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Tatar shines with new linemate Richards netting three goals in 4-1 win over Chicago

Detroit Red Wings' Tomas Tatar (21), of Slovakia, is pursued by Chicago Blackhawks’ Bryan Bickell (29) during the third period of a preseason NHL hockey game at Joe Louis Arena Wednesday, Sept. 23, 2015, in Detroit. Tatar scored three goals in the Red Wings 4-1 win. (AP Photo/Duane Burleson)

Detroit Red Wings’ Tomas Tatar (21), of Slovakia, is pursued by Chicago Blackhawks’ Bryan Bickell (29) during the third period of a preseason NHL hockey game at Joe Louis Arena Wednesday, Sept. 23, 2015, in Detroit. Tatar scored three goals in the Red Wings 4-1 win. (AP Photo/Duane Burleson)

DETROIT >> If this is how the regular season is going to go for Tomas Tatar it’s going to be a very successful offensive one.

Tatar scored three goals, the last coming in an empty net, to lead the Detroit Red Wings over the Chicago Blackhawks, 4-1, Wednesday at Joe Louis Arena.

“Every season after the one before you try and change yourself to be better,” Tatar said. “At the end I want to one of those guys like Hank or Pav. I want to be a leader. I would like to pick up as much experience from those guys. They’re great hockey players. They’re great examples for us young hockey guys.

“We have lots and lots to learn,” Tatar added. “Every day for me when I’m watching those guys they are like learning days. Those guys are unreal. There is lots to take from those guys. I have lots to learn defensively and offensively. I like to watch those guys.”

It was also his first game with his newest linemate Brad Richards.

“Richie is a great player,” Tatar said. “He made some nice plays out there. I’m just hoping we can save a few of those for the regular season.”

Richards assisted on all three of Tatar’s goals.

Tatar and Richards worked a nice give-and-go in the Blackhawks’ zone for the first goal of the game.

“Brad is a really smart player,” Tatar said. “I saw him open there and as soon as I slid him with the puck two guys jumped on him and he passed it to me back and I shot it and it and it went into the net.”

Tatar and Richards each finished a plus-3.

“He knows how to score,” Richards said. “I like that. He finds ways to score. One of them was a great shot from the slot and the other one he’s going to the net and he’s in a hard area, even though he’s not the biggest guy.

“To score in this league – he got 29 last year – you can’t just shoot pucks from the perimeter and score anymore,” Richards added. “He obviously knows how to get to the net and when he’s there, he knows what to do with it. He’s giving and going. He’s a heady player. So far it’s been fun to play with him.”

This is exactly the kind of chemistry first-year coach Jeff Blashill was hoping to see out of that line.

“Tats is a real, real talented player who competes extremely hard, has a lot of confidence and wants to win badly,” Blashill said. “He’s got a lot of attributes that make you a real good player and I think he’s continued to progress and we’ll work together to make sure his game continues to progress.

“We want him to be an elite player in the league,” Blashill continued. “He scored 29 goals last year and there’s very few that had more than him, so he’s developing into that and we’re going to continue to help him.”

The Wings signed Richards on the first day of free agency after he had just won the Stanley Cup with Chicago.

“He’s a really smart player,” Tatar said. “I knew I’m going to have fun with him. I hope we stay healthy and play together.”

Tomas Jurco, who’s replacing Darren Helm on the line after he was injured on the first day of training camp, also finished a plus-3.

“It’s a tough game,” Tatar said. “It’s the preseason. We’re still working on the system. We have lots of stuff to work on. I didn’t feel the best on the ice. I found spots that I need to work on and be better in the system.

“We’ll take the win for sure,” Tatar added. “We battled. We’re still in learning mode. This was our first real game for us and this group. It was a good start. We have to get into it. We’re happy we won the game.”

Tatar is in the second year of a three-year deal that has an average salary-cap hit of $2.75 million.

“They seem to be playing good, they’re two real skilled players and I think they like to play a skilled game, they like to make plays, which I’m good with as long as we’re limiting the turnovers,” Blashill said of Richards and Tatar. “We had too many turnovers tonight probably in general. But I think they’re two guys that want to play that skilled type game so there’s definitely chemistry developing there.”

Helm hopes to be ready for season opener after latest injury setback


Darren Helm has been here before.

But as far as his past injuries goes, this latest setback is in a whole different category.

