GRAND RAPIDS – A move down to the Grand Rapids Griffins, whether temporary or not, did not come as a surprise to Taro Hirose.
Self-evaluation told him that.
“I think when you’re not playing and not playing well, as I don’t think I was, there’s always the reality that you can get sent down,” he said after his first game with the Griffins and in the AHL. “I’m just looking at it as a positive and trying to get better while I’m down here.”
The 23-year-old, signed last March out of Michigan State and sent straight to the Red Wings, joined the Griffins along with Filip Zadina with the thought both can get playing time during an idle period for the Red Wings. Since losing on Monday, they don’t play again until Saturday.
It’s uncertain what happens next. Up top, Justin Abdelkader might be ready to return from injury, which could leave both player in Grand Rapids. If not, one of them is expected to return.
Based on recent outings, Zadina would appear the frontrunner. Red Wings coach Jeff Blashill had spoken about moving him to the first line and he had been practicing earlier this week on the power play unit.
Where could that leave Hirose? He said that’s out of his hands.
“They said they’d re-evaluate in a couple days,” he said. “So, yeah, just looking at it positively whether I’m down here for a couple weeks, the rest of the season or going back for the next game up in Detroit. To me, it really doesn’t matter because right now I’m here and trying to help this team win.”
Hirosa joined Zadina along with Chris Terry, Givani Smith and Joe Hicketts on the Griffins power play that struggled early.
Hirosa did pick up a goal as he tipped in a sparkling pass off the boards from Smith early in the third period for the first goal in the Griffins’ 5-2 loss to visiting Chicago.
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Hirose has played in 23 games for the Red Wings with seven points (2-5-7) six penalty minutes and minus-11 rating in 12:16 minutes average ice time. He has struggled with two goals (2-0-2) in 10 games in November. He has been a healthy scratch in two of the past three games.
The 5-foot-10, 162-pound winger agreed it was “tough being in and out of the lineup” in Detroit, and should find more ice time to refine his game in Grand Rapids.
“Just getting more confidence around the puck,” Hirose said. “The guys around down here (in the AHL) still do it strong and play hard, and so making quick decisions with the puck and smart decisions are things I can continue to work on.”
Griffins coach Ben Simon called Hirose “a smart player.”
“He’s not the biggest guy, obviously. But he plays extremely smart. He uses body positioning well. He has great composure with the puck.”
Hirose will be with a struggling team no matter where he goes. The Griffins currently have a six-game losing streak while the Red Wings are winless their last 10.
“I just try to play my game and bring a positive attitude to the rink,” he said. “You know, when you’re kind of in a slump as a team you can get down on yourself and can get quiet and not talk to each other. In this room we have a lot of good veteran guys who keep the talk in the locker room and for me I just want to come in and help with this offense.”
The Griffins are home Friday against Rockford before embarking on a six-game road trip that begins Wednesday with four games in California. The Red Wings host Pittsburgh on Saturday before an away-and-home next Tuesday and Thursday against Winnipeg.
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