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It's early, but Tatar is already clicking

by Bill Roose / Detroit Red Wings
It hasn't taken long for Tomas Tatar and Brad Richards (left) to already find some on-ice chemistry on the Red Wings' second forward line in the preseason. Photo by Sam Iannamico/Grand Rapids Griffins)

DETROIT – It’s only the preseason, but Tomas Tatar is already off to a fast start.

Heading into tonight’s exhibition game in Boston – one of five contests on the NHL’s preseason docket on Monday – Tatar tops the league with four goals in two games.

“It’s preseason. Hopefully those will turn into the regular season,” Tatar said.

Tatar scored a tying goal in the second period Saturday against Bruins’ prospect Malcolm Subban, in a 4-3 overtime loss. Tatar also registered a hat trick in the Wings’ 4-1 win over Chicago last Wednesday.

The 24-year-old Tatar continues to show that he has plenty of upside to his game. He can score in a variety of ways and should benefit from playing with a seasoned-veteran centerman this season. So far, Tatar has used training camp and two preseason games to build an on-ice relationship with newcomer Brad Richards, the veteran who is expected to be the Wings’ No. 2 center on opening night.

“I think me and Richie, our chemistry is bonding so far, so hopefully keep on keeping it up,” Tatar said. “We’re just working on details right now just to get all the good habits and our system and our legs ready so we’ll be ready to (produce) on a regular basis. That’s what the preseason is for.”

Richards has three assists, which is tied with five others – Niklas Kronwall, Alexey Marchenko, Andy Miele, Tyler Bertuzzi and Nick Jensen – for the team lead.

Coach Jeff Blashill hasn’t revealed what the Wings’ line combinations and defensive pairings will look like when the season opens a week from Friday, but so far, he’s been impressed by the early job that Tatar and Richards has done.

“I think they definitely are two guys that make plays in tight, tight areas,” Blashill said. “I think Richards has played great so far, he’s moved his feet, he’s won stick battles, he’s stopped on pucks. He’s very offensive, but if you do the other part then now you’re a 200-foot really good player and that’s what he’s been so far. And Tats is obviously a proven goal-scorer in the league and can make plays. I think they have real good chemistry.”

Tatar, who led the Red Wings with 29 goals a season ago, will skate with a different centerman tonight. In fact, it’s his first chance to get an up-close look at prospect Dylan Larkin.

Tatar and Larkin will skate with Tomas Jurco on the Wings’ top line at Boston’s TD Garden.

“To be honest, I didn’t see him play; he was playing with a different group,” Tatar said. “But in all the scrimmages he looked really fast and he’s a smart kid. He’s really fast, I can tell that. He has an unreal stride and I think he’s in a good way to be a Red Wing.”

Larkin has produced two goals and plus-1 rating, while skating Bertuzzi and Teemu Pulkkinen, in two preseason games. Blashill said he wants to see what Larkin can bring to a top line against Bruins, who are expected to count with Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron and Loui Eriksson as their top line.

“He’ll get a chance to play with probably a real good player on Boston,” Blashill said. “We’re just still trying to feel out different line combinations. I think between the three of them, Larkin is on the puck, energy, can make plays still but he’s on the puck, Tats is a playmaker and Jurcs can do both.

“The talks I’ve had with Jurcs is to make sure he’s a forechecker, he’s a skater. Ultimately we want him to be all over the puck and spend as much time in the O-zone. The best way to do that is by pressuring the puck, both on the forecheck and the trap.”

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