Skip to Main Content
The Official Site of the Detroit Red Wings

Notes: Red Wings focus on penalty kill in practice

Crazy overtime game overshadowed Zetterberg's four-point night

by Dana Wakiji @Dwakiji /

NEWARK -- The Red Wings have no choice but to move on from Friday night's unbelievable 7-6 overtime defeat to the New York Islanders at Brooklyn's Barclays Center.

With Tyler Bertuzzi in the dressing room after receiving a match penalty for slashing Cal Clutterbuck, the Islanders scored four times in a span of 3:37 during the five-minute power play.

The Wings managed to tie the game - on a goal that was reviewed for goaltender interference - with 29 seconds left but lost in overtime as Brock Nelson completed his hat trick.

"There's not one thing you can about it, except for learn," Wings coach Jeff Blashill said. "You can't go get yesterday back in life. All you can do is learn from it and move forward. So we have to move forward. The lesson there, we got to make sure we're disciplined and we gotta be ultra committed like playoff hockey to blocking shots. And then we've got to do lots of things we did. We played fast, we were one top of them.

"We played great hockey for certainly 40 minutes if not 55 minutes, even though they pushed a little bit in the beginning of the third. We've got to do the same thing tomorrow. That's the hockey that makes us successful. I think our guys understand that. We gotta go tomorrow and play the same way."

The Wings practiced Saturday morning at New Jersey's Prudential Center before leaving for Washington, D.C., where they play the Capitals Sunday.

Naturally, one of the main points of focus was the penalty kill.

"Obviously, we gave up four there last night, so we want to make sure we get back to work at it," Blashill said. "I would say the biggest thing is when the penalty kill is at its best, it's making stands at the line, it's forcing the puck out of opposition hand, getting it and getting it out of the zone. We gave up the entry too easy. So when you give up the entry, now you got opportunities for them to shoot and they have a real shooting power play with who I think is the best net-front guy (Anders Lee) in the league. The best way to avoid that is to not let them set up. Unfortunately last night, we let them set up too much."

Players like Dylan Larkin, Andreas Athanasiou and Justin Abdelkader all play on both the power play and penalty kill so they don't often get to practice the penalty kill.

"Our penalty kill's done a really good job most of the year," Abdelkader said. "It was one of those things it snowballed on us. They got one and then two, then three and four.

"Just getting back to making sure we're all on the same page, doing things right. You don't get a lot of times where you can work on PK with PK groups. Today was a day we could do it. Obviously, we know what Washington presents. It's not a secret, so we got to execute, make it harder on them up ice, block shots, make sure we're in lanes and clear the puck. As penalty killers we got to keep it as simple as possible, just execute. Any power play that spends time in your zone makes it tough, so as much as we can we got to get up ice and make it hard on them getting in the zone."

Although the Capitals are just 14th in the league on the power play at 20.8 percent, they can be extremely dangerous, especially with All-Star Alex Ovechkin in his favorite spot in the left circle.

The Wings had Martin Frk play the role of Ovechkin during practice.

"We were just trying to find a righty," Blashill said. "We don't have enough righties so it's hard for us. We had Frk and Witter (Luke Witkowski) and Greener (Mike Green) kind of playing those spots. Again, at least our guys get a little feel for what they're gonna face."

ZETTERBERG EXCELS: Red Wings captain Henrik Zetterberg took a maintenance day and did not skate with the team Saturday morning.

It has been a recent pattern for Zetterberg, which the team believes allows him to perform during games.

"It's one of those things right now where we just collectively feel it's the best thing for him," Blashill said. "Both he, I, the training staff - everybody involved. I think we will continue to monitor it, but right now he still had good legs in the games and that's the key."

Lost a bit in the craziness of the overtime loss Friday was the fact that Zetterberg had a goal and three assists, two more points than any other Wing.

"Z continues to be a real good hockey player in this league," Blashill said. "It's just the reality of it. He's been an elite player for a long, long, long time, one of best two-way centers in the league for a long time. I think as the year moves along and the games get tighter and the ice is harder out there, he continues to excel because of his brain, his will and his strength on the puck."

Zetterberg now has seven goals and 31 assists in 53 games. His 31 assists are one shy of Larkin's team-leading 32.

With Zetterberg out, Bertuzzi took his spot on the line with Anthony Mantha and Gustav Nyquist.

David Booth was skating on the fourth line with Luke Glendening and Frk, possibly indicating that Booth will play instead of Bertuzzi on Sunday.

Blashill declined to indicate one way or the other, saying. "We'll make all lineup decisions tomorrow."

CAPITAL CHALLENGE: The Washington Capitals lead the Metropolitan Division with 69 points (32-17-5) in 54 games.

"They're an excellent hockey team," Blashill said. "They've got some really elite players that can create space, so you gotta do what you can to eliminate it. I thought they created space against us even when we had good defensive structure, so we gotta make sure that we're eliminating their space the best we can. We gotta make sure that we're making them defend as much as possible. We gotta make sure that we play to our identity of a fast pressure hockey team. If we do that, we're going to give ourselves a chance to win."

Ovechkin leads the league in goals with 32.

One of those goals came in overtime when Ovechkin scored the game-winner on the power play in a 4-3 victory over the Wings Oct. 20 at Little Caesars Arena.

But the Capitals are a lot more than Ovechkin.

Evgeny Kuznetsov has 15 goals among his 52 points, defenseman John Carlson has nine goals among 42 points, Nicklas Backstrom has 12 goals among 41 points and All-Star goaltender Braden Holtby is 28-10-2 with a 2.74 goals-against average and .916 save percentage in 40 games.

The Capitals are an impressive 20-8-1 at home this season.

"They always play well in their home building," Abdelkader said. "It's always an energetic and fun atmosphere. We've played some really good games with them in the past there. Look forward to another one, we just got to take it one kill at a time, obviously be aware of Ovechkin. But he's not our main focus. We got to do what we do and stay with our structure."

The 20 home wins are tied for most in the league with the Pittsburgh Penguins, Winnipeg Jets and Dallas Stars.

FIGHTING MOOD: Abdelkader had not been in a fight since fracturing his cheekbone in a battle Nov. 9 against Calgary's Troy Brouwer.

But late in the second period, Abdelkader went toe to toe with the Islanders' Johnny Boychuk.


"It was fine," Abdelkader said. "It was tough at the end when he was throwing punches and both my arms were tied up, so I couldn't really do too much. I felt fine. It was a battle but Johnny and I had started, kind of all game really. Started in the corner and finished me, just kind of battling in front. I didn't think I slew-footed him, it was just kind of a battle and he took offense to it and a fight happens, which happens once in a while."

Abdelkader was sporting a black eye Saturday.

View More