Kuffner In Town, Hirose Expected Tomorrow
The first of the Detroit Red Wings two college free agents took his first turns at Little Caesars Arena on Thursday. Left-winger Ryan Kuffner took part in the morning skate for Detroit’s home game against the Tampa Bay Lightning and he was suitably impressed.
“The Detroit Red Wings are the most storied franchise, and so you hear a ton about them, even though I’m from Ottawa,” said Kuffner. He was assigned No. 56 and the locker next to the one currently set up to honor the memory of Red Wings legend Ted Lindsay, who died last week.
“It’s an honor to see these names in the same room as me. “It’s crazy the history that’s behind it. It’s awesome to be able to soak it in and a honor to be part of this organization.”
When he and left-winger Taro Hirose, who also signed with the team on Tuesday, will officially become part of the tradition and suit up for a game is anyone’s guess.
“A few practices and then we’ll see,” Detroit coach Jeff Blashill said. “I think it would be more likely next week than Saturday but let’s wait and see what happens tonight.”
The 6-1, 195-pound Kuffner, 22, is Princeton’s all-time scoring leader. His assets are his shot and his nose for the net. He was second in the NCAA this season in goals per game (0.71) and was fourth in the nation with 22 goals.
“If he’s gonna make us better, he’s gonna be a scoring winger,” Blashill said. “The one thing that impressed me was I asked what was most important to him and he said timing. When you get an answer like that, that means you’re a smart hockey player and you understand time and space and finding ways to get open and then when you get open you can use your assets.
“Some guys, the hockey doesn’t start until they touch the puck. Good offensive players think a step ahead.”
Kuffner and Hirose shared the NCAA lead this season in points per game (1.42). The 5-10, 160-pound Hirose, who also topped the NCAA in in points (50), assists (35), multi-point games (15) and three-point games (nine), was expected to arrive in Detroit later Thursday and practice Friday. He's been assigned No. 53.
“Taro is a really smart hockey player who’s got great poise with the puck,” Blashill said. “He had the puck on his stick a lot in college.”
Defenseman Jonathan Ericsson (sprained knee) will miss Thursday’s game against the Lightning and there was uncertainty as to when he might be available again.
“I would say at least through the weekend,” Blashill said. “I honestly don’t have a further answer than that. I’m still waiting for an update.”
Madison Bowey will draw into Ericsson’s spot in the lineup.
The news was more promising regarding center Dylan Larkin.
“Dylan is shooting for Saturday (against the New York Islanders),” Blashill said. “Again it was just a matter of getting him to where he was pain free and full range of motion. I think he’s got that now.
“We want to make sure. We don’t want to rush him into it and set him back. So let’s let him skate today, let him skate tomorrow and hopefully play Saturday.”
The Wings agreed to terms with veteran defenseman Brian Lashoff on a two-year contract. It’s a two-way deal which will see Lashoff, 28, earn $700,000 in the NHL and $275,000 in the AHL.
Playing for AHL Grand Rapids, Lashoff has proven valuable as a mentor to Detroit’s many young defensemen. He was called up twice this season, but saw no game action on either occasion.
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