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Red Wings look for positives, eye reset to end 10-game winless streak

Detroit has NHL-low 17 points, on pace for worst season since 1985-86

by Nicholas J. Cotsonika @cotsonika / NHL.com Columnist

DETROIT -- Jeff Blashill faces a massive challenge as coach of the Detroit Red Wings, and we aren't talking about winning.

"It's hard when you lose to keep a calm …" 

His voice trailed off as he searched for a better word.

"Not calm," he said. "To keep clear eyes, where you see things as they are, because frustration can build."

 

[RELATED: Red Wings fall to Islanders in eighth straight loss]

 

Blashill knows it doesn't look good.

The Red Wings have gone winless in 10 games (0-8-2) and lost eight straight in regulation. They're last in the NHL with 17 points even though they have played 30 games, most in the League. They're five points behind the 30th-place team, the New Jersey Devils, who have four games in hand.

Their point percentage is .283, putting them on pace for about 46 points. Since the NHL salary cap arrived in 2005-06, ushering in an era of parity, the lowest point total in a full 82 games has been 48, by the Colorado Avalanche in 2016-17.

"This is the toughest year I've been a part of," said forward Darren Helm, who has played for the Red Wings since 2007-08, the last time they won the Stanley Cup.

Video: Eberle scores twice, Islanders defeat Red Wings

Detroit is in danger of having its worst season since 1985-86, when the Red Wings had 40 points in 80 games and there was no 3-on-3 overtime, no shootout and no point for an overtime loss. Steve Yzerman was in his third season as a Red Wings forward then.

He's in his first season as the Red Wings general manager now. If he's going to build this team into a champion the way it was built then, he will need patience. Lots of it. Detroit didn't win the Cup until 1997 then and doesn't have a player like Yzerman around which to build now.

In the meantime, the coaches and players need to snap this losing streak, then make something of this season individually and collectively.

"We can't keep this up," center Dylan Larkin said. "It's just [early December]. We've got to find a way to get some positive energy in here and find a way to win a greasy game."

Video: NYI@DET: Larkin taps in Bertuzzi rebound for PPG

It's hard to find positives when Detroit is last in goals per game (2.10), goals against per game (3.93), goal differential (minus-55) and penalty-killing percentage (72.6 percent), and 26th in power-play percentage (13.8 percent).

It's especially difficult to have positive energy when you've scored four goals in your past five games, five in your past six. 

"We've got to put the puck in the net," Larkin said. "That's fun. That's when everyone's smiling."

But there have been extenuating circumstances. The Red Wings lost their leading scorer when forward Anthony Mantha sustained a lower-body injury against the New Jersey Devils on Nov. 23. He has missed five straight games. They also have been without arguably their No. 1 defenseman in Danny DeKeyser, who's been out the past 21 games with a lower-body injury, and goalie in Jimmy Howard, who's missed the past three games with a mid-body injury.

And at least at times, it hasn't been as bad as it has looked. 

The Red Wings lost to the Washington Capitals 5-2 on Saturday, but it was 3-2 until Alex Ovechkin scored a couple of empty-net goals. They lost to the New York Islanders 4-1 on Monday but outshot them 31-25. 

"We played really, really well, to be honest with you," Blashill said. "We're going to have tons of really good clips and things we did really, really well." 

Blashill always has emphasized the process and shown positive video clips to reinforce good habits. That's more important with no results.

Video: NYI@DET: Beauvillier buries backhander on breakaway

"I think one of the best ways to learn is to see it done right, and I think now's a time when you can certainly do that even more because of the fact that they've got to know they're doing positive things," Blashill said. "Again, my job is to have as clear eyes as possible and see it how it is, and we played real good hockey."

After playing more hockey than anyone else in the League to this point, the Red Wings get a much-needed respite before their next game, against the Pittsburgh Penguins at Little Caesars Arena on Saturday (7 p.m. ET; FS-D, ATTSN-PT, NHL.TV).

The issue has not been effort for the most part, so why rant and rave? Recharge and refocus. 

"I don't have to walk around here and be mad at everybody and be dark and gloomy," Blashill said. "If we do good stuff … Like, [at Tuesday's] practice, we're going to try to get better. We're going to look at some areas where we can improve. We've got a week here where we don't play, which you never get in the NHL. We're going to reset a little bit."

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