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Larkin, Svechnikov to debut

by Dana Wakiji / Detroit Red Wings
Niklas Kronwall isn't in Tuesday's preseason lineup in Chicago, but Evgeny Svechnikov is. The Red Wings' first-round draft pick last June will make his preseason debut against the Blackhawks. (Photo by Dave Reginek/Detroit Red Wings)

DETROIT -- It's just a preseason game but the Red Wings will get a chance to see how their young kids perform.

The Wings open the preseason in Chicago Tuesday night and aside from goaltender Jimmy Howard and forward Drew Miller, both 31, no player is older than 27.

One intriguing line is 19-year-old Dylan Larkin centering 21-year old Anthony Mantha and 23-year-old Teemu Pulkkinen.

"All three of those guys have great ability, they have great skill sets," coach Jeff Blashill said. "I think it’s a pretty good match of size, you have speed, you have skill. All those guys want a chance to show they can be impact players in the NHL."

Howard got a chance to see all those players perform in camp during daily scrimmages and the Red-White game.

"I feel so old," Howard said. "There’s a lot of skill and speed. Larkin, he’s done nothing but impress since he started skating with us down here last summer. The kid’s got nothing but his future in front of him. The sky’s the limit for him. Mantha, he had a great camp, played really well in the Red-White game and really stood out. It’s going to be fun to see these guys go up against whoever Chicago is playing tonight."

The Blackhawks are playing some of their best players, including captain Jonathan Toews, Marian Hossa, Patrick Kane and Brent Seabrook.

"It'll give those young guys a chance to play against elite players in the NHL," Blashill said. "It's one thing to go head-to-head in exhibition against guys you played against last year in the American League, I want to see these guys go head-to-head against the best players and see how they do."

For Larkin, 19, it will mark his NHL debut.

"It is exciting," Larkin said. "We'll see how the atmosphere is tonight. It'll be tough to take a nap before the game."

Although it's his first game, Larkin said his family and friends are waiting to come to Thursday night's home game against the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Also making his debut is Evgeny Svechnikov, the Wings' first-round draft pick in this past summer's draft.

"That's what I said to my parents, going to go there and play against who won the Stanley Cup," Svechnikov said. "Just go on ice and do our best. It doesn't matter who wins or who doesn't win."

Svechnikov, 18, will be on the right wing of another young line, playing with center Andreas Athanasiou, 21, and Tyler Bertuzzi, 20.

It's been kind of a whirlwind for Svechnikov, who played in his first prospects tournament and NHL camp.

"It was a lot of learning because it was first camp and first time on this level," Svenchikov said. "I think the speed, the game how it's quick. Just chip the puck, pretty much deep, and go in the zone, stuff like that. Just hockey and life, off-ice and on ice."

Svechnikov benefited from rooming in Traverse City with countryman Alexey Marchenko.

"He seems to have that inner drive it takes for people to be great," Blashill said of Svechnikov. "That’s something I look for. Talent is one thing, you have to have character and talent. He seems to have that type of character, that type of drive that’s going to allow him to continue to get better. That’s what Dylan Larkin has, that’s why he’s continued to progress. He’s real strong on the puck, he’s got really good hands, he can make plays with the puck, his skating will continue to get better because he does have that inner drive.”

GOALIE COMPETITION BEGINS: Both Howard and Tom McCollum will play in Chicago, but Blashill wasn't sure how they would divide the time.

"It’s like the next phase," Howard said. "We got through the training camp part and now we’re on to Phase 2, the exhibition season. It’s about going out there and showing the brass and everyone that you’re capable of being here and playing."

The first preseason game marks the beginning of the competition between Howard and Petr Mrazek to be the No. 1 goaltender.

"We have a good number of back-to-back games in the early part of the season so that gives an easy chance for both guys to get the opportunity to play so between the preseason games, the early part of the season, we're gonna give both guys real, legitimate chances to play and see if there's separation," Blashill said. "And if there's not separation, that'll make it hard decisions for me that I'd love to have as long as it's in the positive fashion where they both played great."

FRANZEN GETS DAY OFF: During camp, Johan Franzen was playing with Riley Sheahan and Luke Glendening but he is not joining them for the first game in Chicago.

"That was just a planned thing," Blashill said. "I talked to him about it a month and a half ago. Obviously it's been a long time since he played a game. This would be his fifth straight day of going hard, so I just thought for somebody that's been around a long time, let him have the day off here and he'll practice (Wednesday). I'm going to put him back with Sheahan and Glendening on Thursday."

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