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Notes: Larkin's ice time soars

Young center logs 24:33 against Lightning, most ice time of his career

by Arthur J. Regner @arthurjregner /

DETROIT--Whenever Dylan Larkin's name is brought up to anyone that has been associated with him during his days as a hockey player, three words are always mentioned: desire, drive and determination.

Larkin has always been characterized as an individual with laser focus and a near supernatural work ethic, which makes him a cut above most players he competes against.

After a disappointing sophomore campaign with the Wings, Larkin recommitted himself to self-improvement over the summer, determined to reestablish his place as one of the NHL's elite young players.

And so far this season, the results have been encouraging.

In six games, Larkin, who is playing his natural position at center, has six points with a goal and five assists and is plus-3. He is also seeing significant time on the Wings' power play and penalty-killing units.

On Monday against Tampa Bay, Larkin's ice time was 24:33, the most minutes he's logged with the Red Wings. This season among Detroit's forwards, he is second only to captain Henrik Zetterberg in total ice time, averaging 19:24. Zetterberg clocks in at 20:55.

"It's the most I've ever played in any game. I wish I had something to show for it though, when you play that much," Larkin said. "Where you're out there being trusted, you're out there to produce, I think I had some chances; the late chance there I wish I would have focused a little bit more, but I guess it's good, I feel good on the penalty kill and being trusted feels good."

Despite being kept off the scoresheet against the Lightning, Larkin did win 11 of 18 face-offs, an area of his game that he worked on extensively during the offseason.

"I feel more comfortable every game. I feel the earlier I take a lot of face-offs in the game, the more I feel into it," Larkin said. "It's something with these rule changes they're strict on with guys cheating and that's helped me where if you do it right.

"I was getting kicked out of face-offs a lot during the preseason, I kind of figured it out. I was patient and kind of let the other guy make the first move.

"A lot of times he misses the puck or he gets kicked out of the face-off, so I usually go against a winger and that's a big-time advantage. I feel I've kind of settled in; not figured it completely out, I don't think anybody has, but I feel comfortable in the dot."

He has also killed penalties this season along with being on the power play, which Larkin admits has given him a boost in confidence.

"It's better than sitting on the bench,'" Larkin joked when asked about being on the penalty kill. "I really like playing on the penalty kill. I can help the team with my speed and breaking up plays and not letting the other team set up, so I just try and use my speed and I think our power play unit has done pretty well. It does give you confidence, you feel like you're into the game."

Detroit has always been a team where you earn your ice time by gaining the trust of your head coach.

When Jeff Blashill was asked what he saw in Larkin this season to increase his role and reward him with more ice time, Blashill indicated Larkin's improvement has not been a recent development.

"I noticed he was different at the end of last year and he was different in the world championships. It's just the maturation of a player," Blashill said. "He's playing a complete hockey game, doing things that help teams win. 

"First of all, he's on the power play and the penalty kill and played in a top-two line role, so that adds up to a lot of minutes. Twenty-four is more than I want. We'd like to keep it between 18 and 21, similar to what I said about Zetterberg the other day.

"But there are going to be times that's just the way it goes. They got caught out for a couple long kills. The one thing with Dylan is he can skate. He doesn't seem to tire out. I didn't think he was fatigued as the game went along so he's able to handle the minutes. He's just become a real complete player."

Another aspect to Larkin's game is he is more engaged on the ice. He doesn't back down from an opponent's on-ice shenanigans. He'll mix it up if the situation calls for it.

"For him to be an elite player, there might be other guys who score more points, so he's got to be that guy who can play against the other team's best players and frustrate them," Blashill said. "Henrik Zetterberg has done that. Jonathan Toews has done that. (Nazem) Kadri does it in Toronto in a little different way, but he does it in Toronto.

"That's what I think Dylan, to be elite-elite, he's got to be a guy who can play against the other team's best and really frustrate them and one of the ways is playing with that kind of edge."

Zetterberg agrees with Blashill's timeline as to when Larkin's game began to turn around and he isn't surprised.

"We saw it last year, the last 25 games. He took a step and he just continued this year. Obviously, he gets the opportunity to play a little more, too," Detroit's captain said. "He could probably play 34 minutes. He's in great shape. His stride is so simple and easy, he could be out there forever.

"It's fun to play all situations. You get into the game. It doesn't really matter if it's a lot of penalties or not. It's good for him. He's a good PK'er. He's smart. He skates well. He's good at reading plays. It's really good that he plays in all situations. It will only help him.

"I would love to play 24 minutes every night but I think I'm at a pretty good pace right now."

Larkin is aware he hasn't really accomplished anything yet, but he feels he is making strides in the right direction.

"It's still early," he said. "But in terms of the things I wanted to work on -- being better on the power play, face-offs, penalty kill, those things, early success and making plays as well. I credit it with playing with good players and playing a lot, but I'm just trying to keep it going."

DALEY HITS 900: Trevor Daley's sixth game with the Red Wings is one he'll always remember.

Against the Lightning on Monday, Detroit's defenseman played his 900th career game.

"I've been fortunate to play a long time. Milestones like that are pretty cool when they come," Daley said. "It's been a privilege to play in the NHL. I've had great people that have been around me that helped me along the way.

"I got a lot of text messages congratulating me from a lot of people that have helped me along the way, so it was pretty cool."

Daley spent his first 11 seasons with the Dallas Stars and though he didn't receive a congratulatory text from Detroit native and longtime Stars teammate Mike Modano, a former Red Wings forward did send him a message.

"No, I didn't hear from him," Daley said of Modano, "But guys like Steve Ott, who I played with for a long time and were roommates. It was obviously a big number. Nine hundred is a lot of games."

When he was reminded he's only 99 games away from reaching 1,000 games, Daley quipped.

"We'll see. Let me get to 901 first."

WHY Z STILL HAS JUMP: Perhaps it was Larkin's staggering ice time against Tampa Bay, but Zetterberg told reporters he may know why he has been Detroit's iron man the past two seasons, playing in all 82 for the Wings.

During the last two years because of injury, Zetterberg has played in only one preseason game.

"That's the key," Zetterberg said with a laugh. "I think also you only have a certain amount of miles in your body and you might as well put them into the real games instead of the exhibition games.

"We'll see. I'm happy the way I feel right now but I know also it could turn quick. I'm enjoying the moment and hopefully it will last for a while.

"It's pretty simple. When the body says no, that's time. I'm enjoying what I'm doing now so hopefully I can do it for a long time."

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