“I was thinking about my injuries lately,” Helm said Monday. “I feel like this isn’t really a hockey injury, just an unlucky situation that I was in. I’m going to chalk this one up to bad luck.

“I haven’t seen this happen ever, as long as I’ve been playing,” Helm continued. “(It’s) unfortunate. Bad luck. Move on.”

On Friday, just minutes into the first drill at training camp in Traverse City, Helm and prospect Jerome Verrier got crossed up during a drill and collided.

Helm suffered a Grade 1 shoulder separation and continues to go through concussion protocol. Verrier suffered a broken right leg and also a concussion.

“I didn’t even get my head up quick enough to see him,” Helm recalled. “I was kind of looking back for a pass. I was expecting him to be going up the other side. Somewhere between there, the drill got kind of messed up and both of us were going down the same lane.

“I remember everything,” Helm added. “I remember (coach Jeff Blashill) explained the drill, I remember going down, getting on the wall, coming up with (Luke Glendening), him passing it to me and just running into a wall and kind of just lying there for a little bit. I remember everything and I wasn’t knocked out so I’m happy about that.”

Helm is expected to miss two-to-four weeks.

“It wasn’t my ideal start for the season,” Helm said. “But move forward. I got some time. Better now, I guess, than playoffs down the road or down the stretch that I need to be playing. Hopefully I can get back for home opener. If not, then right after that. Just move forward.”

Helm has suffered concussions before, the last sidelined him roughly a month during the 20-13-14 season.

“I’ve been feeling a little off, a little bit of a headache,” Helm said. “I think we’re going to jump on the bike (Tuesday) and see how that feels, get the heart rate going, take it from there.

“For me personally, I think it would be my head,” added Helm when asked if the concussion or shoulder injury was his biggest concern. “I don’t want to keep getting concussions. Obviously that’s an issue down the road. But whatever one takes the longest to heal, that’s going to be the biggest concern.”

Helm has a laundry list of injuries which include groin, broken nose and knee.

He also lacerated tendons in his forearm when he was cut by a skate blade in the playoffs. He injured his back while lifting weights.

Helm played his most regular season games, 75, a year ago since appearing in 82 during the 2010-11 season.

“I think from what I know concussions are all different and there’s no set timeline in returning and I just hope that I can progress quickly and I can get back and play and that there’s no long-term issues,” Helm said. “I’ve had one, one diagnosed one, so I’m not completely in the dark when it comes to concussions. But everyone can be different and every one can have their own kind of timetable, sidelines and setbacks.”

The timing could not have been worse since Helm was scheduled to skate on a line with Tomas Tatar and Brad Richards, who the Wings signed on the first day of free agency.

“I was really looking forward to playing with them in camp and I’ll be just as excited to hopefully get in a spot to play with them again,” Helm said. “Camp’s usually a very important time of the year to kind of get into game mode, season mode, and kind of get going, so it’s going to take me probably a little bit extra time to get into that spot where I want to be. I hope I can do it quickly and play with them right away but if not, then I’ll have to try to work my way back into that position. That’s the way the game goes sometimes.”

Blashill: “Jurcs is one of those guys that’s in a spot and he knows it”

Tomas Jurco has officially been put on notice.tomas-jurco-producing-for-red-wings-d3a36ee5d93990d0

“Jurcs is one of those guys that’s in a spot and he knows it,” Detroit Red Wings coach Jeff Blashill said after the second day of training camp in Traverse City. “He’s had an opportunity to play up here for a year and a half, basically.

“When he left us in Grand Rapids, my second year, he was a point per game in the league,” Blashill continued. “He was starting to evolve into a real go-to player. I think the first couple of years he survived and I think he’d like to take that next step. But in order to do that, he has to earn that ice time. He knows that.”

Blashill appears to be giving Jurco ample opportunity to show if he’s an NHL player or not, slotting him on a line with Brad Richards and Tomas Tatar after Darren Helm was injured on Friday.

“For now, then probably (Sunday) and maybe the red and white game,” Blashill said when asked if that’s where he plans to keep Jurco.

Jurco struggled mightily last season in Detroit.

Despite playing in 27 more regular season games than he did his first season, he scored five fewer goals. Jurco had three goals and 15 assists last season, compared to eight goals and seven assists in the 2013-14 campaign.

While in Grand Rapids, Juro had 27 goals and 47 assists in 106 games over two seasons.

