DETROIT – Tonight’s Red Wings-Penguins game features a potential clash between the NHL’s top penalty kill versus its top power play.
Detroit enters the game with the league’s top PK that is a perfect 18-for-18 through the first six games. It’s the team’s best start to a season since 1955-56 when they went eight games without allowing a power-play goal by the opposition.
“The key to tonight is don’t take penalties,” said Drew Miller, who is one of the team’s top penalty killers. “You have to play rough and tough and match their speed and their skill out there and all of that, but we have to be smart and not take the penalties that you don’t want to kill of. That’s the biggest thing, and once we are the penalty killers got to do what we’re doing. I just think we’re playing our system well. We’re perfect right now, we want to stay that way, and we know they have a good power play, so we’re just going to stay the same way and work hard.”
The Wings’ PK has been helped out by a limited number of
The Penguins bring with them the league’s most productive unit with a man-advantage. Through five games, three Pens are among the league’s top power-play point getters with Sidney Crosby (six points), Evgeni Malkin (five points) and Patric Hornqvist (five points).
Pittsburgh has scored eight goals on 19 chances. The Penguins’ 5-3 loss to Philadelphia Wednesday night represented the first time Pittsburgh’s power play was held scoreless in a game this season.
“They’re a great team and we have to put our best foot forward on the penalty kill, try to eliminate as much zone time as we can,” Luke Glendening said. “Philly did a good job on them last night but I think overall they’re close to 50 percent.”
A lot of the Red Wings’ success on the penalty kill has come from a new commitment to aggressiveness
“We just work as a unit,” Joakim Andersson said. “We have a lot of good penalty killers, both forwards and defensemen. We have good structure and stick to it. Everybody does their part to be successful.
“It’s the start of the year and we haven’t given up a power-play goal. We’re happy about that and try and keep it that way for as long as we can.”
The players don’t talk much among themselves about particular statistics. That doesn’t make them superstitious either, but they are proud of the incredible job that they’ve done on the penalty kill.
“I guess everybody wants to be on the power play when you’re playing hockey, you want to score goals,” Andersson said. “You find your roles. We take pride in doing that dirty work, block shots, get in lanes, work hard and do those starts and stops you have to do on the penalty kill. I think it’s fun.”
The Red Wings intend to deploy the same lines and defensive pairings as they did Tuesday in Montreal, but coach Mike Babcock has made one small tweak to the power play, which has struggled this season.
Gustav Nyquist and Tomas Jurco will switch roles as Jurco will join the top group with Pavel Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterberg, Darren Helm and Niklas Kronwall.
Nyquist moves to the second unit with Riley Sheahan, Andrej Nestrasil, Tomas Tatar and Danny DeKeyser.
“We want Gus to have more touches,” Babcock said about the power-play shuffle. “Gus, when he plays with those guys never gets the puck. We think Gus is a real good player so we want to get him more touches and we think by having him with Tats and Sheahan that gives him more opportunity to have the puck.”
Jurco, who scored two power-play goals last season, is looking forward to showcasing his skills on the Wings’ top unit tonight.
“I played there last year for a bit when I first got here but I’m just going to try to win some puck battles, get some pucks back to us on the power play,” Jurco said. “I think that’s the main reason for coaches putting me in there. Hopefully it’s going to work out well and we can score some goals.”
The Red Wings began last season without a power-play goal through the first four games. It wasn’t until they went 3-for-7 against Philadelphia in the fifth game that the power play woke up.
This season the Wings’ power play is ranked No. 27, producing just two power-play goals – both by Nyquist – on 24 opportunities.
“I think the biggest thing is we’ve got to fight to score more goals, to get some dirty goals,” Nyquist said. “We’re creating chances, the puck’s lying there, but we’ve got to win those battles, to get a stick on it and put the puck in the net. For sure we haven’t scored enough goals. We’ve been playing pretty well still, but we’d like to score more goals.”
Center - DET
Goals: 1 | Assists: 0 | Pts: 1
Shots: 10- | +/-: E
It didn’t take much persuading for Glendening to add some protective equipment to his gear.
The Red Wings’ fourth-line center has opted to wear a pair of clear plastic shot blockers on his skates. His decision was based on the shot that he blocked late in the second period of Tuesday’s 2-1 overtime loss at Montreal.
“Unfortunately I am,” he said about adding a layer of protection.
Glendening took an Andrei Markov shot off his left foot at 19:06 of the middle frame. He didn’t miss a single shift, but he did learn a valuable lesson.
“It didn’t feel great, but it’s not broken, so you move forward now,” Glendening said. “They’re not heavy and it’s a little added protection. I figured I’ll block shots without them anyways. I almost broke my foot there, I figured it’s better to be safe than sorry.”