The word from within the Detroit Red Wings organization shortly after the NHL trade deadline was that left-winger Evgeny Svechnikov, the club’s top pick in the 2015 NHL entry draft, would get another look with the big club before season’s end.
Thanks to an injury to center Frans Nielsen, that door opened sooner rather than later. Svechnikov was recalled Thursday from AHL Grand Rapids and will be in the lineup as the Wings return home to face the Vegas Golden Knights at Little Caesars Arena.
“I feel good, feel great,” Svechnikov told Mlive.com. “A lot of emotion right now for myself, full of energy and I’m very excited for the opportunity.”
Detroit coach Jeff Blashill intends to throw Svechnikov right into the fire, lining him up alongside Andreas Athanasiou and Justin Abdelkader, as Athanasiou slides back into the middle from working on the wing with Abdelkader and Anthony Mantha the past couple of games.
“It gives a pretty good skill combination there with AA,” Blashill explained. “Obviously, AA is moving to center with the injury to Frans. Abby gives them some veteran presence, so we’ll see how it goes.
“I’ll be fluid with the lines tonight. I won’t be static. We’ll have to see how the game goes.”
The game wasn’t going very well early in the season for Svechnikov. He struggled to find his way after being returned to Grand Rapids following training camp with the Wings.
“I came out in the season kind of with an injury, but I don’t want to make any excuse,” Svechnikov said. “I just wasn’t good enough. I was kind of struggling for myself and I was trying to find a way to get off from that time.
“I think it’s all right to go through it. I learned a lot about it, so it’s been good now.”
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.”
Nielsen’s injury doesn’t appear to be anything long term.
“He will not be ready today or tomorrow,” Blashill said. “It’s a day to day thing. Upper body injury.”
Regardless, Blashill indicated Nielsen’s health will have no bearing on Svechnikov’s immediate future in Detroit, and they’ve already informed him of that fact.
“It’s a way better evaluation if you can look at somebody over a course of 10 games or 12 games or eight games than one game,” Blashill said. “You want as big a sample size as you can. I think for him personally, it allows him not to have that fear that the next mistake he’s going to be send back down, and for us is gives us a bigger sample size to make a decision.”
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