“He’s got real good speed,” Blashill said. “He’s got a good skill set. He’s got size. So those are three real good assets. I hope he can continue and play like he did (Saturday).”

Blashill took over behind the bench for Mike Babcock, who had coached the Wings for the past 10 season.

“Providing more offense is the main thing for me,” Jurco said in the days leading up to training camp. “I’ve been working hard all summer, to get stronger, faster, so I think it’s going to help me.

“I think (confidence) was one of the biggest factors for me,” Jurco added. “It was hard for me to not be scoring as much as I was used to before and not playing as much, so of course when you do that for a few months it’s hard to keep your confidence high. Of course it was one of the factors, but it’s a new season and I’m ready for it.”

Jurco, who missed eight games last season with a back injury, went 39 games without a goal a year ago.

Despite his struggles he was only a healthy scratch in five games with Babcock, who used Jurco more in a grinding role.

“I think Blash knows what kind of player I was before,” Jurco said. “He had a chance to see it, so he knows I can be a different player, too. I’m not saying he’s going to put me on the power play and expects me to score 30 goals, but I think he wants me to work hard and work my way up to maybe first three lines so I can provide offense. It’s going to be up to me. Just the good thing is Blash knows I can do it.”

Franzen ready to get “bumped around” on the ice

DETROIT >> It’s full speed ahead for Johan Franzen.

After being cleared Thursday, the Detroit Red Wings power forward can’t wait to start getting “bumped around” on the ice.

“I’m cleared to try, I guess,” Franzen said Tuesday during the team’s last informal practice before heading to Traverse City for training camp. “It’s going to be fun to start training camp and play a few games. It’s too early to tell, to know how I’m going to feel. I think I’m going to feel good and I hope I’m going to feel good, so I’m excited.

“I guess I’m cleared to go full-out and get bumped around, do everything and go from there,” Franzen added. “I haven’t been bumped into (during these skates), well, actually I bumped into (Luke Glendening) the other day. That was good. It’s been going good.”

Franzen, who has been taking part in informal skates these past few weeks, has suffered multi concussions in his career, the last of which occurred last season after a blind-side hit by Edmonton’s Rob Klinkhammer last January. He finished the game, but began experiencing concussion-like symptoms the next day.

Franzen, 35, said the headaches aren’t completely gone, but they’re not as severe.

“I’ve got one right now, it’s not that bad,” Franzen said. “It could be just a regular headache. You can’t blame anything on previous concussions, it could be just a regular headache.

“I’ve got some issues but as long as I can get through games it doesn’t bother me too much if I have a little headache after or the next day,” Franzen continued. “I’m getting used to that and there’s some medicine for that.”

Franzen, who has been limited to just 128 regular season games over the last three seasons, played in 33 games a year ago, picking up seven goals and 15 assists.

“First of all, it’s great for him,” Wings first-year coach Jeff Blashill said. “As an athlete, you certainly want to dictate your terms of how your career goes and he gets an opportunity right now, being cleared, to go out and dictate his terms.

“He seems to be in good spirits, seems to be in great shape,” Blashill continued. “I know he’s excited about getting back playing again. If Johan’s healthy, then we’re a much better hockey team with his size and his ability to score goals. He’s been a real good player, a real good Red Wing, so hopefully he can stay healthy.”

Franzen, who has 187 goals and 182 assists in 600 regular season games with the Wings, said he’s not going to think about the possibility of suffering another concussion.

“It’s impossible to think about,” said Franzen, who has 42 goals and 39 assists in 107 playoff games. “Maybe on a day like this you might skate around and think a little bit and be cautious but as soon as you’re in a game and you set your mind into game mode you don’t have time to think about anything, you just go and react.”

Franzen added he expects to play in four of the Wings’ eight preseason games, which begin next Tuesday in Chicago.

“That’s going to challenge the mind and the head the most when you got to have your head on a swivel all the time and you got to stay focused and know what’s going on around you,” Franzen said. “That’s going to put it to the final test. Plus, getting bumped around, of course.”

The Wings open the regular season on Oct. 9 at home against the Toronto Maple Leafs.

“He was an unknown and I really wasn’t sure where he would be at,” Blashill said. “As we kind of moved through the summer, it sounded like he was going to get a chance to be cleared.”

Franzen cleared by doctor to return; expected to be ready for start of season

DETROIT >> Johan Franzen got the news he had been hoping for all summer … he’s been cleared to play.

Detroit Red Wings general manager Ken Holland confirmed the news Saturday afternoon.

