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Kane and Wings on unique path, Carlsson's load management, and 4 other NHL items

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Amid Detroit's chaotic 6-5 overtime loss to San Jose on Thursday, Patrick Kane reminded the hockey world why he earned the nickname "Showtime."

Kane, who inked a one-year deal with the Red Wings last week, recorded eight shot attempts in his debut. He failed to register a point but rang the post on a partial breakaway in the third period. He skated well, winning races to loose pucks on multiple occasions. The 35-year-old was his usual crafty and measured self in a playmaking role, too; his chemistry with former linemate Alex DeBrincat was apparent from their opening shift together. He logged nearly 17 minutes of even-strength and power-play action.

Kane's return to the NHL was extremely encouraging. It was also a reminder of the unique path Detroit is on.

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Unlike the Atlantic Division's other upstart clubs - Ottawa, Buffalo, and Montreal - the Wings haven't picked in the top three of the draft during their rebuild despite bottoming out in similar fashion. While Dylan Larkin, DeBrincat, Lucas Raymond, Moritz Seider, and Kane (if he continues to play well) are all top-of-the-lineup players, the Wings lack a bona fide superstar.

They don't have a Tim Stutzle equivalent up front nor a Rasmus Dahlin-Owen Power combo on the back end. (Yeah, we'll leave Juraj Slafkovsky out of this.)

Instead, Detroit - 14-7-4 and comfortably ahead of Ottawa, Buffalo, and Montreal in the standings - has filled key lineup spots with trusty vets in or past their primes.

"When you sign with us, you're signing up for trying to build something," Red Wings head coach Derek Lalonde said earlier this week about integrating so many moving parts. "You can see a decent young core. They can envision themselves being part of it. They want to be here. Even Patty (Kane). He wanted to be here. DeBrincat and (Jeff) Petry in the offseason through some trades. It speaks volumes about what we're trying to build and do."

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This strategy of finding outside help shifted into high gear this past offseason. On top of DeBrincat and Petry, general manager Steve Yzerman brought in J.T. Compher, Klim Kostin, Christian Fischer, Daniel Sprong, Shayne Gostisbehere, Justin Holl, Alex Lyon, and James Reimer. The average age of the entire haul, including Kane: 29.5. Talk about a lot of mileage - and depth.

Top scorers Larkin and DeBrincat are tied for 29th and 37th, respectively, in league-wide points. Yet, the Wings as a team rank second in goals per game.

"We have a lot of top-end skill in a lot of different places," Raymond told theScore. "Our biggest advantage is our depth - the way we have four really good lines who can play (consistently). We have seven really good D-men as well."

The influx of vets puts Detroit in a fascinating position for 2023-24: It appears to be a club with a relatively high floor (almost guaranteed to finish in or just outside of the playoffs) and relatively low ceiling (one playoff series win?).

That isn't bad. It's just different compared to what's happening elsewhere.

Carlsson's slow burn with Ducks

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The tricky part about analyzing Leo Carlsson's much-discussed load-management plan with the Ducks is that alternative realities don't exist. It's impossible to know if a regular schedule of games, versus the lightened load Carlsson's currently taking on, would have been better or worse for the rookie.

The comparison simply can't be made.

Disclaimer out of the way, the plan - in which Carlsson appears in roughly two games per week until the midpoint of the season while focusing on building strength and speed through off-ice training - has been hugely successful.

Carlsson has contributed eight goals, including three against the Flyers on Nov. 10, plus five assists while appearing in 18 of Anaheim's 26 games. He's attacking and playmaking with confidence while skating for 18:20 a night. Impressively, the second pick in the 2023 draft is third among rookies in points per game (0.72), trailing Connor Bedard (0.84) and Connor Zary (0.75).

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"He's going to be elite," Avalanche head coach Jared Bednar, whose club has faced off against Carlsson three times already, told reporters this week. "Big, long guy that's only going to get stronger. He's a great skater, and he's got silky hands. He's an intelligent player with a skill set that's off the charts."

Couldn't agree more. Carlsson, who's listed at 6-foot-3, 194 pounds, reminds me of Aleksander Barkov. If that seems like heady praise for a kid barely acclimated to the NHL and turning 19 later this month, well, it is.

Truthfully, my initial reaction to the news of the Ducks' load-management plan was cynical. I thought general manager Pat Verbeek might be babying a young player suiting up for a rebuilding team. By limiting his games, it could look like he was trying to suppress Carlsson's future earning potential and trying to lose more often to increase draft lottery odds. I was clearly wrong.

