Preseason wrap-up: Veleno ‘makes his statement’ as tired Wings out-swing depleted Penguins

The Detroit Red Wings defeated the Pittsburgh Penguins 4-2 on Thursday night, winning a sort of mucky-grind-y game opposite the Penguins’ B Team, and wining up a stretch of 5 games played over the course of 6 nights with a 3-and-2 record.

NHL.com posted a succinct recap of an up-and-down affair…

Tyler Bertuzzi scored in his first game in more than eight months for the Detroit Red Wings in a 4-2 preseason win against the Pittsburgh Penguins at Little Caesars Arena in Detroit on Thursday.

Bertuzzi had not played since Jan. 30 because of a back injury. He scored into an empty net with 29 seconds left.

Joe Veleno had a goal and an assist, and Thomas Greiss made 22 saves for Detroit.

Drew O’Connor and Dominik Simon scored, and Casey DeSmith made 33 saves for Pittsburgh.

As did the Associated Press:

Joe Veleno had a goal and an assist, and Thomas Greiss stopped 22 shots to help Detroit beat Pittsburgh.

Pius Suter, Filip Hronek and Tyler Bertuzzi also scored for the Red Wings. Veleno got the tiebreaking goal with 4 1/2 minutes remaining and Bertuzzi added an empty-netter in the final minute.

Drew O’Connor and Dominik Simon scored for Pittsburgh, and Casey DeSmith had 33 saves.

MLive’s Ansar Khan also summarized Joe Veleno’s situation as he battles for a roster spot…

Veleno snapped a 2-2 tie with 4:32 remaining in regulation, blasting in a one-timer off a pass from Gustav Lindstrom. It was his second goal of the preseason.

Veleno, Detroit’s 30th overall pick in 2018, is competing for a roster spot. The club would prefer to have him at center but hasn’t ruled out playing him at wing. Veleno is still waiver-exempt, so he might start the season with the AHL Grand Rapids Griffins.

The Red Wings led 1-0 after the first period on Suter’s second preseason goal, coming two seconds after a power play expired.

Veleno’s no-look backhand pass from the crease deflected off a defender’s skate to Suter at the net front and he buried it at 17:22.

DetroitRedWings.com’s Ethan Sears also addressed Veleno’s situation in his “Three Takeaways“…

Joe Veleno and Taro Hirose, two forwards who could still be in the mix, picked up the primary and secondary assists on the Red Wings’ first goal. Veleno’s play in particular stood out, as he found Pius Suter with a between-the-legs pass as a power play expired.

“I just try to go out there and play my game,” Veleno said. “I try to leave the distractions out of my head and just kinda focus on playing the game of hockey, and have some fun with it. I guess work as hard as I could and I guess see what the outcome, see what kinda outcome happens.”

Veleno found the net later in the game, too, burying the game-winner off a one-time wrist shot after Gustav Lindstrom‘s pass found him in the right circle. As far as auditions go, that’s a pretty good one.

“I think he’s making his way to being close to NHL ready. I think there’s a lotta guys that are kinda in that mix,” Blashill said. “And then it’s that next step that is probably more important.”

He explained that next step as the difference between merely being ready to make an NHL roster and being ready to actively help an NHL team.

“You want to play those types of players who you think can continue to grow as players to thrive,” Blashill said. “So to me, I think it’s that difference. And I can’t put a total finger one that’s the difference between surviving and thriving, but you want to see guys that are thriving. You want to see guys that are excelling.”

The Detroit News’s Ted Kulfan continued surveying Blashill’s thoughts

“Is Joe taking steps in the right direction? One hundred percent,” Blashill said. “He’s worked his tail off the last two years, worked on his body, being real good on the defensive side of the puck, he’s taking strides in the right direction.”

Bertuzzi, in his exhibition debut for the Wings, had 16 minutes of ice time playing on a line with Suter and Lucas Raymond. 

“Tyler did a good job for a guy that hasn’t played, has gone through a lot,” Blashill said. “What I liked is he played without fear. That’s a hard thing psychologically, when you’ve been banged up, and he blocked a number of shots and was totally involved in a whole bunch of battles.”

Suter’s goal opened the scoring, just two seconds after a Wings’ power play expired early in the first period. It was the second goal, with four assists, for Suter this preseason, after signing a two-year contract in the offseason. Suter had 14 goals with 13 assists in Chicago last season, but the Blackhawks declined to re-sign him. Suter has been impressive in all three zones, with a knack for creating offense despite not having exceptional speed or size.