“He’ll start camp and is expected to be ready for the start of the season,” Holland said.

Franzen was cleared by Dr. Jeffrey Kutcher, director of the Michigan Neurosport Program.

Franzen, who has been taking part in informal skates with teammates at Joe Louis Arena these past few weeks, has suffered multi concussions in his career, the last of which occurred last season after a blind-side hit by Edmonton’s Rob Klinkhammer. He finished the game, but began experiencing concussion-like symptoms the next day.

“He went home for the summer and trained hard,” Holland said. “He pushed himself hard. He saw the doctor on Thursday and was cleared.”

He said earlier this month that he had yet to consider his career possibly being over because of last season’s setback.

“I haven’t been there yet, really, in my thoughts,” Franzen said when asked about the possibility of retiring. “It’s been so many tough years here the last 2-3 years with injuries. I just want to have a good year. I want to decide on my own when I quit. I’m excited to try to get back and to have a good year.

“It’s great, especially being where I was there in mid-season,” Franzen continued. “Not being able to get out of bed. It makes you think, it really makes you appreciate being able to do what we do.”

Franzen has been limited to just 128 regular season games over the last three seasons.

“He’s a big body that can score goals,” Holland said. “Our hope is it will enable us to roll four lines and get offense up and down the lineup.”

Franzen played in 33 games last season, picking up seven goals and 15 assists.

“His history is when he’s healthy he can score in the mid-20s,” Holland said. “He’s going to be rusty. It’s an important training camp for him. He hasn’t played since January. By the time we get going it’s going to be eight months between games. He has to get his timing and his comfort level.”

Franzen, 35, has 187 goals and 182 assists in 600 regular season games with the Wings. He has 42 goals and 39 assists in 107 playoff games.

He’s as streaky of a goal scorer as they come.

After a five-goal game against Ottawa during the 2010-11 season, Franzen went on a 14-game goalless drought and ended the regular season with just two goals over his last 27 games.

“He’s another big body that’s got skill and gives us more depth up front,” Holland said.

After this season Franzen still has four years left on a contract that pays him just under $4 million a season.

Green ‘extremely excited’ to begin new chapter of his career

DETROIT >> For years the Detroit Red Wings have tried and tried to land a top four, right-handed shooting defenseman through free agency and had no luck doing so.

Because of that teams tried to take advantage of their lefty-lefty pairings on the blue line.

“I know when we would play against the Red Wings, we would try to run plays against their left-handed guys,” Mike Green said after an informal practice at Joe Louis Arena.

The Wings landed Green, a right-handed defenseman, on the first day of free agency inking him to a three-year deal worth $18 million.

“Being a right guy, do my best to move the puck and get it into the forwards’ hands,” Green said. “That’s really all of our goals. It doesn’t matter whether you’re right or left.”

Green, who turns 30 on Oct. 12, had spent his entire 10-year career in Washington prior to signing with Detroit.

“A lot of changes, but all positive,” Green said. “Obviously a long time in Washington but moving forward here, I’m extremely excited to be a part of this group, especially with the history, the leadership here and the recipe to win. Overall it’s just a great deal of excitement.

“My and I wife found a place about two weeks ago and I was fortunate that she came down and sort of did all the moving before I got here,” Green added. “I’m excited to be here. The guys have been very welcoming so I can’t wait to get started.”

Green is a two-time Norris Trophy finalist, awarded annually to the league’s top defenseman.

The knock on Green throughout his career is he doesn’t play hard and isn’t air tight defensively, but he will rack up the points.

With the Capitals he totaled 113 goals and 247 assists in 575 regular season games. Fifty-two of his goals came on the power play. In 71 playoff games, Green had nine goals, six on the power play, and 26 assists.

He’s slated to be paired with Danny DeKeyser.

“Great guy, great skater, moves the puck well,” Green said of DeKeyser. “Obviously playing against him, I know sort of just by watching him. I haven’t paid too close attention to his tendencies, but I’m sure I’ll get to learn him real quick here. I’m really excited to play with him.

“Great player, outstanding,” Green continued. “I’ve kept an eye on him. I’ve actually watched a little bit of tape online, just clips of him. I’m excited.”

Green doesn’t see it taking long to mesh his style of play with that of DeKeyser.

