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Notes: Larkin looking forward to matching up with McDavid

DeKeyser returns; Nielsen, Athanasiou, Vanek, Ericsson out

by Arthur J.Regner & Dana Wakiji @ArthurJRegner and @Dwakiji /

DETROIT -- For the past few weeks, Red Wings coach Jeff Blashill has matched up Dylan Larkin's line against the opposition's top line and Detroit's young centerman has thrived.

Saturday night at Little Caesars Arena, Larkin will be going head-to-head against one of hockey's best players in Edmonton's Connor McDavid.

In 12 games played, McDavid leads the Oilers in scoring with nine goals, 10 assists, is plus-4 with an ice time average of 23:10, which is tops for a forward in the NHL. His 19 points rank fourth in the league in scoring.

Larkin, Detroit's leading scorer (6-8-14), has been adamant that he wants to be challenged by the league's very best and so far, he has elevated his extremely high compete level against the NHL's elites.

"We've used Dylan here the last number of games against the other team's best. Not exclusively, but to a large part certainly," Blashill said. "We have another line with Glenny (Luke Glendening) that if a coach wants to hold him (McDavid against Larkin).

"I'm not going to let the other coach run our bench. If it means putting Dylan out there for an O-zone face-off against somebody else, we'll do that if needed. But certainly, I think Dylan enjoys the competition of playing against the other guy, the other group's best. In Connor he's got a heck of a challenge in front of him."

Blashill never saw McDavid play live until he reached the NHL, but he has been aware of and impressed with him for a long time.

"First of all, when you put up the points that he put up, it's hard not to think he's a generational talent," Blashill said. "When you see the production that was there at such a young age going through major junior, Team Canada and all that. And then you watch him play and you know for sure. I think the first time I saw him play live was in the NHL and I was amazed.

"He can do everything at such a high-level speed. He can shift, he can change direction, he's got control of the puck. He makes plays at a high speed. It's just things that most guys don't have. There's no question that he's a generational talent."

Larkin obviously respects McDavid but will not allow himself to get overwhelmed by his opponent's folk hero status.

"Yeah it is a challenge, he has a lot of speed. Connor works hard, he plays the right way," Larkin said. "He's somebody you have to be above and keep an eye on where he's at on the ice, because he's so explosive he'll just burn you. He just needs that split second to get separation, so you always have to keep an eye on him."

When asked to elaborate on McDavid as a player, Larkin instead chose to speak about how he and his linemates have recently turned their game around.

"We've been getting bounces, the guys I'm playing (with) Helmer (Darren Helm) and Mo (Anthony Mantha), so it's been a lot of fun and we've just been clicking, competing and keeping it simple, everybody has been battling and working their hardest and it's going really well right now."

As well as it's been going, with McDavid in town, Larkin and his linemates will be facing the ultimate test.

Tweet from @DetroitRedWings: #RedWings getting set for EDM. #EDMvDET #LGRW

RASMUSSEN AND CHOLOWSKI EXCITED TO FACE OILERS: When they were wee lads growing up in Vancouver, Red Wings rookies Michael Rasmussen and Dennis Cholowski were rabid Vancouver Canucks fans.

Their families had season tickets for the Canucks and they both enjoyed going to games when a Canadian-based franchise visited GM Place, especially Calgary and Edmonton.

"I guess growing up we always hated the Oilers. They were the Canucks' rivals. Yeah, I guess you could say that," Cholowski said. "It'll be fun. A Canadian team, they've got some high-end players, so it should be fun."

Cholowski is pumped to be on the same ice with the highly skilled Oilers and McDavid, a player he's watched, but never played against.

"I have not seen him (McDavid) on the ice yet, so I'm excited," Cholowski said. "They've been doing well of late, won a few games. They have a lot of speed up front, that's for sure, with McDavid and (Leon) Draisaitl and those guys. We're going to have to try to be as close to them as we can and not give them too much open ice to wheel it and gain that speed. If we can try to gap up and be tight on them, I think we'll give ourselves a better chance."

Rasmussen was his typical reserved self when asked about playing against the Oilers.

"For sure, I watched a lot of Edmonton and the Van (Vancouver) rivals as well. It'll be good to play against them," Rasmussen said. "All the Pacific teams. They (the Canucks) had good battles with L.A., good battles with Edmonton, Calgary. I went to a lot of those games for sure."

And what about facing McDavid?

"Yeah, that'll be cool. Obviously, he's an unreal player," Rasmussen said. "It'll be cool to play against him and compete against him."

LESS IS MORE FOR FRK: When you have a shot like Martin Frk's, the natural thing to want to do is unleash it at full power.

But sometimes, less is more.

"You can't create a bomb with somebody that doesn't shoot, so we've tried to work on finding ways to tame that and the thing we continue to explain is if it hits the net it doesn't have to go in, all it has to do is hit the net and it can create tons of chaos because it's that hard a shot, really hard to control the rebound with it," Blashill said. "He cares a ton. He's probably one of the first ones here every day, one of the last ones to leave. He cares a ton and wants to get better."

Frk scored his first goal of the season, on the power play from the left circle, in Thursday's 4-3 victory over the New Jersey Devils.

Frk admits he's now sacrificing just a little power to get more accuracy with his shot.

"Just staying more loose and just don't go with the full body," Frk said. "Just take it a little bit easier with the shot to like 80 percent and not 100. My stick is pretty whippy, so the stick is doing the work and I don't have to worry about going in with the full power.

"It's going more on the target. That's what I want and that's what they want from me. Hopefully, I can keep it that way and can score more goals like that."

Blashill said that when Frk started out hot with his shot last year with three goals in his first four games, he had no reason to change anything.

But then when Frk went through a 10-game goal drought, the coaches suggested some adjustments.

"He started at the beginning of last year scoring lots and it started to dwindle a little bit and just like any player they go back to what they do best and he's going to go back to shooting it as hard as he can and you lose that accuracy during times of trouble," Blashill said.

Blashill is pleased that Frk was receptive to trying to change his habits.

"I am not trying to pick the corners really. I just go mid-body," Frk said. "The last game I shot it and it was a mid-body shot and it went in. I think I don't have to go as high and also if I hit him, the rebound probably come easy here for the guys standing in front of the net. It's definitely better going that way than going high and miss the net or anything like that."

INJURY UPDATE: As expected, defenseman Danny DeKeyser is returning to the lineup against the Oilers.

Frans Nielsen, Andreas Athanasiou and Thomas Vanek remain out.

Defenseman Jonathan Ericsson will miss the game but not because of an injury suffered against the Devils.

"Lower body, was doing some stuff afterward in the weight room and got hurt in the weight room," Blashill said. "I think it's a week-to-week thing."

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