DETROIT – For the third straight game coach Jeff Blashill has decided to go with Alexey Marchenko over Brendan Smith, who will watch from the Red Wings’ dressing room Friday night.
Blashill insists the Wings have seven solid defensemen on the roster and each goes through an evaluation before a decision is made on which six will play the next game.
“I don’t know that it’s only a decision between those two,” said Blashill, when asked why Marchenko would play instead of Smith against the Minnesota Wild tonight. “It doesn’t mean that we don’t consider all seven of them and look at and say who is gonna be in the lineup and who’s not. … We have seven guys who have proven to be good NHL defensemen throughout their careers but I think each seven can also play better and we’re gonna need to play better tonight to make sure we put ourselves in a position to win a hockey game.”
A chief concern among the players lately has been the drop off in communication among teammates on the ice, which has lead to turnovers and scoring chances against.
“It’s critical, it’s something that (Chris Chelios) has been talking about since day one here,” Blashill said. “He’s been a believer that, in general, guys can talk a lot more. Certainly it’s something that we’ve re-emphasized here lately. I think it’s been much better; I can hear it in practice. But I think it’s hard to always have your head up and see the whole ice, so that’s where talking can help you see the ice. So that’s the biggest thing with that.”
The Wings will need to cut down on the turnovers against the Wild, who have points in eight of the past 10 games, and are five points ahead of Colorado for the final wild car spot in the Western Conference playoff race.
With five games remaining, it seems more likely that the Red Wings (87 points) can pass the Boston Bruins (88 points) for third place in the Atlantic Division before they’ll trump Philadelphia (89 points) for the final wild card in the Eastern Conference.
For a power play that has underperformed for much of the season, the Wild certainly didn’t want to give the Red Wings too many chances to get their offense revved up.
But they did … and the Red Wings took advantage of it.
Dylan Larkin’s 23nd goal of the season extended the Wings’ power play streak to seven straight games with at least one goal with the man advantage.
Niklas Kronwall and Henrik Zetterberg assisted on the goal scored at 12:52. With his goal, Larkin moves into 12th place on the team’s all-time rookie scoring list with 45 points.
Earlier in the period, a giveaway by Mike Green deep in the Red Wings’ zone created an ideal scoring chance for Jarret Stoll at 5:41 of the period. But the Wild center missed scoring the game’s first goal by a fraction of an inch when his snap shot struck the far post and stayed out of the net.
Jimmy Howard wasn’t challenged much in the period, though he did look shaky on a few of the shots that he had to handle.
Midway through the period Justin Abdelkader was involved in a scrum with Minnesota defenseman Ryan Suter near the side of the Wild net. It appeared that Suter wrapped his gloved hand around Abdelkader’s face. The Wings’ forward immediately skated off to the dressing room. He did not return to the team bench for the rest of the period.
DETROIT 1, MINNESOTA 0
SCORING: 1. DET, Larkin PPG (Kronwall, Zetterberg), 12:52.
PENALTIES: 1. DET, Quincey (holding), 6:08; 1. MIN, Stoll (slashing), 9:36; 3. MIN, Zucker (tripping), 12:04.
SHOTS: Detroit 11, Minnesota 5.
Abdelkader return for the start of the period.
Riley Sheahan, who got jobbed on a power-play goal in the first period, picked up an assist – his fifth point in the past five games – on Tomas Tatar’s sharp angle goal at 2:32. Gustav Nyquist also picked up an assist on the goal that put the Wings up 2-0.
The Wings nearly went up three goals but Luke Glendening’s shot struck the crossbar behind Wild goalie Devan Dubnyk at the six-minute mark.
Things got a little rough in the second half of the period after Abdelkader laid out Marco Scandella at the blue line. Defenseman Matt Dumba took exception and challenged Abdelkader by the Red Wings’ bench. Both players went to the bench box to serve two-minute minors.
The Wild picked up the pressure late and finally solved Howard when a point shot by Jonas Brodin, which may have been tipped by Zetterberg’s stick, beat the Wings’ netminder on the far stick side.
DETROIT 2, MINNESOTA 1
SCORING: 1. DET, Tatar (Nyquist, Sheahan), 2:32; 2. MIN, Brodin (Suter, Parise), 16:42.
PENALTIES: 1. MIN, Dumba (roughing), 11:05; 2. DET, Abdelkader (cross-checking), 11:05.
SHOTS: Detroit 8 (19), Minnesota 12 (17).
Pavel Datsyuk left the game in the first minutes of the period. The Wings’ center headed to the dressing room under his own power after Wild forward Nino Niederreiter accidentally struck him above the shoulders. No penalty was called.
However, the Wings managed to score on the next shift when the Sheahan line produced again.
Sheahan got the goal when he wrapped the puck around Dubnyk’s outstretched right pad at 2:08. Jonathan Ericsson picked up the lone assist on the play.
Datsyuk missed nearly half the period and returned to the bench in time to witness the Wild’s second goal of the game that cut Detroit’s lead to 3-2. This time it was center Mikael Granland, from Suter and Zach Parise at 9:43.
The Wild lifted Dubnyk for an extra attacker at 18:38. But the Wings came up with a big defensive effort late to seal the win, including Danny DeKeyser, who had a huge clear from inside the blue paint.
DETROIT 3, MINNESOTA 2
SCORING: 1. DET, Sheahan (Ericsson), 2:08; 2. MIN, Granland (Suter, Parise), 9:43.
SHOTS: Detroit 10 (29), Minnesota 5 (22).