John Niyo: Michael Rasmussen is winning battles in breakout season with Red Wings

John Niyo, The Detroit News on

Published in Hockey

DETROIT — The surest sign you’re starting to carve out a niche for yourself as an NHL player is when your teammates start dropping your name. To the head coach, no less.

And so it is for the Red Wings’ Michael Rasmussen these days, midway through what looks to be a breakout season for the hulking 23-year-old forward and once-maligned former first-round pick.

“You know a winger is good when every center starts to come hinting that they would like to play with him,” head coach Derek Lalonde chuckled Tuesday night, after Rasmussen’s play helped the Wings escape with a 3-2 overtime win over San Jose at Little Caesars Arena. “Or if I’m having a talk with a player about their current game, and they're like, ‘Well, when I was with Ras …', that's certainly a good sign, too.”

Tuesday night, it sure was a welcome sight for veteran center Andrew Copp, who along with veteran winger David Perron was reunited with the big kid they call “Moose” after a scoreless first period against the Sharks.

Lalonde had started the night with Rasmussen playing on the top line with Dylan Larkin and Lucas Raymond. But with Raymond briefly missing due to injury to start the second period, those forward lines were quickly shuffled again.

And late in that middle frame, it was Rasmussen — back on Copp's line — who scored an unassisted goal to give the Wings a 2-1 lead, bouncing up off the ice after taking an awkward hit entering the zone and then finding himself alone with the puck in the slot, where he fired a wrist shot past goalie James Reimer to bring the LCA crowd to its feet.


The Wings would give that lead right back at the end of the period, as an ill-advised pass from Adam Erne in his own zone led to an exhausting 2 ½-minute shift for defensemen Moritz Seider and Jake Walman and, ultimately, a Logan Couture goal with 6.7 seconds left on the clock.

'We gotta find a way here'

Such is life for Lalonde and this Detroit team, which has made halting progress as a group this season. The Wings are better defensively on the whole, and particularly so this past week in impressive outings against Las Vegas and Philadelphia. But they’re still prone to lapses that aren’t easily overcome by a team that still lacks elite scoring talent up front.

“That game ended up being a lot more complicated than it needed to,” Copp said, echoing the brief message Lalonde delivered to his players behind closed doors after 40 minutes.


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