The Detroit Red Wings have had a recent rash of injuries to their forward group. This will certainly color whether or not the team can remain in contention to make the Stanley Cup playoffs. Dylan Larkin was lucky to avoid injury when he blocked a shot late in the second period in a recent game against the Carolina Hurricanes. This comes after Tyler Bertuzzi blocked a shot with his hand in a game against the New Jersey Devils in October. Bertuzzi will miss four to six weeks with this latest injury after being placed on injured reserve.
Larkin is on pace to score 82 points for the season. His stellar play is no accident as Larkin will be a free agent after the 2022-23 season. Larkin was lucky to avoid a hand injury like Bertuzzi suffered. For his part, Larkin has said that he hopes to remain in Detroit. Larkin changed his representation during the offseason in preparation for what will be his last chance to maximize the amount of money he can earn as he enters his age 27 season.
When asked why Larkin was so important to this Red Wings roster, Lalonde said ‘He’s a driver, a transporter of the puck. Obviously, with some of the offense we already have out, he still pushed us. He pushes linemates. Whoever he is with produces. Analytically, he drives. Obviously, a big piece with a team that has not produced a ton of five-on-five offense.’
The number of injuries that Bertuzzi has had in the past coupled with his difficult contract negotiations with the team will make this upcoming contract negotiation difficult for Yzerman to navigate. A back surgery in April of 2021 caused him to miss 14 games in the 2021-22 season. Yzerman needs to keep in mind where he feels the Red Wings are in their rebuild. If Bertuzzi does not intend to re-sign with the Red Wings, Yzerman needs to acquire what he can for the 27-year-old.
Injuries have not been limited to the forward group for the Red Wings. Defenseman Filip Hronek was hit high by enforcer Ryan Reaves of the Minnesota Wild. Hronek left the game that the Red Wings would wind up losing by a score of four to one. Lalonde said that Hronek wanted to return to the game but was placed in concussion protocol. There was no penalty called on the play and this was controversial. Like Larkin and Bertuzzi, Hronek was playing some of the best hockey of his career so far during the 2022-23 season.
Reaves will not be disciplined for the hit. Rule 48 of the NHL rule book states that "in determining whether contact with an opponent’s head was avoidable, the circumstances of the hit including the following shall be considered: whether the opponent put himself in a vulnerable position by assuming a posture that made head contact on an otherwise full body check unavoidable. Hronek appeared to turn his head in the instant before Reaves delivered the hit that made it look worse than it was.
These examples are not to say that the Red Wings do not have reinforcements waiting in the wings. Robby Fabbri is expected to return to the Red Wings lineup in January. Fabbri tore his ACL in March, ironically enough in a game against the Wild. This is not the first ACL injury that Fabbri has had. When playing with the St. Louis Blues, Fabbri tore the same ligament in his left knee twice. Fabbri has been skating at Little Caesars Arena without a non-contact jersey. Jakub Vrana has also rejoined the Red Wings after leaving the NHL’s player assistance program. No timetable has been given as to when he will play again as he has not played for the team in two months.
Lalonde said that Hronek wanted to re-enter the game against the Wild but the doctors prevented him from doing so. After the hit on Hronek, defenseman Moritz Seider took exception to another hit by Reaves that showed that the Red Wings are willing to stick up for one another. Reaves said after the game that he hoped Hronek was okay but he should know not to skate at Reaves like that.
The number of injuries has certainly hindered the Red Wings" chances of making the playoffs in the first season under head coach Lalonde. This is after the team got off to a strong start to the 2022-23 season. The return of Fabbri and Bertuzzi in the new year will only lead to the continued cohesion of the Red Wings roster as Lalonde has not had the full complement of his roster in his first season as a head coach. Had Larkin and Hronek missed extended time it would have certainly put the chances of the Red Wings making the playoffs in serious jeopardy.
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