“It really depends,” said Green, who was given the stall next to Niklas Kronwall. “I’ve had partners where it’s taken us a little bit longer, but mostly with the sort of newcomers or young guys, it takes a little bit longer. But Danny’s an experienced guy and I’m sure we’ll connect right away and be able to sort of be cohesive out there in a short period of time.”

Green, who had a career high 31 goals in the 2008-09 season, slipped down the Capitals’ depth chart, falling to a third pairing, after they signed Matt Niskanen and Brooks Orpik for the 2014-15 season. He averaged just over 19 minutes of ice time, which was the lowest since his first full season in the league, and scored just 10 goals and had 35 assists in 72 games.

“Really just getting back out and competing,” Green said when asked what he’s looking forward to the most with the Wings. “That’s the fun part of the game. It doesn’t matter who you’re playing against or what, just that competition. That’s what I’m really looking forward to, just a different style of play. Detroit plays a very puck-possession game and has some incredible players that can make some plays so I’m excited to play with these guys.”

Darren Helm probably knows Green the best since he’s worked out with him in the past.

“I stop in Calgary a couple weeks every summer and jump in with him at his gym and get to train with him,” Helm said. “He’s a great guy, really nice. You don’t really know too many people when you go into new teams or new gyms, and he made that transition real easy for me. Hopefully I can help him do that with this team. It was always fun to work out with him and now it’s going to be even better having him on our team.”

Zetterberg feels ‘it was time’ for Babcock, Wings to part ways

DETROIT >> Sometimes change is necessary.

And that’s just how Detroit Red Wings captain Henrik Zetterberg views the departure of Mike Babcock to the Toronto Maple Leafs.

“I want to thank Mike for the time he had here but I think both him and us probably decided it was time,” Zetterberg said after an informal skate at Joe Louis Arena with a handful of teammates.

After 10 seasons behind the Wings bench where he led the team to the playoffs every season Babcock landed an eight-year, $50 million deal with Toronto.

“I kind of figured that he was moving on and obviously the media attention all along was big, but for us players who weren’t playing we’re kind of on vacation already,” Zetterberg said. “We didn’t really get that effect of it but I heard from the guys who were around here still that it was a big deal.”

The team promoted Jeff Blashill, who had spent the last three seasons in Grand Rapids after one season as Babcock’s assistant in Detroit.

“I think he has a lot of knowledge,” Zetterberg said of Blashill. “When he was here last time he was really fresh. I think the time he spent in Grand Rapids was really good. He did a tremendous job down there with the kids and you’ve been seeing the product of him, when you see players like come up like Gus (Nyquist) and (Tomas) Tatar and (Riley) Sheahan and (Luke) Glendening. There are so many guys that went through playing for him and won the Calder Cup with him, so we’re excited and just want to get it going.”

The Wings also added through free agency defenseman Mike Green, a right-handed, power-play specialist, and another veteran presence in Brad Richards, who has his name on the Stanley Cup twice the last of which came last season with the Chicago Blackhawks.

“Green is a right-handed shot, plays a lot on the power play, plays a lot of minutes and did a real good job in Washington,” Zetterberg said. “It’s kind of the defenseman we didn’t have, so it’s a nice addition for us. Also, Richards has been around for a long time, knows what it takes to go all the way and win and it’s going to be nice to have a veteran presence in the locker room.

“There are a lot of guys in here who’ve been through the same stuff for many years,” Zetterberg continued. “I think now with the new additions of Green and Richards, and the new coach, it’s given us a little fresh start. Obviously it’s going to be a different voice behind the bench and sometimes you need that.”

Zetterberg also welcomed a new addition over the summer when his Emma gave birth to their first child, son Love, on Aug. 20.

“First of all, we spent most of the summer in Detroit,” Zetterberg said. “It was the first time we did that. We really enjoyed it. Obviously we were a little nervous when it got a little closer but everything went well. Both Love and Emma are doing well.”

As for the choice of first name, “We knew if it was going to be a boy that Love was going to be the name early,” Zetterberg said. “It’s an old Swedish name and kind of getting popular again. (I) understand the confusion if you see the spelling in an American way, but you pronounce it LOO-vee over here and in Swedish it’s LOO-vay.”

Zetterberg didn’t finish the season the way he had hoped being held scoreless in the first round, seven-game series with Tampa Bay. That had never occurred in each of his previous 21 series.

Zetterberg, who had 17 goals and 49 assists in the regular season, had three assists in the series. He also struggled down the stretch scoring just two goals in his last 35 games.