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Red Wings ready to start new era under Blashill

by Paul Harris continues its preview of the 2015-16 season, which will include in-depth looks at all 30 teams throughout August.

DETROIT -- The Detroit Red Wings have a new coach and two new players, but center Pavel Datsyuk's status for early 2015-16 is uncertain.

After the Red Wings were eliminated from the Stanley Cup Playoffs, losing their Eastern Conference First Round series to the Tampa Bay Lightning in seven games, Mike Babcock, who was Detroit's coach for 10 seasons and has more wins than any coach in Red Wings history, left for the Toronto Maple Leafs and was replaced by Jeff Blashill.

Blashill was the favorite off the bat in Detroit, having coached its American Hockey League affiliate, the Grand Rapids Griffins, for the past three seasons.

The 41-year-old is the second youngest coach in the NHL (John Hynes of the New Jersey Devils is 40). Blashill coached Grand Rapids to the Calder Cup in 2013, was AHL coach of the year in 2014, and guided the Griffins to the Western Conference Final last season.

"I'm going on my instinct. He's a great young coach who is ready to coach in the NHL," Red Wings general manager Ken Holland said when introducing Blashill in June. "… You don't have success like that at the American Hockey League level unless you're running a good program."

Blashill was born in the Detroit suburb of Southfield, Mich., and grew up in Sault Ste. Marie in Michigan's Upper Peninsula.

Ten Red Wings who were part of the playoff series against the Lightning played for Blashill in Grand Rapids.

"I don't want to talk about what has been the case in the past; I have my own approach and some things will be different," Blashill said. "I'll be Jeff Blashill, and I think in that there will be change."

The Red Wings signed defenseman Mike Green and center Brad Richards on July 1, the first day of free agency.

Green, 29, signed a three-year, $18 million contract, giving the Red Wings the right-handed shooting defenseman with offensive ability they had been seeking since the retirement of Brian Rafalski in 2011.

"For some reason, we've just had a lot of left-shot defensemen," Holland said. "… It's hard to find a defenseman who can create offense. … We were able to add a [defenseman] who can rush the puck, create offense and quarterback the power play."

Green had 10 goals and 45 points in 72 games with the Washington Capitals in 2014-15, and two assists in 14 playoff games.

Holland and Blashill each said Green likely will be paired with Danny DeKeyser, who is strong defensively.

"That's something we talked about. Something we feel could be a good skill-set match," Blashill said. "We think both guys could benefit."

Richards signed a one-year contract which guarantees him $3 million for 2015-16 and could reach $4 million with bonuses. The 35-year-old had 12 goals and 37 points with the Chicago Blackhawks last season, and had 14 points in 23 playoff games to help them win the Stanley Cup.

He also won the Cup with the Lightning in 2004, scoring 26 points in 23 games to win the Conn Smythe Trophy.

Holland said with everyone healthy Richards is penciled in to be the No. 2 center. But with the uncertainty surrounding Datsyuk, who had surgery on ruptured tendons in his right ankle in late June, Richards could open the season as the No. 1.

"Throughout his career, he's been productive as a top-couple-of-lines center," Blashill said of Richards. "… He's a great power-play guy who can run it from up top and who can pull up on the half boards."

It was thought Datsyuk, 37, would be back close to the beginning of the regular season, which is Oct. 9, with the recovery process 4-6 weeks. But he told Swedish media outlet he'll be out longer.

"Doctors say 4-5 months," Datsyuk said according to a Google translation of an article last month. "So we'll see. I hope I just miss a little early in the season."

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