Detroit Red Wings: Jakub Vrana expected to suit up against former team

(Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images)
(Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images) /

For many fans, the wait appears over. Detroit Red Wings forward Jakub Vrana is expected to make his return to the lineup Tuesday night against his former team, the Washington Capitals.

The Red Wings recalled Vrana from Grand Rapids after forward Lucas Raymond suffered a lower-body injury in practice after colliding with defenseman Ben Chiarot. The injury has been described as a day-to-day issue by head coach Derek Lalonde, but Raymond has missed the last five games and was not spotted in Washington on Monday during the teams’ practice. Lalonde reiterated that he feels it is a true day-to-day issue rather than a week-to-week thing before Detroit’s Saturday night game in Seattle. Lalonde also said that Raymond would not play in Washington but might have him available for Thursday’s home game against the New York Rangers.

Lalonde was also questioned about Vrana on Saturday, and he mentioned that his current lineup had won five games in a row, and everyone was contributing. Lalonde said that Vrana was considered Detroit’s 13th forward, and he didn’t want to remove someone from the lineup to get Vrana in to say he got him in, which is understandable. Vrana has recorded six goals and 11 points over 17 games with the Griffins this season; he’s also notched a goal and an assist over two games with the Red Wings.

Following the Red Wings’ loss in Seattle, it gives Lalonde a reason to shake things up ahead of Tuesday’s matchup with the Capitals, and the bench boss mentioned Monday that he’d likely find a way to get Vrana in against his former club, but hadn’t quite decided on who would be coming out.

Detroit Red Wings forward Jakub Vrana is expected to play against the Washington Capitals.

Lalonde will need to pull someone out of Detroit’s lineup, which is easier said than done. The Detroit Red Wings have won five of their last six games coming off a stellar west coast road trip.

The first four candidates to be scratched that come to mind are Pius Suter, Filip Zadina, Dominik Kubalik, and Oskar Sundqvist.

Suter has been centering this fourth line, and he’s been really hot of late. Suter scored the shootout winner last week in Edmonton and then scored in each of Detroit’s previous two games against Calgary and Seattle. I do not think Lalonde will be removing Suter for the time being, plus his ability to center the fourth line allows Michael Rasmussen to play the wing on Detroit’s second unit, where he’s excelled.

Filip Zadina is often a punching bag among Red Wings fans, and he’s only recorded a goal and three points over 15 games this season, but he’s performed well of late. Zadina has recorded an assist in back-to-back games for the Red Wings. The 23-year-old winger has also made a few key defensive plays and has worked well on the boards in the offensive zone lately, plus he’s created a few grade-A scoring chances over the past couple of games. Inevitably, Zadina is a candidate to come out; I would like to see him remain in the lineup for now.

Lalonde did recently scratch Kubalik in favor of Zadina before the injury occurred to Raymond, but Kubalik scored a pair of goals a few nights ago in Calgary, the first time he scored in eight games prior. Kubalik is currently skating with Dylan Larkin and Tyler Bertuzzi in place of Raymond on Detroit’s top line. The 27-year-old winger has had an up-and-down season, but he’s recorded 16 goals and 36 points over 54 games, placing him second on the club in each category behind Dylan Larkin.

Although Oskar Sundqvist provides the Detroit Red Wings with some size, he currently gets my vote to be removed for a game to allow Vrana another opportunity to stick with the Red Wings. Sundqvist has recorded seven goals and 20 points for the Red Wings over 46 games, and he’s been a very reliable bottom-six winger, but with how well the other three have been playing of late, he’d be my first choice at the moment to come out.

This should and will be reevaluated by Detroit’s coaching staff on a game-to-game basis over the next couple of weeks as the team is finally (almost) fully healthy. There is no reason to think that Lalonde won’t come up with some rotation leading up to the March 3rd NHL Trade Deadline as to who is in and who is out each night.

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Another difficult decision must be made later in the week once Raymond is ready to go. It’s a good thing; the added competition should get the best out of Detroit’s bottom six over the coming weeks.