By @StefanKubus –
DETROIT – In their final game of the preseason, the Red Wings put their collective best foot forward to finish off their exhibition slate ahead of the Oct. 4 season opener at Little Caesars Arena.
Vili Saarijarvi, Dominic Turgeon, Martin Frk, Libor Sulak and Matt Puempel scored for the Wings, while Jonathan Bernier picked up the win between the pipes in a 4-1 victory over the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Despite most regulars being out of both lineups Sunday night, it still gave Jeff Blashill and his staff a chance to evaluate the rest of the crop.
“The biggest thing that we have to look at it is, who’s going to help us win game one and then what’s best for any of our young players, depending where they’re at, whether it’s the role within that or if they’re not gonna play obviously.”
Joe Hicketts is one defensemen who can not only benefit from the likes of Mike Green and Trevor Daley dealing with injuries, but also from the numerous penalty kill opportunities Sunday night. Hicketts potted an assist and skated 21:34, including 4:23 on the penalty kill.
“I think I’ve shown them willingness to take any role, played a lot of penalty kill over these seven games, blocked a lot of shots, made a lot of hits,” Hicketts said. “At the end of the day, I feel like I’ve made the best impression I can and now whatever happens, I’m going to have to deal with it. But it’s nice knowing you did everything in your power.”
A Rich Clune goalie interference minor at 3:13 of the opening period gave the Red Wings a chance to strike first.
A fancy passing play saw Evgeny Svechnikov with a touch pass in the high slot back to Givani Smith near the right point. Smith moved laterally toward the middle of the ice before feeding Saarijarvi. Saarijarvi let a slap shot go that beat McElhinney for the power-play goal.
The special teams continued to work for the Wings as, minutes later with Luke Glendening in the box for hooking, the Red Wings added a shorthanded tally. Christoffer Ehn and Dominic Turgeon worked a give-and-go on a partial 2-on-1 break that resulted in Turgeon’s first of the preseason.
That gave the Wings a 2-o advantage heading into the middle frame, a lead that seemed in jeopardy early in the period. Carl Grundstrom cut the Detroit lead to one after he and Adam Brooks capitalized on a Red Wings defensive breakdown and worked a 2-on-0 to perfection.
Puempel regained the two-goal lead for Detroit with 11:05 left in the period after a quick snap shot from between the circles found its way through traffic to the back of the net.
Frk added a power-play marker, a one-timed blast from the right circle, to make it 4-1 before the period ended.
In the final frame, Sulak concluded his already-solid training camp and preseason by potting his first goal on a breakaway straight out of the penalty box, as he was sprung by a head-up pass from Puempel to put Detroit up 5-1.