Red Wings fans, watching a slog of a season, are allowed to dream.
They might spend some of Friday’s game against the Bruins wondering what Torey Krug would look like in red and white, how he might lift his hometown team out of the cellar. Both his No. 47 and the Detroit captaincy are open, too.
Just maybe . . . what if . . .
There’s a long way to go before July 1 and free agency, and there remains a chance that Krug won’t make it there. The impending free agent, who will be 29 in April, could sign a long-term deal and become a lifelong Bruin, securing his young family’s roots in this area.
However, the pull of home could be strong.
Krug and his wife, Melanie, are both Michiganders, having met as Michigan State students. Krug grew up cheering for the Wings and their captain, current general manager Steve Yzerman. Detroit coach Jeff Blashill tutored Krug in the USHL.
The franchise is looking for a bedrock defenseman, and Krug has 62 playoff games and two runs to the Stanley Cup Final under his belt.
He proved in last year’s trip to the Finals that he is a complete defenseman, in addition to being one of the best power-play quarterbacks in the league.
He has earned himself a hefty raise from his $5.25 million cap hit, perhaps a ticket of $8 million a season.
Krug has not discussed his contract status publicly since the season began. As of opening night, Krug’s agent, Lewis Gross, and Bruins GM Don Sweeney had not had extensive talks.
On Friday against the last-place Wings, who are 1-11-1 in their last 13 games, Krug will take his regular shifts with partner Brandon Carlo. The Bruins will mix it up elsewhere.
Instead of playing with Zdeno Chara, Charlie McAvoy will skate with ex-BU partner Matt Grzelcyk. Chara will get rookie Connor Clifton, who usually pairs with Grzelcyk. Coach Bruce Cassidy wouldn’t commit to the change beyond Friday (“We’ll see with each game and how long it lasts”) but he was eager to get a look.
“We always thought Grizz and Clifton were two good players, but are they an ideal pair?” Cassidy mused of his former third pairing. “This allows Charlie to free up a little more on the offensive side of things, maybe not get the heavy matchup every time over the boards.”
McAvoy has immense respect for Chara, but he clearly loves playing with Grzelcyk. He smiled and weaved his hands in and out to describe how they “free lance” together on breakouts.
“He’s incredibly gifted skating and playmaking,” McAvoy said. “We read off each other really well. We both trust each other’s skating ability.”
They provided instant offense while together for a few stretches of Boston’s 5-4 loss at Montreal Tuesday. When the Bruins tied the game at 3 with 1:47 left in the second, point drives from both Grzelcyk and McAvoy led to Anders Bjork chipping one past Carey Price.
When they knotted it again at 4, Grzelcyk and McAvoy were on the ice for 1:03 before Grzelcyk changed off for Chara during the play.
To help the Bruins keep possession during the change, the instinctual McAvoy rolled down the right side as Sean Kuraly drove the net. It helped put the Canadiens on their heels before Kuraly and Chris Wagner produced another tying goal.
Cassidy felt Clifton, a healthy scratch in two of the first 15 games, was overcorrecting his assertive tendencies. He found a nice balance of pace-pushing and stout defending Tuesday, skating an active-but-responsible 17:47 and scoring his first regular-season goal in 32 games by dancing in from the blue line and beating Price.
“He was more engaged,” Cassidy said. “Had a little conversation with Cliffy. I think he’s been fine without the puck, but I don’t think he’s played his, we’ll say it: ‘Cliffy Hockey.’ ”
Clifton was feeling it.
“I think this was my best game so far,” he said. “Not even the goal — just everywhere else. With the puck, without the puck, I was making good plays. My feet were going.”
The Bruins will be missing one top-six winger for the one-game trip to Detroit.
Cassidy said Jake DeBrusk played through a lower-body injury in Montreal and awoke Wednesday in a bit of discomfort. The coach wasn’t certain DeBrusk could return Sunday against the Flyers.
DeBrusk logged 17:07 against the Canadiens, ceding his net-front spot on the first power play to Danton Heinen. At practice Thursday, the newly recalled Peter Cehlarik took DeBrusk’s place on David Krejci’s left wing, with Heinen playing the right wing.
Rookie Zach Senyshyn, had two assists at Montreal, will again skate the right side of the third line, with Bjork and center Charlie Coyle. He drew high marks from Cassidy for his effort Tuesday.
Cassidy liked how Senyshyn and Bjork “did a real good job getting on pucks, turning pucks over to give us a chance to get on the attack.”
Senyshyn also drew a hooking penalty that let David Pastrnak score a PPG “by going to the net, getting inside ice,” Cassidy said. “Something we’ve asked him, use his speed and his body position. That was a great example of that.”
Senyshyn picked up his second assist via an official change in scoring.
“Definitely a nice surprise,” Senyshyn said.
Still on the outs
David Backes (upper body) was “feeling better,” but did not skate Thursday. He will not play against Detroit. Joakim Nordstrom (infected elbow), Kevan Miller (knee), and Par Lindholm (upper body) practiced in red (noncontact) jerseys. All remain out, though Cassidy said Miller could return the week after next. Nov. 19 at New Jersey or Nov. 21 against Buffalo are possibilities . . . John Moore (shoulder), who like Miller has not played this season, is close to rejoining practice . . . Tuukka Rask will start in Detroit, with Jaroslav Halak slated to take the net Sunday against Philadelphia . . . Coming off their second regulation loss of the year, the Bruins needed no motivation to play the Wings. “We’re aware they’ve struggled recently,” Cassidy said. “They also beat us three times last year. It should not be us thinking we’re going to go in there and have our way. It should be the opposite.”
Follow Matt Porter on Twitter at @mattyports