Detroit Red Wings: Rasmussen’s Role Expanded In Columbus

TAMPA, FL - OCTOBER 18: Detroit Red Wings center Michael Rasmussen (27) positions himself in front of Tampa Bay Lightning goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy (88) in the first period of the regular season NHL game between the Detroit Red Wings and Tampa Bay Lightning on October 18, 2018 at Amalie Arena in Tampa, FL. (Photo by Mark LoMoglio/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
TAMPA, FL - OCTOBER 18: Detroit Red Wings center Michael Rasmussen (27) positions himself in front of Tampa Bay Lightning goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy (88) in the first period of the regular season NHL game between the Detroit Red Wings and Tampa Bay Lightning on October 18, 2018 at Amalie Arena in Tampa, FL. (Photo by Mark LoMoglio/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images) /
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The Detroit Red Wings are suddenly banged up down the middle of their lineup as they head into Columbus tonight to take on the Blue Jackets.

Andreas Athanasiou and Frans Nielsen will both be unable to play for the Detroit Red Wings tonight in Columbus.  The pair are both out with undisclosed injuries.  It seems Nielsen is expected to be out longer than AA.  Nielsen has already been ruled out Thursday night at home against New Jersey, where AA will be day-to-day.

The Wings will look to a 19-year-old rookie in Michael Rasmussen to step up and play down the middle tonight.  It will be a much more significant role than he has seen to this point in his very young 9 game career.  With playing center comes much more defensive responsibility.  He has been a natural center his entire career, and I wonder if being pressed into duty by moving him back to the middle could get him going offensively.

Ras has been moved to the wing to start his career just to protect him defensively.  It isn’t a terrible idea.  It worked well with Dylan Larkin early on in his career.  Mike has struggled to get going, and I wonder if part of it is being on the Wing learning all of the different responsibilities and coverages at the highest level of hockey possible. It might be just enough of a learning curve to slow down his production some until he becomes more comfortable as a professional.

Jeff Blashill spoke about Michael Rasmussen in a piece written by Helene St.James of Freep.com;

"He did lots of things that it takes to be successful against some real big bodies,” Blashill said Monday. “He was great down low. We need some centers and he’s somebody who’s done it, so that’s why I’ll put him at some shifts at center.”“We told him as of today, you’re staying and you’re playing through those games. I think the biggest thing that we would focus on is we need to win, but we also need to make sure that we’re doing the best thing we can for Michael Rasmussen long-term. Our assessment as we stand here today is the best thing to do is to keep him here and keep playing.”"

Tonight will be his 10th game of the season which officially burns the first of three years of his Entry Level Contract.  The Detroit Red Wings could have chosen to send him back to Junior before this game and saved the first year of his deal until next season, but they would rather him work through his early struggles in Detroit.

The only thing I don’t particularly like is a 19-year-old being a healthy scratch and sitting in the press box.  I feel that is as big of a confidence crusher that there is.  I would rather see him play his way through struggles and play him with better players to create more confidence for himself.

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I am curious to see if playing down the middle tonight helps the youngster at all. I’d expect a heavy dose of Luke Glendening tonight.  I expect Jeff Blashill to roll out Glendening as his second line center tonight and Jacob de La Rose as his third.

I don’t understand why the Detroit Red Wings don’t skate Ras between Vanek and Nyquist, or Helm and Nyquist on a second line.  Darren Helm could also fill in admirably down the middle if things are not working out great for the Wings.  I would skate Ras with a couple of reliable scoring type players to see if it can break out offensively. He has only recorded 1 assist in 9 games this season averaging 12:39 TOI a night.

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I know it is frustrating, but we all know Jeff Blashill.  Rasmussen will play probably around 12 minutes on the night taking a shift as the fourth line center and playing on the top power-play unit.  Think about that for a second.  Only Jeff Blashill finds a way to play his “fourth line” players on the power play.  Martin Frk, Michael Rasmussen, etc. Ugh.