Why Filip Zadina's recent preseason play is encouraging for Detroit Red Wings

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Filip Zadina has been playing more like a guy who wants to stay where he is.

Zadina has been given an opportunity to play with Detroit Red Wings captain Dylan Larkin during exhibition season, a spot that guarantees good minutes. Coach Jeff Blashill described Zadina’s play in Wednesday’s 4-2 loss at the Columbus Blue Jackets as a bright spot “in a group that didn’t have a whole lot of bright spots.”

Zadina had an assist and also converted in a coaches-choice shootout.

“He competed hard, he moved the puck, he made plays coming out of his end,” Blashill said. “I was happy with his game.”

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Detroit Red Wings' Filip Zadina, left, skates past Columbus Blue Jackets' Sean Kuraly during the third period of a preseason NHL hockey game Wednesday, Oct. 6, 2021, in Columbus, Ohio. (AP Photo/Jay LaPrete)
Detroit Red Wings' Filip Zadina, left, skates past Columbus Blue Jackets' Sean Kuraly during the third period of a preseason NHL hockey game Wednesday, Oct. 6, 2021, in Columbus, Ohio. (AP Photo/Jay LaPrete)

Jakub Vrana had been penciled in to play with Larkin and Tyler Bertuzzi, but shoulder surgery has sidelined Vrana at least through January. Bertuzzi hadn’t played through six exhibition games because he’s on a cautious “return to play” plan after being out since January with a back injury. That created an opening for Zadina — and for that matter for Lucas Raymond, who has also been a good fit in the group.

“We want to play with the puck, we want to create chances and try to score,” Zadina said. “I think we’ve done a decent job together.”

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Zadina didn’t have a great opening week of exhibition season, but has put together two solid performances this week.

“I’m trying to play my best every single game,” Zadina said. “Sometimes it doesn’t go exactly the way I wanted, but I feel I have done good job. I’m just trying to play the best I can so I can play the same style to the regular season.”

Zadina, who turns 22 in November, had just six goals among 19 points last season. The No. 6 pick from 2018, he’s had to learn to find a way to create time and space for himself at the pro level. He’s become a better all-around player, but, especially with Vrana sidelined, the Wings need offense from Zadina.

“I would say from the minute Fil has come to us, I’ve talked ti him about being dangerous offensively,” Blashill said. “Certainly everybody has to be complete, but I don’t think he’s been all that incomplete. There were times late last year he struggled in his d-zone. I think it’s just continuing to find those ways to create offense, and a lot of it has to come with his brain. And some of it just comes with physical maturity, just being a little stronger on pucks, being able to get a little more breakaway speed, and then his brain. Because he’s not huge and he’s not super fast, so he has to use his brain, and he’s done a good job of that so far.”

Contact Helene St. James at hstjames@freepress.com. Follow her on Twitter @helenestjames. Read more on the Detroit Red Wings and sign up for our Red Wings newsletter. Her book, The Big 50: The Detroit Red Wings is available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Triumph Books. Personalized copies available via her e-mail.

This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Detroit Red Wings' Filip Zadina playing better in preseason