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Larkin: 'Best thing that's ever happened'

by Dana Wakiji / Detroit Red Wings
Dylan Larkin called making the Red Wings "the best thing that's ever happened" to him. (Photo by Bill Roose/Detroit Red Wings)

DETROIT -- Dylan Larkin has not had a chance to celebrate making the Red Wings opening night roster but the accomplishment has set in a bit.

"I think just to be a Detroit Red Wing is the best thing that's ever happened to me," Larkin said after practice Wednesday.

Larkin, a Waterford, Mich. native, said he wore a little Wings jersey when he was three years old and starting to skate for the first time.

Not too long ago, Larkin, 19, was in the crowd for opening night as a fan.

Now Larkin has had to get 20 tickets for immediate family and friends for Friday night's home opener against the Toronto Maple Leafs.

As soon as he found out the good news, Larkin called his parents, Sydney Denise and Kevin.

"It was a good phone call to make," Larkin said. "My mom was pretty excited. She was just happy for me. She kept it together. Dad was pumped. A lot of other people were pumped, too. A dream come true for all of us."

Alexey Marchenko said he wasn't surprised Larkin made the team.

"He was great, even when we skated in August, he was great the whole time," Marchenko said. "Every practice he was great, he scored a goal and we would win in every practice game. I think he deserved it."

Abdelkader, who had not seen Larkin play before their informal skates started in August, has been impressed.

"I was surprised how strong he was," Abdelkader said. "He’s pretty fit for a 19-year-old. I remember when I was 19 and I was nowhere as far along as he is now. He’s going to be a big help. He’s very mature for his age and I think it shows on the ice."

Larkin credits both his time with the National Team Development Program and his work this past summer.

"I think I had a big summer here at Barwis Methods in Plymouth," Larkin said. "I was working out with Luke (Glendening) and whoever was in there, Riley (Sheahan) and I think I took another step. I think it goes all the way back to my days at NTDP with (strength and conditioning coach) Darryl Nelson. I think I put on 25 pounds my two years there and kind of took a step forward."

Larkin said he added 10 pounds this past summer.

In practice, Larkin was on a line with captain Henrik Zetterberg and Justin Abdelkader.

"It’s unique obviously, making the team as a 19-year-old," Abdelkader said. "He’s a really good player. He skates really well.  Hopefully we can help him as far as out there on the ice. He knows his way around. He had a great preseason. You know he’s going to be nervous the first couple games here but once he gets settled in I think he’s going to be a big help for us and a boost. He can really skate, like I said. He has a good skill set and can score. He had a good experience last year in Grand rapids in the playoffs and then at the World Championship and now a good training camp kind of all leading into it so we’re looking forward to seeing what he can bring."

Larkin said playing with two veterans takes the pressure off of him.

"I think all I have to worry about is getting open," Larkin said. "I think they're going to find me. I just try and use my speed to create as much space for Hank and Abby is the same. I think it's going to be a lot of fun playing with those guys."

Wings coach Jeff Blashill said having Larkin on the top line is part of wanting four balanced lines.

"I’d like to have four lines that can play and four lines that we feel real confident on the ice with in both defensive and offensive situations," Blashill said. "Two, we try to match our lines up with some speed, some skill, some size, some net front. So there’s a lot of things that go into combinations. We think Dylan Larkin is a very good player, that’s why he’s on the opening night roster and as such we’re going to put him in positions to hopefully be successful."

COACH'S CHALLENGE

While the 3-on-3 overtime has been discussed quite a bit and featured in the preseason, less has been made of another rule change, the coach's challenge.

This particular rule was not tried in the American Hockey League first, as 3-on-3 and other changes have been.

But coaches will have a chance to challenge goals that might be offside or plays involving potential goaltender interference.

"Basically if I want to challenge a call I’ll have to have a timeout available, which means I’ll have to be smart about how we use our timeout and I’ll have to use a timeout and let officials know we want to challenge a call," Blashill said. "If the challenge is successful we’ll get our timeout back. If it’s not successful we lose the timeout."

Blashill said he would rely heavily on his video coach to help decide when to challenge.

"We’ll have two guys in the room so it’s just not one at home games," Blashill said. Now you don’t have the same luxury on the road, but we’ll have two at home and we’ll have to make sure that as soon as a potential play happens we alert them to that’s something that we’re going to look at, and he alerts us as soon as possible as to what we should do."

Although Tomas Holmstrom probably set the standard for goals being waved off because he was standing in the crease, Justin Abdelkader has had it happen as well.

"I think it's good both ways," Abdelkader said. "Goals have counted that maybe shouldn't have and goals haven't counted that maybe should have so I think it'll even itself out. It's one of those things I think is a controversial topic as far as goaltender interference or plays offside. You see some breakaways that maybe the guy is a foot offside and they can challenge it. I think it'll be good and correct the calls that, like the NFL or any other league, get overturned."

Although goaltender interference calls have a significant amount of subjectivity to them, Blashill thinks the rule change could help.

"I think the league has done a great job, probably the best job of any league of making sure they get the better call, giving opportunities to make the right call with the technology you have at your disposal," Blashill said. "So the league has done a great job of that up until now and I think this is another step we’ll use to hopefully continue to do that. "

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