If you’re known as a goal scorer in hockey, you have to score goals. Period.
Teemu Pulkkinen’s key to earning a spot in Detroit’s lineup this season is as simple as that.
And so far, he hasn’t disappointed.
Pulkkinen has appeared in just two of the Red Wings’ six preseason games, but is tied with Andreas Athanasiou for a team-high five points (3-2-5). Pulkkinen had a two-goal game against a depleted Penguins team, but nonetheless his production has been promising.
“I think Pulky’s worked very hard at rounding out his game and becoming more of a 200-foot player than when we first had him in Grand Rapids,” said Red Wings coach Jeff Blashill. “But he’s still working on that. If you’re a goal scorer, you’ve gotta score.”
There’s that phrase again.
Pulkkinen, known as a prolific goal scorer, had a breakout season with the Grand Rapids Griffins in 2013-14. He appeared in 71 games, scoring 31 goals and adding 28 assists. Pulkkinen also made his debut with the Wings that season, but didn’t record any points in just three games.
The forward split his time between the NHL and AHL last year, earning eight points in 31 games in his rookie season with the Wings, and 61 points in 46 games with the Griffins.
Pulkkinen is guaranteed a roster spot with the Wings this season because he’s no longer waiver-exempt. Therefore, he’ll have an opportunity to work his way into Detroit’s lineup in his first full NHL season.
“I think I have to score some goals — that’s what I’m doing — and make some plays and make the same way that I played in Grand Rapids,” Pulkkinen said. “I didn’t have to do anything special, just the same way. It’s hard to make the lineup here. There are a lot of guys here at the moment.”
With several young players, recently acquired free agents and veterans vying for spots on the Wings’ roster, Pulkkinen knows it will be anything but easy to crack the team’s top three lines. The NHL is also extremely different than the AHL, and other than continuing to score goals, another key to Pulkkinen’s success is keeping the game simple.
“It’s a different game when you play in Grand Rapids,” Pulkkinen said. “You play a lot of minutes. And here, I didn’t play so much, so the game is different.
“You don’t want to do any mistakes when you’re playing less minutes. You just want to keep it simple and don’t try too much. When you play a lot of minutes, the coach trusts you, so you can try some things and the game is easier.”
Although two preseason games against depleted NHL teams is hardly enough time to judge Pulkkinen’s play, it doesn’t appear that he’ll have much difficulty transitioning into a full-time NHL player.
He’s currently day-to-day with an upper-body injury, but will be an exciting player to watch once he returns to the ice fighting for a spot in the Wings’ lineup.