DETROIT -- Nobody expects the Red Wings to catch the Washington Capitals or Dallas Stars in goals but the Wings do believe they can score more, especially 5-on-5.
The Stars lead the league with 154 goals and the Capitals are right behind at 153.
At 110, the Wings are ahead of just five teams in the Eastern Conference (Buffalo, Toronto, New Jersey, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia) and ahead of just two in the Western Conference (Vancouver, Anaheim).
Wings coach Jeff Blashill has kept the line of Justin Abdelkader-Henrik Zetterberg-Gustav Nyquist intact but the others have changed.
Pavel Datsyuk and Tomas Tatar now have All-Star Dylan Larkin with them.
Riley Sheahan is with Brad Richards and Teemu Pulkkinen.
Luke Glendening centers Tomas Jurco and Darren Helm.
"We’ll see how long any of these line combinations (last)," Blashill said. "We’ve played good hockey. We’ve won five of seven games but we feel like in order to continue that we got to score a little more five on five. It’s not a reflection on anybody in particular’s play, it’s a reflection on trying to find the best line combinations in trying to score a little more 5-on-5. We tried it a little bit in the short term, we want to see if that helps."
Tatar said he has been on the ice with Larkin before but has never started on a line with him.
"He's a great player," Tatar said. "He's a big part of our team. He helped us get lots of points for sure. Good for him, he's a young guy still learning. He can be a superstar in this league and he's doing well."
Larkin, 19, is tied with Zetterberg for the team lead in points with 30. Larkin and Tatar lead the team with 14 goals apiece.
Blashill said you don't know how a line's chemistry will work until you try it.
Blashill said he has emphasized to Larkin that someone on that line will have to be a net-front presence.
"It doesn’t always mean one guy," Blashill said. "Certainly Pavel has been willing to, Tats has been willing to. The way the situation arises, whoever is there has to be in front. But we can’t have three guys standing on the outside, so Dylan’s got to be aware of that, too. So someone has to be in front of the net. I just think they’re three dynamic offensive players and let’s see if it results in some more five-on-five production on that line."
SMITH GETS FIRST CRACK AT PP: With Niklas Kronwall out for 2-4 weeks following arthroscopic knee surgery, someone will have to play on the power play.
Mike Green has moved up to take Kronwall's spot on the first unit with Nyquist, Zetterberg, Datsyuk and Abdelkader.
Blashill was deciding whether to go with Smith or Danny DeKeyser on the second unit with Tatar, Pulkkinen, Larkin and Brad Richards.
"My gut would be Smitty will get that first chance," Blashill said. "The one thing I said to Smitty is go play, don’t be afraid to make a mistake. Sometimes when you haven’t been out there for a while you think it might be a quick chance, you put too much pressure on yourself, you squeeze your stick a little bit tight. He’s got lots of ability, go use it. He got all the reps yesterday so I would assume we’ll start with him."
One thing the point players on the power play have to do is keep the puck in the offensive zone so it doesn't end up going the other way for a shorthanded chance.
"I think sometimes it’s not just the top guy, it’s the guys away from the puck," Blashill said. "It’s just a matter of recognizing danger. But you try to match the skill-sets. DK has been a great entry guy on the power play during his time here. He does a real good job getting the team in. Right now Richie has done a good job of that, too.
"If we’re struggling to get in, DK might get a little more of those reps. In the zone, they’re both good, they’re different. DK is a don’t break the chain, move the puck type of guy, Smitty might be able to make a little more of an offensive play. Smitty hasn’t had much chance on the power play since he’s been a Red Wing. Let’s give him a chance to see what he can do."
PK WITHOUT MILLER: Glendening leads all NHL forwards in shorthanded time on ice at 131:11, ahead of Toronto's Michael Grabner, who has 126:00.
Now that Drew Miller is out for 4-6 months after knee surgery, Glendening will have to continue to carry the load.
"We kind of stopped killing together this year a bit but it's obviously a huge loss for our team and the PK, but you got to find a way," Glendening said. "You can't let one guy's absence ruin your entire penalty kill."
Miller had played in 82 games each of the previous two seasons.
"Obviously you feel for Millsie," Glendening said. "It's an unfortunate situation. He's had a string of bad luck here in the last year and a half. Getting cut (by a skate to his face) last year and then breaking his jaw and then what's happened now. He's a resilient guy and he's worked hard to put himself in a position where he is. You just hope he's able to come back."
Larkin is among the forwards who will kill penalties, along with Sheahan, Abdelkader and Helm.
Larkin said he tries to follow Glendening's lead when it comes to blocking shots.
Glendening said there's no real science to it.
"I think first it's a willingness to do it, the willingness to get hit," Glendening said. "Sometimes probably it's going to hurt but you've just got to just be a little fearless in that sense but be smart, too. You don't want to take one in the teeth."
ABDELKADER KNOWS CORSI: DetroitRedWings.com managing editor Bill Roose first told the story of Abdelkader going back and earning his degree from Michigan State.
Abdelkader wrote a first-person account about it on The Players' Tribune.
One interesting fact that Abdelkader revealed was one of his final projects he had to do to finish was to write a paper and he elected to write about the analytics in hockey, something he said he didn't know much about before.
"it was fun to learn about the different aspects and different things you can use," Abdelkader said. "Obviously analytics is becoming a bigger part of the game."
Abdelkader said you can use the numbers but they don't apply to every situation.
"Just because that stats say one thing a player’s performance on the ice can say different things," Abdelkader said. "I think when push comes to shove you’re going to put the player on the ice that you’re comfortable with, that’s playing good. I don’t think coaches are going to have a sheet of paper on the bench and say, ‘OK, this guy’s analytics are this and he does this, so I’m going to put
him on the ice.’ It’s going to be more the coach’s feel.
"Maybe after the season they can look at the overall analytics of a player throughout the season to see how much time he’s spent in the offensive
zone, his shots against. It can vary and it can be tough at the end of
a game to judge a player strictly on what his analytics say and that
you’re not going to put him out there when you know how he plays on
the ice and you know he’s an effective player."