look in the mirror, and also let it go and go play.”
Blashill has seen Svechnikov mature and learn what it takes to be effective at the pro level.
“We hope he develops into a real strong power forward that can add offensive punch,” Blashill said. “He’s a bigger, thick body. He’s not 6-foot-6, but he’s a big player who is hard on the puck, strong on the puck, and who has a good skill set. When he first came into the league, he was interested in making the pretty plays. He’s learned over time to use that skill in a more efficient manner. It’s not how pretty the play, it’s how effective the play is.”
7. As did MLive’s Ansar Khan:
Playing two games with the Red Wings late last season provides more confidence. He didn’t record any points but scored the winning shootout goal in a 5-4 victory over Ottawa.
“I think it’s huge,” Svechnikov said. “I feel very comfortable with that, having a chance last year. I just want to do everything that I did in Grand Rapids — be responsible defensively, be really good down low, be strong and hang onto the puck. Nothing special, just play my game.”
He’ll be wearing No. 77, which the team assigned. He said he preferred 37, which he wore during his two games last season.
Athanasiou, who moves to center in place of Nielsen, said of Svechnikov: “He’s obviously got a good set of skill on him. He can stick-handle the puck well, he can really shoot the puck. I think anytime he gets into that open area and you can get him the puck there’s a good chance with his shot it’s going to go in.”
Blashill said Svechnikov has a great work ethic, likening it to Dylan Larkin’s, among other young players.
“Guys like that that do it away from the ice, on the ice,” Blashill said. “There’s no question about his drive. He wants to be great. He’s extremely hard on himself. It’s a great thing, but you got to balance it with being too hard on yourself and letting things go. At the beginning of the year when things weren’t going great he was probably too hard on himself.”
8. Hockeybuzz’s Bob Duff wrote about Svechnikov, too:
Monitoring his progress from above, the Wings know that more recently, Svechnikov has been the potent force he proved to be last season, his rookie campaign as a pro, which included a two-game stint in Detroit.
“I don’t know if it’s difference in how someone plays,” Blashill said. “I think sometimes confidence is a big factor in people’s success. Last year, he had a real good year on a real good team. I think he was fourth on the team in scoring as a rookie. That’s a heck of a year. For whatever reason he was slow out of the gates this year.
“I know (Red Wings GM) Ken (Holland) was (in Grand Rapids) over about two weeks ago, and thought he was excellent. Sometimes when you struggle, you lose some opportunities and you lose some confidence. I assume as he’s gone along he’s built that back up. It’ll be a good opportunity for him.”
Svechnikov, who will wear No. 77 – he wore 37 last season – believes he’s prepared to make some noise at the NHL level.
“I want to prove everything I can,” Svechnikov said. “I think I’ve got a good chance. I just want to play my game, honestly. I just want to do everything what I did in Grand Rapids, play the same way I played, be responsible defensively, be really good down low, be strong and hang onto the puck. Nothing special, just play my game.”
Tomas Tatar is returning to Detroit in style.
Tatar will skate on the top line of the Vegas Golden Knights with center William Karlsson and linemate Jonathan Marchessault. Regular winger Reilly Smith is injured and will not play. Head coach Gerard Gallant said Smith is day-to-day but remains on the road with the Golden Knights.
“They play so fast and they create and they’re smart,” said Tatar, who spent parts of nine seasons in the Red Wings organization before moving over to Vegas in a trade at the NHL deadline. “I like to play fast and hopefully I can help create and be in the right spots. They both can shoot and pass. Hopefully there’s a fit.”
Tatar has one goal in four games since joining Vegas, and 17 on the season.
Marc-Andre Fleury will start in goal for Vegas. Game time is 4:30 p.m. PT.
10. And here’s Lawless’ Game-Day Preview:
1. Step it up
The common theme in the locker room after Tuesday’s loss is that the team needs to up the compete level. Detroit has struggled this season, but the Golden Knights need to not let their guard down. One thing that was missing from their game against Columbus was the full effort throughout the entire game. “That’s the thing, we have to make sure 20 guys are present for the whole game. We cannot have moments where we are not there because other teams are going to eat us and take over,” says veteran center Pierre-Edouard Bellemare. “Those teams are battling for their life right now and we have to get into the same mindset.”
2. Tatar returns to Detroit
Tomas Tatar returns to Detroit just over a week after his trade to Vegas. The 27-year-old forward was drafted by the Red Wings in 2009 and played in their organization until he was sent to the Golden Knights. In four games with Vegas since his trade, he’s scored one goal. He’s bounced back and forth between lines, but tonight the stakes are higher for him against his former squad. In 62 games with Detroit, he had a 16-12-28 record.
3. Goal support
Vegas was only able to muster one goal in Tuesday’s 4-1 loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets. Holding the opposition to under three goals and producing more offence of its own will be key for the team. The club’s top line lost winger Reilly Smith midway through the game and he’s day-to-day. Head coach Gerard Gallant has been forced to juggle his lines due to injuries of late and that’s always difficult on a team’s offensive chemistry.
11. Here’s NHL.com’s Dave Hogg’s game preview:
Tomas Tatar will return to Little Caesars Arena for the first time since being traded 2 1/2 weeks ago when the Vegas Golden Knights play the Detroit Red Wings on Thursday. The 27-year-old forward, who played his first 407 NHL games with the Red Wings, was sent to Vegas before the NHL Trade Deadline on Feb. 26 for three draft picks.
The Golden Knights lost 4-1 at the Columbus Blue Jackets on Tuesday but lead the second-place Anaheim Ducks by nine points in the Pacific Division. Vegas is 1-3-1 in its past five games after going 5-1-0 in its previous six.
Detroit lost 6-5 in overtime at the Boston Bruins on Tuesday and trails the Blue Jackets by 10 points for the second wild card into the Stanley Cup Playoffs from the Eastern Conference. The Red Wings are 0-3-1 in their past four games and 2-5-2 in their past nine.
Players to watch
Golden Knights forward Jonathan Marchessault has 17 points (four goals, 13 assists) in his past 15 games and leads the team with 65 points (22 goals, 43 assists) in 63 games.
Red Wings forward Anthony Mantha had four points (two goals, two assists) in the loss in Boston after scoring one point, a goal, in his previous seven games.