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Notes: Larkin leaves practice early, Wings hoping he is all right

Howard says team is tired of losing, looking to make some noise this season

by Dana Wakiji @Dwakiji / DetroitRedWings.com

DETROIT -- The Detroit Red Wings are in wait-and-see mode after center Dylan Larkin had to leave practice early Tuesday.

The team was a little more than halfway done when Larkin went down along the boards and then skated off the BELFOR Training Center ice toward the dressing room.

"He turned up, I guess I'd say, kind of curled up with the puck and just kind of at the same time, he almost ran into Helmer (Darren Helm) and then kind of went into the wall a little bit," Wings coach Jeff Blashill said. "It didn't look anything much, it looked fairly innocent and then he went off the ice."

Blashill said Larkin was undergoing evaluation and whatever tests might be needed and he expected to know more on Wednesday, the team's off day.

"I'm a big believer in let's find out what's going on and then we'll react from there," Blashill said. "We don't want any of our guys to get hurt. Certainly Dylan's a big part of our team. So we'll have to see as it goes. We've said this lots, we gotta make sure that all our guys are going so that if things happen, other guys can step in so we'll see."

Larkin led the team in goals with 32, assists with 41 and points with 73 last season.

"Hopefully he's okay," goaltender Jimmy Howard said. "I'm not sure what happened or anything. Hopefully he's okay."

He is also counted on to center the top line with Anthony Mantha and Tyler Bertuzzi on the wings.

There is also some concern about the health of forward Andreas Athanasiou.

Athanasiou practiced Monday, skating on a line with Luke Glendening and Taro Hirose, but was not on the ice Tuesday.

"He's kind of been off and on with what I would again deem a tweak," Blashill said. "It kept him out of Saturday's game. He practiced yesterday, seemed good, and then today he couldn't go. So we're hoping he can practice Thursday, Friday and be ready for Saturday."

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Athanasiou played in the Red and White Game at training camp, scoring a breakaway goal, and then missed the second half of the game.

He then played in one preseason game, Sept. 20 at home against the New York Islanders, again scoring a breakaway goal, but was unable to play again in the exhibition season.

Athanasiou was second to Larkin last season with 30 goals and 54 points.

"It'd be hard to play if you're not practicing by Friday," Blashill said. "Him and I talked. We'll make the decision on how much practice he needs before he's ready to play and make sure he feels good about where he's at."

TIRED OF LOSING: Howard remembers what it was like when the Wings were a playoff certainty every season and competing for the Stanley Cup.

So it probably grates on him as much as any player the fact that the team has not made the playoffs for three consecutive seasons.

"I'm sick and tired of losing," Howard said. "It's no fun to be here the first week of April packing up your stuff. We're looking to go out there and make some noise this season."

Howard is far from the only one bothered by it as several players have mentioned having a chip on their shoulder.

"I think talking with the guys and seeing how everyone came to training camp ready to go and the intensity's been through the roof since Day 1, I think guys are kind of (ticked) off the way that everything's transpired over the last several years and want to put an end to it," Howard said.

The Wings finished 14th in the Eastern Conference last season with 74 points, ahead of only the New Jersey Devils at 72 points and the Ottawa Senators at 64 points.

In the NHL, the Wings were 28th. The Devils were 29th, the Los Angeles Kings 30th with 71 points and the Senators were last.

Blashill hopes that frustration leads to motivation for everyone.

"I think it's a huge motivator when you've had enough, you're willing to do anything it takes to win," Blashill said. "You can say you should always be willing to, yeah, but you're probably even more willing to sacrifice personal gain to win and that's a level few teams get to. Most teams, it's hard to ask guys to care more about winning than their own personal game. Most guys at best you get them to be equal.

"Well, this group here is at a spot where I think they're sick of losing enough they're willing to sacrifice a little personal gain to make sure we're more of a winning hockey team. That'll all play out as we go through the year. That doesn't equate to just winning, you still got to go out and execute at a high level but I know guys are ready to give that type of commitment level and sacrifice level that's needed for this group to win."

LOOKING FOR IMPROVEMENTS: If there's one area that Blashill has mentioned as something that needs to improve for the Wings to have success, it's the defensive end.

But that can't come from just one or two players.

"It has to come as a group collectively," Howard said. "We gotta be a hard five-man unit to play against in the defensive zone. That's just not giving up freebies and not giving teams chance after chance after chance like we have in the past."

Although it was a bit misleading at the end when the Wings finished the exhibition season with four games in four nights, there did seem to be a better trend overall.

"I think the one thing we've got to do and we've done it at times in the preseason that I didn't think we did on Friday or Saturday is make the other team defend enough," Blashill said. "In order to make it a hard night for the other team, we gotta make them defend. I thought in both games we defended too much. Our forecheck's got to be better, our O-zone hound's got to be better. That's where it becomes real hard for the other team to play is they just feel like you're coming at them in waves. Certainly I didn't think we did that on the weekend so we gotta do a better job of that.

"We gotta create more turnovers on the forecheck, gotta do a better job in the O-zone of shooting the puck, getting it back, shooting the puck, getting it back, so all the team can do is try to change and then we transition and keep jamming it down their throats."

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ROSTER SET: The Wings put center Chase Pearson on non-roster injured reserve and assigned defenseman Jared McIsaac to the Halifax Mooseheads of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League.

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That sets the roster at 23.

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