Carlsson and his agent have been open about how they're generally on board with the plan - which, by the way, isn't for every team or high-end prospect. In Carlsson's case, though, maybe a slower burn is in fact the perfect pace.

Anderson battling prolonged cooler

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Josh Anderson has always been a player who catches the eye. He's 6-foot-3, 224 pounds, can skate like the wind, and can really wire the puck. He delivers body checks and fights here and there. His physical gifts are notable.

Those gifts haven't completely disappeared this season. But his scoring touch has. Anderson, who's potted between 17 and 27 goals in each of his seven full NHL seasons, is on pace for just three. Through 26 games, the Canadiens' winger has one lonely goal into a vacant net.

On that one scoring play, Anderson slung the puck from below the hashmarks in Montreal's zone and into Seattle's open cage. It brought a smile to Anderson's face, but it comes with an asterisk. The last time he scored on a netminder was March 13 - 31 games ago.

What a baffling stretch for a guy with a career shooting percentage of 11.1%.

Anderson's generated a total of 91 shot attempts, 51 of which have been marked as a shot on goal. That shots-on-goal rate (7.1 per 60 minutes) is indeed lower than his career average; however, to Anderson's credit, he's racked up a respectable 7.47 expected goals, according to Natural Stat Trick.

So, there's a decent amount of plain ol' bad puck luck baked into Anderson's prolonged cooler. He's hit several posts and been robbed a few times, most notably by Jacob Markstrom during a mid-November game against Calgary.

Still, this isn't a bad week or month. One-third of the season is over. Anderson scored on just 1.6% of his shots for Columbus in 2019-20 - an anomaly for his career - but he was battling injury. Right now? He's apparently fully healthy.

Parting shots

Sid the (old) Kid: The Penguins' trainwreck of a power play (seven goals on 71 man-advantage opportunities) is rightfully attracting everybody's attention. So much so that it's overshadowing captain Sidney Crosby's stellar age-36 season. The 23rd-oldest player in the league sits third in five-on-five points, with 20 in 25 games (he trails buddy Nathan MacKinnon and teammate Jake Guentzel). Crosby, who's in the "wow, he can still do that" stage of his career, is winning faceoffs and recording takeaways at career-high rates. The Pens are outscoring the opposition 29-18 with him on the ice at five-on-five.

"I've always believed that Sid's defensive game flies under the radar, probably because his offensive game is so dynamic," Pittsburgh head coach Mike Sullivan said prior to a recent game in Buffalo. "No one ever really speaks about his commitment to playing defense. But he's a detailed guy. He's a student of the game. And I think he understands that it's essential to winning."

Happy Claim Day: Next Tuesday marks one year since the Kraken claimed Eeli Tolvanen off waivers. Shortly after the claim, former Predators executive David Poile wondered aloud if losing Tolvanen would come back to haunt Nashville (the club foolishly thought he'd pass through waivers). Spoiler alert: Poile's instincts were spot-on. Tolvanen, 24, has excelled in Seattle, producing 52 points in 89 regular-season and playoff games. He's currently tied for third on the team with 17 points. The 30th overall pick in 2017 boasts a wicked shot. He's a valued member of the power play. His defensive metrics are solid. And he's relatively inexpensive at a $1.45-million cap hit. Good on the Kraken and good for Tolvanen, who didn't get a fair shake in Nashville.

Smart Cats: The 15-8-2 Panthers once again look like a legitimate Stanley Cup contender. But what's jumped off the page when watching them this season is that they evaluate NHL players as good as any team in the league. I intentionally included the word "NHL" above because although Florida's draft-and-develop record is fine, they've acquired established (and sometimes undervalued) NHLers at an exceptionally high rate. Aleksander Barkov is the lone homegrown forward in the top six. Matthew Tkachuk, Sam Reinhart, and Sam Bennett all arrived via trade, and Carter Verhaeghe and Evan Rodrigues were signed as free agents. The blue line was built out similarly: one homegrown talent (Aaron Ekblad) among the four top performers. Brandon Montour - acquired via trade. Gustav Forsling - waivers. Oliver Ekman-Larsson - free agency. All credit to GM Bill Zito and his pro scouting and analytics groups. The Panthers are doing a bang-up job identifying talent.

Takes, Thoughts, and Trends is theScore's biweekly hockey grab bag.

John Matisz is theScore's senior NHL writer. Follow John on Twitter (@MatiszJohn) or contact him via email (john.matisz@thescore.com).

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