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Larkin lone Wings' All-Star

by Dana Wakiji / Detroit Red Wings
The Red Wings' penalty kill has fallen from seventh to 20th since Drew Miller was injured Dec. 3. (Photo by Getty Images)

TAYLOR, Mich. -- Petr Mrazek caught Dylan Larkin off-guard Wednesday morning with the good news that Larkin had made the All-Star team.

"I walked into the locker room and he said congrats," Larkin said after the team practiced Wednesday at the Taylor Sportsplex. "'(I said) What are you talking about?' I thought he would be named so it was pretty surprising to see it come from him."

Mrazek was equally surprised that he was the one breaking the news.

"I saw it yesterday before I went to bed on the website that Larkin was going so I thought he knew," Mrazek said. "I saw the scores from the NHL last night and it just popped up there. It was on the NHL app."

Larkin, 19, is the only Red Wing who made the team.

"It’s pretty crazy," Larkin said. "Still can’t really believe it but it’s a great honor and I’ll be able to represent Detroit and the NHL fans. It’s going to be awesome."

Larkin said he had not even been thinking about being an All-Star before he was named.

"I don’t think many guys do think about it," Larkin said. "It’s just you get so caught up in the season, so many games, it’s tough to think about things like that."

Larkin's teammates were all pleased for him.

"It’s great for him. I think he deserved it," Wings captain Henrik Zetterberg said. "He’s one of our fastest guys except (Darren) Helm so he should do some damage there."

This year the format is going to be three 20-minute games played 3-on-3 and the teams are by division.

Drew Miller thinks that works in Larkin's favor.

"It’s great," Miller said. "He’s definitely a special player and someone that is a big part of our team. You go there to have fun. The 3-on-3 is great for him. He likes to wind it up and get going so it doesn’t matter if it’s our game or a fun situation. I think he’ll be going full speed out there and making some heads turn."

Wings coach Jeff Blashill was delighted for Larkin and for his other players who get to rest.

"I'm happy for Dylan, he's obviously had a real good start," Wings coach Jeff Blashill said. "I think it's probably a good format for young legs so I'm glad that our youngest of our young legs gets to go there and the rest of our guys get a little bit of a break."

Larkin had not yet made plans for the All-Star break and now those plans are made for him.

"I think it will be exciting," Larkin said. "I guess I won’t be having time off. I’ll be doing a lot of skating. But it will be pretty cool. I think we’ll be playing the other Eastern Conference legends, (Washington's Alex) Ovechkin and (Pittsburgh's Sidney) Crosby and all the guys I grew up watching."

Larkin knows he's not a finished product and Blashill is very honest with him about the things he can still improve.

"Probably one of the biggest areas is making sure when he comes back in our zone, continuing to learn to stop when he's supposed to stop and not drift towards the puck," Blashill said. Lots of real good young players, they want to go get the puck and there's times for that, for sure. But you've got to learn to stop at the right times. That's one area. I think puck management and game management, understanding there's times to take guys one-on-one, there's times to put pucks behind guys, knowing that when you've got the lead in the third period you don't want to try a cross-ice pass in the neutral zone. You just want to lay it down the wall. That's just game management and then making sure he's stopping in the D-zone, doing the right things."

Larkin will be the first Wings rookie to play in the All-Star Game since Steve Yzerman in 1984.

Larkin will become the seventh rookie to play in the All-Star Game but only the third chosen to play.

Marcel Pronovost and Terry Sawchuk played in 1950 and Glenn Hall and Norm Ullman played in 1955 for the Wings when the Stanley Cup champions faced the NHL All-Stars.

The other Wing selected was Reed Larson in 1978.

Interestingly, Larson and Larkin share a birthday, July 30. Larson was born in 1956 and Larkin in 1996.

The All-Star Game takes place Jan. 30-31 at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville.

Although very honored, Larkin is trying to keep his focus on what's important.

"It’s pretty cool but it’s just another event, just another thing that’s happened," Larkin said. "The thing about the All-Star game is it’s based on my play in the past so it’s cool but I still want more for myself and more for the team this season."

MILLER TIME: After missing 14 games with a broken jaw, Miller is ready to return.

"It’s been a little while since I’ve been back in the lineup so feeling ready to go and excited to get back with the boys and playing," Miller said. "You try to get back as fast as you can. Key on the things that are big in my game and be defensively sound and on the penalty kill and get out there and create some energy."

Blashill said Miller would play Thursday in San Jose.

Miller, who will wear a full cage mask to protect his surgically repaired jaw, should bolster the team's penalty kill, which has fallen to 20th, at 79.4 percent.

"I've said all year, Drew Miller's an elite penalty killer," Blashill said. "One of the things about the penalty kill is you have to have great killers and part of that is having guys able to make reads in situations. The penalty kill puts you in chaotic situations 'cause there's five of them and four of you and you've got to be able to make hockey reads. You can't draw every situation on the board and he can make great hockey reads, he's got a great defensive stick and he blocks tons of shots. He'll help our penalty kill. It doesn't mean that he'll execute every single time but he'll certainly help our penalty kill."

When Miller got injured, the penalty kill was ranked seventh at 83.7 percent.

"I don’t think the guys were doing anything bad," Miller said. "Sometimes the puck just goes in. The guys stayed pretty true to the system. Sometimes they go and sometimes they don’t. So I’m looking forward to getting back and getting the percentage back up to where we want to be."

Miller said he was fortunate his jaw was not wired shut so he did not lose too much weight as he certainly couldn't afford to lose any.

"I was able to eat and be fairly normal," Miller said. "I could eat everything you do on a normal diet with no jaw problems. The last couple of weeks here I’ve been back to normal. The last week I’ve been eating steak and all that. I haven’t lost too much weight but enough to where I have to get a couple more pounds up."

JURCO AND QUINCEY BACK SOON: Tomas Jurco, who has missed the last two games with an upper-body injury, and Kyle Quincey, who has been out since Oct. 23 after undergoing surgery on his right ankle, are expected to return on the trip.

"Jurco looks like he'll be in. Q will play on the trip, just not sure when," Blashill said.

Quincey has been practicing fully with the team for a while and appears anxious to get in a game.

"He’s ready," Zetterberg said. "He is doing everything he can to prepare himself to come back and play. I think his next step is just play games. When you’ve been out for that long it’s hard to get in game shape by just practicing. You have to come back and play games."

THURSDAY'S GOALIE: Blashill said he would make the announcement on Thursday's starting goaltender after the morning skate.

Mrazek has started the last three games but said he is not thinking about being the No. 1 goaltender.

"I don’t think about it like that," Mrazek said. "I just go there and play and see what happens in the next game."

Mrazek has already played in 26 games this year, going 13-8-3 with a .926 save percentage and 2.25 goals-against average.

Last season he played in 29 regular-season games and went 16-9-2 with a .918 save percentage and 2.38 goals-against average.

"I wouldn’t say it was difficult," Mrazek said. "It’s just the same as last year and two years ago. The game is the same. We have to stop the pucks."

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