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Larkin's All-Star weekend was great time

by Bill Roose / Detroit Red Wings
Dylan Larkin said meeting NHL stars like Jaromir Jagr was definitely a highlight of his All-Star experience, adding "it’s even cooler to see how nice they are and how humble and kind they are. ... I didn’t meet a bad guy." (Photo by Getty Images)

DETROIT – As the Red Wings returned to practice Monday following a six-day break, Dylan Larkin was still soaking in his All-Star weekend experience – one that included him breaking the NHL’s 20-year record as the fastest skater on Saturday night.

“It was just a cool thing,” Larkin said following the Red Wings practice Monday afternoon. “I didn’t feel that I didn’t belong, but I felt like a kid, I guess. It was cool and just to break the record … I didn’t see that coming, I didn’t even know what it was. I just tried to skate as fast I could so it was just cool to break the record and see the response from the guys.”

The 19-year-old Larkin took center stage Saturday at Nashville’s Bridgestone Arena, opening the skills competition with an astonishing time of 13.172 seconds in the fastest skater finals.

Larkin shattered Mike Gartner’s record of 13.386 seconds set at the 1996 All-Star Game in Boston. At the time he established the record, Gartner, then with the Toronto Maple Leafs, was 36 years old.

Larkin appeared to stumble in the third turn, but managed to skate through trouble on the way to setting the new record.

“He’s got that type of ability,” Red Wings coach Jeff Blashill said. “I thought that was neat, and neat for the Red Wings and their fans, neat for Dylan.”

Representing the Atlantic Division in the new 3-on-3 format on Sunday, Larkin shined once again, collecting three assists in his team’s 4-3 semifinal win over the all stars from the Metropolitan Division.

The win gave Larkin and his Atlantic teammates a chance to win the $1 million team prize. Unfortunately, the Pacific Division, led by captain John Scott – who was voted into the game by fans – skated off with a stunning 1-0 win.

“The goalies were unbelievable,” Larkin said. “Then there’s posts and there’s five or six unbelievable saves. There were a few open nets that were missed.”

Though scoring was way down in the final 20-minute contest, Larkin said the intensity of the players was exactly what he expected.

“I was hoping they would be like that,” he said. “I kind of went in like ‘whatever’ (but) I really don’t have an in between (gear), I guess. Never really been like that to just glide around or coast. … I just wanted to push the pace a little bit and set the tone”

Blashill liked how the Wings’ rookie handled the All-Star hype before and during the weekend festivities.

“It’ll be a day-to-day challenge for him to continue to remind himself, and he knows this, the daily work it takes,” Blashill said. “We all know, having been around, that the bright lights can come fast and go just as quick. He wants to be a long-term great player, he’s got to continue with the same approach he has and that’s been be humble, extremely down to earth and extremely hard-working, and if he continues to do that he’ll continue to see those bright lights.”

Definitely the fastest skater the Wings have had since Darren Helm made his NHL debut in 2008, the comparison had some in the Wings’ dressing room wonder which speedster, Larkin or Helm, would win in a foot race?

“He would win,” Larkin conceded. “But I still won the one at the All-Star Game.”

Then he thought about it some more and said, “if you put turns in there I’d give myself a chance, but up and down, he’d win.”

BACK TO WORK: The Red Wings will practice Tuesday morning at Joe Louis Arena before embarking on a two-day trip to the Sunshine State where they will face Tampa Bay and Florida on Wednesday and Thursday.

The Red Wings open the second half of the season in third place with 58 points in the Atlantic standings behind the Panthers (63 points) and Lightning (58 points). Detroit and Tampa have each played 49 games, however, the Lightning has two more regulation wins than the Wings.

“These are two divisional opponents we’re battling,” Blashill said. “It will be a good test for us. We know Tampa’s played great here lately. Florida has been real good for a while here, so it’ll be two real good tests for us. We’re going to have to be ready to go, be a little sharper than we’ve been. We think we’ve gotten better in our game. We had a lot of games on the road that have been close. We got to make sure to do everything we can to put ourselves in the best position to win.”

FOCUS OUT OF THE BREAK: The Wings skated for nearly an hour Monday afternoon as they prepare for a grueling schedule this month. Beginning Wednesday in Tampa Bay, the Wings will play eight games in 13 days.

The players, many of whom spent their six days in warm locales, returned rejuvenated and ready to make a playoff push for the 25th consecutive season.

“When you’re off the ice that long, we treated today as a real hard day, tomorrow will be a little bit easier,” Blashill said. “They were going to feel bad one of these days, so let’s make today the day we really feel bad where it doesn’t feel great, where it’s hard to get your legs back. I don’t think it took that long for us to get that going and obviously Tampa is in a similar boat. But today’s focus is to make sure we get skating.”

Niklas Kronwall
Defense  - DET
Goals: 3 | Assists: 14 | Pts: 17
Shots: 43 | +/-: -10
KRONWALL ON LTIR: On Monday, the Wings placed Niklas Kronwall on long-term injured reserve.

The veteran defenseman had arthroscopic knee surgery on Jan. 18 and has missed the past four games. The original prognosis was that he would miss 2-4 weeks. But the knee hasn’t responded as quickly as the Wings had hoped.

“Anytime you have surgery you don’t know how quickly you’re going to come back,” Blashill said. “He was extremely hopeful he’d be able to come back in the minimum but the reality is lots of times it’s not. In this case we wanted him to come back 100-percent ready to go and part of that 100 percent means having time to skate.”

The hope is that Kronwall will be able to start skating again next week and be back in the lineup around Feb. 14 when the Wings host the Boston Bruins, which would be the 10-game mark from the day he had surgery.

But Blashill cautions that there’s always a possibility of missing more time should there be a hiccup in the recovery process.

“It could easily be longer than that. We’ll see,” he said. “One thing we’ve learned is it’s really hard to throw a guy in when he’s not 100 percent and expect him to play like he’s 100 percent.”

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