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Red Wings forced to skip rebuild, revitalize roster from within

Must adapt to new arena, get better results on power play to start new playoff streak

by Dave Hogg / NHL.com Correspondent

The Detroit Red Wings will need better performances from every part of their team if they want to return to the Stanley Cup Playoffs after missing them last season for the first time since 1990.

For many teams, a poor season (14th in the Eastern Conference) combined with an aging roster would mean the start of a rebuilding process. Detroit, though, doesn't have the NHL salary cap space to make major changes.

"When things go bad, you kind of have two choices and this is exactly the message I'm going to give them," coach Jeff Blashill told the Red Wings website. "You can decide to feel sorry for yourself, you can place blame, you can do all those things or you can dig in and fight like hell. We're going to dig in and fight like hell."

Here is a look at the five keys for the Red Wings, the inside scoop on their roster questions and projected lines for the 2017-18 season:

 

5 KEYS

1. Adapting to a new home

For the first time in 38 years, the Red Wings won't be playing at Joe Louis Arena. Detroit's time in one of the NHL's last true barns closed April 9 with a 4-1 win against the New Jersey Devils, a game interrupted every few minutes by flying octopi. This season, the Red Wings move into Little Caesars Arena. The new building has every comfort Detroit could want -- including a practice rink with 300 seats -- but will it have the same atmosphere and springy end boards?

2. Larkin's comeback

When Dylan Larkin joined his hometown team in 2015, it looked like the Red Wings had found their next top center. At the halfway point of his rookie year, Larkin had 29 points (14 goals, 15 assists) in 41 games and was plus-24. At 19, he went to the All-Star Game. The second half of the season wasn't quite as successful, with 16 points (nine goals, seven assists) in 39 games and a minus-13 rating, but he still looked like a success story. Last season was a major step backward. He had 32 points (17 goals, 15 assists) and was minus-28. The biggest problems were finding open space -- he attempted 310 shots, 80 fewer than his rookie season -- and making good passes. If he returns to form, it would be a boost to Detroit's offense.

Video: MTL@DET: Larkin buries one-timer from the circle

3. Better power-play production

Detroit was 27th on the power play (15.1 percent) and needed a strong final month to avoid finishing last in the NHL. A major difference was the retirement of forward Pavel Datsyuk, who had a Red Wings-high eight power-play goals and 12 power-play assists in 2015-16. Two of his teammates also had at least 20 power-play points, with defenseman Mike Green scoring five goals and 15 assists, and forward Henrik Zetterberg getting two goals and 20 assists. Last season, no one had more than five goals or 15 points with the man-advantage.

4. Rebuilding Mrazek's confidence

In early 2016, Petr Mrazek looked like one of the best goalies in the NHL. Between New Year's Day and the middle of February, he went 10-2-2 with three shutouts and a .949 save percentage. The hot streak ended on his 24th birthday, and he went 6-6-1 with an .886 save percentage in his last 16 appearances. Last season didn't get much better, Mrazek competed with rookie Jared Coreau for the starting job after Jimmy Howard injured his knee Dec. 20. Mrazek's future in Detroit depends on him regaining confidence.

Video: MTL@DET: Mrazek denies Galchenyuk, absorbs collision

5. Creating a new identity

For the past quarter century, the Red Wings have been built around the model put into place by Jimmy Devellano and Scotty Bowman: deep, skillful rosters with a heavy European influence. That's changed now. Datsyuk's gone, defenseman Niklas Kronwall is limited by bad knees, and Zetterberg is slowing with age. As the Red Wings move into a new arena, they must find the foundation of their next contending roster.

 

ROSTER RUNDOWN

Biggest lock

Zetterberg isn't the All-Star he was a decade ago, but he's still the first name on Blashill's lineup card. He had 68 points (17 goals, 51 assists) in 82 games last season, 20 more than any other Red Wings player, and led Detroit at plus-15.

Video: NJD@DET: Zetterberg buries wrister in 1,000th game

Biggest battle

Detroit has a shortage of top-pair defensemen. Danny DeKeyser is supposed to be the No. 1 defenseman, but he had 12 points (four goals, eight assists) and was minus-22 in 82 games. Green is a lock for the top power-play unit, but doesn't help much on defense, and Kronwall's knees aren't likely to allow him to play a major role. Trevor Daley, who signed a three-year contract July 1, won the Stanley Cup in back-to-back seasons with the Pittsburgh Penguins but wasn't playing on their top defense pair.

Most intriguing addition

Forward Evgeny Svechnikov was Detroit's first-round pick (No. 19) in the 2015 NHL Draft and helped Grand Rapids of the American Hockey League win the Calder Cup last season. Svechnikov didn't look out of place in two games with the Red Wings in April and could compete for a bottom-six role.

Biggest potential surprise

Forward Andreas Athanasiou, a restricted free agent, is holding out while considering an offer from the Kontinental Hockey League. He finished second on the Red Wings with 18 goals last season averaging 1:12 on the power play. If his contract issues are settled, he's got a chance to take a significant step forward.

 

PROJECTED LINEUP

Gustav Nyquist -- Henrik Zetterberg -- Tomas Tatar

Anthony Mantha -- Frans Nielsen -- Justin Abdelkader

Darren Helm -- Dylan Larkin -- Andreas Athanasiou

Riley Sheahan -- Luke Glendening -- Evgeny Svechnikov

Danny DeKeyser -- Trevor Daley

Mike Green -- Xavier Ouellet

Nick Jensen -- Jonathan Ericsson

Jimmy Howard

Petr Mrazek

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