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Chances are up, but Wings need more goals

by Bill Roose / Detroit Red Wings
The Red Wings were a loose bunch at practice Thursday as they prepare for Friday's game against the Calgary Flames. (Photo by Dan Mannes/Detroit Red Wings)

CALGARY – Despite dropping a third straight game, the Red Wings are satisfied with the structure, improves and fire power that was on display in their last game.

“I thought there were things that we did better last night than we’ve done previously,” coach Jeff Blashill said following the team’s Thursday afternoon practice at Scotiabank Saddledome.

“We said going in we wanted to spend less time in our zone and more time in their zone and we did that,” Blashill added. “By our account we out-chanced them. That was the first game in a while that we’d out-chanced a team. I thought we took steps forward.”

The Wings’ scoring chances were generated by a considerable up tick in shot attempts. They attempted 28 more shot than the Edmonton Oilers, though the home team snuck more pucks in to the net than Detroit’s shooters.

In Wednesday’s 3-1 loss at Edmonton, the Red Wings certainly had their scoring chances, particularly some golden opportunities by Henrik Zetterberg, Dylan Larkin, Justin Abdelkader and Drew Miller.

Detroit (3-3-0) had 70 shot attempts at Rexall Place, but only 29 made it through to Edmonton goalie Cam Talbot. That means 41 attempts either missed the net or were blocked by the Oilers. However, the attempt total was up significantly (62 percent increase) from the 43.2 shot attempts they averaged in the previous five games.

“We’re getting better,” Zetterberg said. “Start with the Carolina game we didn’t do a lot of things right. The Montreal game we did some improvements and yesterday we took another step, mostly the battle level, we won a lot more battles, spent more time in their end, not so much time in our end. But there’s still things that can be a lot better. Hopefully we can change that tomorrow.”

One area the Wings hope to improve upon Friday against the Calgary Flames is the power play. Since Gustav Nyquist’s second-period power-play goal in the 3-1 win over Tampa Bay on Oct. 13, the Red Wings’ production has dwindled. Detroit’s power play is 0-for-13 in the past three-plus games.

Through the first three weeks of the season, puck possession and puck retrieval haven’t been an issue for the Red Wings’ power play. They’ve managed to spend time in the offensive zone and, as Blashill likes to say, work the process.

They’re all positive signs for the Wings, who owned the league’s second-best power play last season. Still, the Wings’ coach admitted the possibility that he and the coaching staff could take a new approach to help jumpstart the special teams.

“I thought we got pucks to the net, I thought we got rebound chances. We hit a crossbar,” Blashill said, referring to the Wings’ power play. “I thought there were things there. Will we look at personnel? We might. Will we try new wrinkles? I think it’s just stick to your principles and continue to do what we did last night. We’ve still got to get into the zone better. I thought that was one area of the power play last night that wasn’t good enough. We didn’t get into the zone good enough but I did think the process was good.”

Zetterberg would like to see both the first and second PP units getting more shots to the net, where loose pucks often result in rebound goals.

“Last year we created more chaos in front of their net by throwing more pucks in there, didn’t have to be clean shots and really good opportunities,” he said. “We put more pucks there then stuff happens. We started a little bit (at Edmonton) doing that again and we had some chances. Nyquist had one, hit the crossbar early and we had some rebounds that could have gone in. If you look at (Wednesday’s) game we should have at least scored one on the power play and it was a one-goal game. We score two and it’s a tie game. We just have to keep building on what we did and we’ll be fine.”

TOO MANY MEN, AGAIN: Early in the first period Wednesday, Teemu Pulkkinen was sent to the penalty box to serve a bench minor for having too many men on the ice.

The penalty, which occurred at 5:53 of the first period, was the third such bench foul called on the Red Wings in six games this season.

Pulkkinen also served too-many-men penalties against Toronto (Oct. 9) and at Carolina (Oct. 10).

None of the three bench penalties yielded goals against, though Blashill would like to put a stop to such bench-related infractions.

“Last night you saw it … we just jumped at the wrong time,” Blashill said. “At the end we have to clear that up. You can’t have too-many-men penalties. Whether it’s myself as a coach being more clear, whether it’s players jumping at the right time. There’s lots of things that go into it, but we don’t want to take them.”

The Wings have had 25 minor penalties called against them, including four each for holding, tripping, high-sticking, and roughing.

DEFENSIVE PAIRINGS: During Thursday’s 27-minute practice at the Saddledome, Blashill gathered the Wings defensemen to discuss his thoughts on Friday’s D-pairings.

While he didn’t say what he told them, Blashill did say he’s considering a shake up on the blue line.

Since Danny DeKeyser returned last Saturday from a foot injury, the pairings have been Niklas Kronwall and Jonathan Ericsson; DeKeyser with Mike Green; and Jakub Kindl and Kyle Quincey. For the past two games, Brendan Smith has been a healthy scratch.

So is Blashill considering new D-pairings?

“That’s up in the air right now,” Blashill said. “We’re certainly thinking about how can best get guys in the right spot. Yes. The answer’s yes.”

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