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Veteran impact

by Dana Wakiji / Detroit Red Wings
Dylan Larkin reacts to his first-period goal that gave the Red Wings a 1-0 lead over the Senators. Larkin has scored in four straight games, the first teenager to do so since Steve Yzerman in 1984-85. (Photo by Getty Images)

DETROIT -- The league is getting younger but there remains a place for veteran players.

The Red Wings got Pavel Datsyuk back six games ago and Brad Richards two games ago and their impact is already being felt.

Datsyuk, who missed all of training camp and preseason after surgery in late June to repair ruptured tendons in his right ankle, scored his first goal Saturday night in St. Louis.

Richards returned Friday night after missing 13 games with a back injury and had two assists against the Blues.

Wings coach Jeff Blashill played them together on a line with Teemu Pulkkinen, who got the game-winning goal in overtime Saturday.

"They’re both guys who’ve been elite players in this league," Blashill said. "If you look at their numbers, they’re amazing. I thought that was Pav’s best game. I think he’s gotten better and better each game. Obviously being out all summer and missing training camp it’s a hard thing, so I thought his impact was huge the other night and I thought Richie playing with him – Richie’s got elite smarts and a really good stick and they seem to play well together. It gave us another real powerful line, I thought."

Nothing like facing two of the bigger, heavier teams in the Los Angeles Kings and Blues in your first two games back.

"It was a pretty big test," Richards said. "Probably not the smartest week to come back, playing back-to-back against those teams. I had to jump in and play and to feel the way I do today after two pretty heavy teams is a good sign."

The Wings held an optional practice Monday to give players a chance to recover and get ready for three home games this week.

"It’s great to have a day like today," Richards said. "I think rest is so huge in the league in this day and age. It’s so hard night in and night out. Every game is so fast and so physical. It’s nice to start a home stand with some rest."

It's only been two games but Richards said he is enjoying playing with Datsyuk as his center.

"You get excited playing with players like that," Richards said. "He made some plays the other night that didn’t surprise but still they are different than a lot of players make. He does see stuff that you don’t expect. You’ve got to be ready and if you’re shooting you can get some real good chances."

The return of the two veterans has also sparked scoring across the board.

Last week the Wings went 3-0-1 and scored 12 goals, the 3.00 goals a game slightly higher than the league average of 2.64.

"The lines haven’t been shuffled around as much and you kind of get some chemistry of guys you’re playing with," Justin Abdelkader said. "Scoring is one of those things that comes and goes. We were getting good chances, but pucks just weren’t going in. You loosen up and not grab your stick as tight when you see pucks start going in more."

The Wings are currently 24th in the league at 2.33 goals a game. The league-leading Montreal Canadiens are at 3.55 goals per game.

LARKIN SCORING: Dylan Larkin joined rare company with his goal Saturday night in St. Louis.

It was Larkin's fourth straight game with a goal.

The last Wings player to score in four straight as a teenager was Steve Yzerman in 1984-85, when he had two such streaks.

Yzerman's first came from Nov. 21-28, scoring against Hartford, Toronto and in each of two games against Montreal. The second took place from Dec. 20-28, scoring against Quebec, two against Minnesota, the New York Rangers and Calgary.

Larkin has shown he can score in this league but that does not mean he's a finished product at 19 years old.

"He’s got to continue to grow his game and that won’t necessarily be seen from the fans all the time because he is on the puck a lot, he’s got great energy, he skates great, he’s produced offensively," Blashill said. "Growing his game for me will be the little things he has to get better at, coming back in his own zone, stopping and picking up the proper people on sorts and rushes against. Little things like that, coming back and being in the right spots defensively. The things that are our job as coaches to teach guys to help them get better at."

Blashill said he planned to keep playing Larkin on the wing rather than at center.

On the other wing is Abdelkader, who has been impressed with his young line mate.

"He’s just such a good skater," Abdelkader said. "He’s talented and can make plays at a high speed. He just seems to each and every game come out and help the team. His speed is so unique that defenses have to respect that and opens up the ice for everyone else. He’s just going to keep getting better and keep growing. He’s been a big boost for us this year."

Larkin leads the Wings with eight goals and his 15 points are second to Henrik Zetterberg's 18. He also leads the team with 55 shots.

Larkin is tied for second in the league in plus-minus at plus-12.

BLASHILL HAPPY FOR JURCO: Tomas Jurco, with the Grand Rapids (AHL) Griffins on a conditioning stint, was named the AHL Player of the Week Monday.

In three games, Jurco has three power-play goals and four assists.

"The one thing I said to him was I wasn’t going to judge purely on the scoresheet because I think sometimes there’s a bigger story than that," Blashill said. "He’s got to do other things well. The word that I’ve got is he’s played very good. Obviously he’s scored and dominated from an offensive sense on the scoresheet, which I think is good. I watched the first period of the Wednesday game, his first game down there because we played later and I thought he did some good stuff. I thought he did a good job on the forecheck, he was physical. The goals I saw him score in the highlights were goals that are elite. Two of them in particular were snipes. That’s something I hope continues to build his confidence."

FERRARO GONE, WILL SOON RETURN: Over the weekend, the Wings placed Landon Ferraro and the Boston Bruins claimed him.

On Sunday, Ferraro tweeted, "Thankful 4 everything from the @DetroitRedWings since drafted. Great 5 years. But on to @NHLBruins and I couldn't be more excited to get going."

Ferraro was about to be medically cleared after recovering from a sprained knee and with the return of Datsyuk and Richards, the Wings had too many healthy forwards.

"It’s never easy to lose a quality person, a good player, we knew that was a risk when we put him on waivers," Blashill said. "It’s also part of the roster limits and the CBA, it’s part of the business. From a personal side, I’m glad now he gets a chance to play in the NHL. He’s somebody who’s worked extremely hard for me for three-plus years. I was happy for him personally. From an organizational standpoint, we made that decision and knew the potential consequences and we got to live with it."

Ferraro played in 10 games with the Wings this season.

STILL TIME TO BID: There are still a few days left to bid on the Wings' camouflage jerseys and socks worn during warm-ups on Military Appreciation Night.

The items can be seen at www. Auctions.NHL.com until bidding ends at 7 p.m. on Nov. 27.

The two goalie masks worn by Jimmy Howard and Petr Mrazek are doing particularly well, with bids at $5,000 and $5,250, respectively, as of late Monday afternoon.

Not surprisingly, Larkin's jersey was drawing the most attention, with 17 bids and an amount of $2,477 for his jersey and socks.

Next highest among jerseys was Datsyuk's, at seven bids and up to $1,100.

WINGS ALUMNI TO PLAY NTDP: The Detroit Red Wings Alumni Association will play USA Hockey's National Team Development Programs U17s Tuesday at 7 p.m. at USA Hockey Arena in Plymouth.

Among the Wings alumni scheduled to play are Darren McCarty, Larry Murphy, Dino Ciccarelli, Jimmy Carson, Petr Klima and John Ogrodnick.

Tickets are $10 and benefit the Plymouth-Canton marching band, who are set to play in the 127th Tournament of Roses Parade in Pasadena, Calif. on New Year's Day.

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