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Larkin gets another NHL test

by Bill Roose / Detroit Red Wings

Center  - DET
Goals: 2 | Assists: -0| Pts: 2

Shots: 9 | +/-: 1
PITTSBURGH Dylan Larkin gets another NHL test tonight for the Red Wings who are in Pittsburgh to battle the Penguins in an exhibition game at Consol Energy Center.

The 19-year-old prospect will center Detroit’s top line between Justin Abdelkader and Gustav Nyquist.

Larkin had perhaps his biggest preseason challenge Monday in Boston when he went face to face with the league’s best face-off man, the Bruins Patrice Bergeron.

Tonight he’ll likely get his first look at another pretty good center – Penguins captain Sydney Crosby.

“I don’t know for sure that he’ll play against Crosby, obviously, (Riley) Sheahan’s line is a line that certainly can do that,” coach Jeff Blashill said. “And their coach will decide on how he wants to match. But playing with those two guys (Abdelkader, Nyquist) I’m sure he’ll see a good line and we want to test and continue to see where his game’s at.

“It’s one thing to be considered a good prospect, it’s another thing to prove that you’re NHL ready.”

Going head to head against the league’s leading face-off man from a season ago, Larkin held his own Monday at TD Garden, winning four of 11 draws from Bergeron.

Through three games, Larkin has won 39 percent of his total draws, going 16-of-41 while going against some of the league’s top centers.

“I thought he did some good things,” Blashill said. “(But) there are some things he’s got to get better at. That’s just being a young player. He’s extremely competitive. He wants to improve and I think he will improve at the things that he needs to. I thought early in the game he probably wanted it so much that he was pressing a little bit. You just gotta make sure he plays within himself.”

Aside from his speed, soft hands and intensity, Larkin’s maturity is something that has really impressed the veteran players in the Wings’ dressing room.

“All the steps and levels he’s been taking he’s been proving that he can handle it,” captain Henrik Zetterberg said. “He looks like he’s been playing here for a couple of years. Obviously there’s going to be steps for him and you have to take them. Tonight is another one and he’s going to have more.”

Tonight is Larkin’s fourth preseason game. The Waterford, Mich., native played at Chicago and Boston, and scored two goals in a home win against the Penguins last Thursday.

Blashill has some tough decisions to make following Saturday’s preseason finale in Toronto. But he’s hesitant to comment on Larkin’s immediate future.

“I try never to predict and what will happen,” Blashill said. “What I would say is right now, I like him a lot as a player. Where that means he’ll fit within our lineup or in the future that’s a day-to-day thing. But I like him a lot as a player and I love the intangible, the character part of it. I think that will ultimately drive him to the NHL. But when I don’t know.”

SPECIAL TEAMS: The Wings enter Wednesday’s game with the third best power play in the league. Detroit is 5-of-18 (27.8 percentage) on the man advantage with only Philadelphia (36.4) and Chicago (29.4) operating at a better clip this preseason.

TONIGHT’S LINEUP: The Red Wings line combinations and defensive pairings for tonight’s game in Pittsburgh:

Forwards

Justin Abdelkader-Dylan Larkin-Gustav Nyquist

Johan Franzen-Riley Sheahan-Luke Glendening

Tomas Jurco-Tomas Nosek-Landon Ferraro

Tyler Bertuzzi-Andrea Athanasiou-Anthony Mantha

Defensemen

Danny DeKeyser-Brendan Smith

Robbie Russo-Nick Jensen

Xavier Ouellet-Ryan Sproul

Goalies

Petr Mrazek

Jared Coreau

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