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Notes: Red Wings embrace their fast game

Wings are focused, calm, balanced and winning

by Arthur J. Regner @arthurjregner /

DETROIT -- A lot of factors have contributed to the recent reversal of fortune for the Detroit Red Wings.

After a six-game stretch where Detroit earned only one point out of a possible 12, the Wings have gone 6-2-1 and have propelled themselves into a third-place tie with Ottawa in the Atlantic Division standings.

It is certainly early in a long NHL season, but the Wings have a different vibe going this season and it all starts with utilizing their speed and playing fast.

"I think if you're an opponent of ours lately you'd say we're really fast. I've heard that from a number of opponents, whether it was players talking to players or talking to scouts or talking to coaches," Wings coach Jeff Blashill said. "Being fast has way more to do with how you play than it does to having fast players in your lineup.

"Certainly, having fast players in your lineup helps but you have to play fast. That gets thrown around a lot now in the NHL. It's an attack mentality, it's not slowing the game down, it's not letting other teams set up their defense. It's attacking before they're allowed to set up their defense. I think we've bought into it and done a way better job of that lately."

Detroit's captain, Henrik Zetterberg, who admonished his team during their six-game malaise, agrees with Blashill, but he also feels the Wings have kept their game simple, which allows more players to contribute.

"That's the big factor, I think, keep it a lot simpler," Zetterberg said. "When we do that we spend less time in our own end, spend more time in their end. I think especially in the neutral zone, too, we're not bringing pucks back as much as we did, we try to go north right away. With the speed we have on our team, it makes it easier for us.

"Also the way we're playing now, we're using a lot more forwards. You see the ice time is pretty equal, at least the top nine, so everyone gets a little bit more feel in the game and the chemistry in the lines, too.

"We're on the same page, we're not trying to do too much, have patience and we know we're going to get our chances if we do things right and not try to force it. I think last night (Friday versus Buffalo) was a good example of a game where you can easily try to do too much and turn pucks over and all of a sudden the game goes in their favor. Instead we kept it simple and had patience and eventually we got our goals."

With the Wings playing a more controlled game where each player understands what he has to do to be successful, it has been reflected in a more balanced scoresheet.

Nine Wings forwards have scored at least four goals this season. Luke Glendening has already notched five goals, two more than he scored all of last season.

"This team wants to be a great team," Blashill said. "To do that you got to make sure every time you're out there you're playing great. We're growing as a hockey team.

"That growth has happened over the last two years for sure. Sometimes that gets missed a little bit. Some of the trials we went through last year allow you to grow and a number of players have grown because of it."

DeKEYSER RETURNS: Danny DeKeyser will return to the Wings' blue line on Sunday when Detroit hosts the Colorado Avalanche at Little Caesars Arena. DeKeyser has missed the last 17 games with what was originally thought to be a sprained ankle.

"At first looked like a sprain but the more it went on they took a second look at it and there was a small fracture in there, so it just took a little while to heal," DeKeyser said. "It wasn't feeling great in the boot when I tried skating a few weeks ago, so just kind of shut it down for a couple weeks and let it heal up.

Like many of his teammates, DeKeyser was looking forward to redeeming himself after a dismal performance last season and after Saturday's practice he was relieved and eager to get finally get back into the lineup.

"It's been 16-17 games, something like that, so I'm excited to get back in there," DeKeyser said. "Foot's feeling really good, got some good skates in this week, so I'm just ready to get out there tomorrow.

"Mobility is fine. When I tried skating on it a few weeks ago, I knew something didn't feel right but since they found the crack, it healed up and now it feels great. So it's just about getting back into the swing of things and getting back into game mentality."

While the Wings are happy to have DeKeyser back, Blashill cautioned that the Western Michigan product may be a bit rusty.

"Having DeKeyser back in time will help," Blashill said. "I say in time because there's going to be an adjustment period, he hasn't played in a long time. "You practice but not like you do in training camp. It'll take a little bit for him to get up to full speed but having him back certainly helps puck moving but it helps us period. He's one of our better defensemen."

With DeKeyser back in the fold, the Wings assigned Brian Lashoff to the Grand Rapids Griffins.

DETROIT - COLORADO REMEMBERED: Sunday evening (6pm face-off) the Colorado Avalanche will make their lone appearance at Little Caesars Arena.

At one time the games between Detroit and Colorado were arguably the most anticipated games in all of professional sports.

Two supremely talented squads that had utter disdain for each other created a fierce rivalry which ranks among the NHL's all-time best.

"The whole thing," was how Blashill responded when he was asked what he remembered most about Detroit versus Colorado. "That team was a barrier to the ultimate success and I think there's lots of people that questioned whether or not those teams (Red Wings) in the 90s were going to reach it after Jersey (1995 Cup Finals) and certainly after the '96 (Western Conference Finals) with Colorado.

"Looked like maybe Colorado was going to take king of the mountain that Detroit wanted. It was a different era then, more great teams and more bad teams probably, so those rivalries were really magnified."

Back in 2002, the Wings flew two highly touted prospects over from Sweden, Henrik Zetterberg and Niklas Kronwall, to see the Western Conference Finals between the Wings and the Avalanche.

"I wish I would have played a few games when it was the real, real battles there, I was glad I was able to watch it live at least," Zetterberg said recalling 2002. "But the rivalries between teams comes and goes; it's mostly when you play a team a lot in the playoffs those real battles start.

"Obviously if we're going to play the Avalanche now we're going to play them in the Cup final. It's one of the reasons it has kind of died out."

While he was back in Sweden watching the Wings and Avalanche, Zetterberg rooted for one team over the other, but it was difficult.

"I was a Wings fan," Detroit's captain said. "But at the same time a (Peter) Forsberg fan, so it was a tough one for me."

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