Jeff Blashill is 'pissed off' for Dylan Larkin, with potential absence looming
One way or another, it sounds like the Red Wings will be without Dylan Larkin for the next couple games. Maybe longer.
A day after getting ejected from Detroit's season-opener for punching Lightning forward Mathieu Joseph after Joseph slammed him into the boards from behind without being penalized, Larkin was facing a suspension in a hearing with the NHL's department of player safety -- after which he was planning to visit a specialist for an unspecified injury that kept him out of practice Friday.
And Jeff Blashill is understandably 'pissed off' for the Red Wings captain.
"If you remember at the end of last year, Larks late in the game against Dallas got cross-checked to the back of the neck with enough force that he spent the night in the hospital and spent eight weeks in a cervical hard collar," Blashill said. "There was no penalty on the play, which, that happens, things happen fast, and there was no suspension. So if you’re Dylan Larkin, or if you’re us, you kind of think it sets a standard that that's not worthy of (a penalty) and we gotta police ourselves a little bit, and certainly that’s what I think would go through his head."
Now fast-forward to Thursday night's game, Blashill said.
Playing in his first game since Jamie Benn's cross-check to the neck cost him the final two weeks of last season, Larkin gets run into the boards with his head down -- and his neck bears the brunt of the blow. He gets up and sees that there's no penalty called on Joseph.
"At that point, again, he’s thinking we have to police ourselves out there," Blashill said. "I talked last night about not losing emotional control, but I certainly understand it. I think Larks would tell you he’d like to take that back, that really what he was trying to do was get (Joseph's attention to fight him), but personally we'd like to be in a position where it's just a penalty on the original hit and then I don't know if anything happens. So I feel bad and I feel pissed off for Larks that he’s gotta take that punishment and then feels the need on a regular basis to defend himself. That's just the perspective of what we have."
Blashill also noted that Joseph "took a run" at rookie Lucas Raymond earlier in the game, which also went uncalled. That's part of being a highly-touted rookie in the NHL, and Blashill said both Raymond and fellow rookie Mortiz Seider are "tough, strong kids who do a good job of protecting themselves out there." But the Wings won't tolerate opposing teams targeting their top players much longer.
"I guess if it goes on, we have to get people in here to make sure that we’re protecting them," Blashill said.
So back to No. 71. Blashill said he'll "be disappointed" if Larkin receives supplemental discipline from the NHL; he described Larkin's offense Thursday night as nothing more than "a punch with a glove on." But more concerning to the Wings is Larkin's health. He wasn't able to practice Friday and Blashill said "I really don't know" how long Larkin could be sidelined. Which is another way of saying he doesn't know when Larkin will return. For now, the Wings are hoping for the best and likely fearing the worst. For the 25-year-old captain, any aggravation or reoccurrence of last year's neck injury would be a potentially major setback.
"I feel for him big time, and I kind of waffle between feeling for him and being pissed off that he’s gotta go through that," Blashill said. "It takes a toll on you emotionally. Again, taking that penalty is not something -- and he just told me this: he doesn’t want to take that penalty. We gotta be more disciplined. But as I watched it through, I also personally understand where he’s coming from."