“I knew him but it’s way different when you have a guy on your bench than when you’re coaching against him,” Blashill said. “Coaching against him, you see flashes of skills. You get to know his brain (when you coach him) and his brain is real good. What do I know about him now? He’s real smart, real smart offensively and defensively and he can fill a whole bunch of different roles and can make a lot of plays.

“I’ve been real happy with his game. He’s a no-nonsense player, kind of goes out and does his job and doesn’t get too high or too low. But he’s a real smart hockey player and that’s real important to have those players on your team.”

You can take this observation from Detroit Hockey Now’s Kevin Allen for what you will…

One Red Wings’ truth heading into the regular-season is that it is impossible to know what the Red Wings’ goaltending will be like this season. Jeff Blashill has seen enough of Thomas Greiss to assume he will be solid. He did a good job for the Red Wings last season and he has 2-1 record in the preseason. He gave up two goals against the Penguins.

But it’s really difficult to project Alex Nedeljkovic’s performance level because his NHL experience is a small sample size. He’s only played 29 NHL games. Nedeljkovic was terrific last season, but it’s easy to find Nedeljkovic doubters. They point out that Carolina’s defense ran a tight ship last season. They kept a clean house.

To make Blashill’s job more difficult, Nedeljkovic has looked porous in preseason games. Greiss looked fine against the Penguins. Should we assume Blashill will want another look at Nedeljkovic before Thursday’s opener against the Lightning? The Red Wings play their final exhibition game Saturday against Buffalo.

When the deal for Nedeljkovic was made, the thought was he is the Red Wings goalie of the future and goalie of the now. That’s probably true. But really we don’t know if Nedeljkovic will be an upgrade this season over Jonathan Bernier. Maybe he will be. But it’s not a certainty. Bernier played well for the Red Wings for past couple of seasons.

(I’m not panicking about Nedeljkovic, but that’s just me)

And the Free Press’s Helene St. James will take us out with the following pair of observations:

Bertuzzi makes impression: Bertuzzi played for the first time since being sidelined by back pain Jan. 30. He buzzed around the net within a few shifts, and looked comfortable playing with Suter and Lucas Raymond. That’s not the line he’s expected to be on when the Wings open next Thursday, because the plan is to play him with Dylan Larkin (who wasn’t in the lineup). Raymond is certainly making a case to be on the line, but so is Filip Zadina.

Bertuzzi got in some power play time; he had a chance down low during a 5-on-3 early in the second period. When scrums broke out, he threw an arm around a foe just like old times. He earned a goal with 29 seconds left on the clock.

Hronek looking good: Hronek scored his first goal of the preseason when he took a feed from Sam Gagner in Pittsburgh’s zone and took off on a breakaway, putting the puck behind Casey DeSmith. Hronek also hit a post in the third period. Hronek has had a good exhibition season, mostly paired with veteran Danny DeKeyser. The two played well together a couple seasons ago, but DeKeyser missed most of the 2019-20 season after undergoing back surgery and has had a slow path back to form. Hronek ran one of the power play units Thursday, but he has also looked in place as a flanker when Nick Leddy has run the unit.

Multimedia:

Highlights: Sportsnet posted a 5:58 highlight clip:

NHL.com posted a 5:47 highlight clip:

Post-game: WXYZ’s Brad Galli posted a clip of Joe Veleno’s post-game remarks:

The Free Press posted a clip of coach Jeff Blashill’s post-game comments:

The Red Wings posted a combined clip of Veleno and coach Blashill’s remarks:

Photos: The Free Press posted an 8-image gallery;

The Detroit News posted a 29-image gallery.

Statistics: Here are the Game Summary and Event Summary:

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George Malik

My name is George Malik, and I'm the Malik Report's editor/blogger/poster. I have been blogging about the Red Wings since 2006, when MLive hired me to work their SlapShots blog, and I joined Kukla's Korner in 2011 as The Malik Report. I'm starting The Malik Report as a stand-alone site, hoping that having my readers fund the website is indeed the way to go to build a better community and create better content.

2 thoughts on “Preseason wrap-up: Veleno ‘makes his statement’ as tired Wings out-swing depleted Penguins”

  1. I am also not worried about Ned. Far too many opinions overall and non of them will make a difference.

    Hope prospects realise this is Big City (Sir the Pot) to make their bosses happy.

    In a way, I would rather just read your comments, thoughts, etc.

    The Media is too much BS in every way, not just sports. That includes TSN, SportsNet, etc.

    Facts are irrelevant these days, It Is the Headline that counts.

    1. I appreciate your honesty there…It is the headline that counts far too regularly, and we both try to get past that here.

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