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Notes: Red Wings must maintain their poise through adversity

Zadina focused on helping Wings win, not his stat line

by Arthur J. Regner @ArthurJRegner /

DETROIT - After four days of practice and a little down time, the Red Wings feel refreshed and determined as they take on the always challenging Pittsburgh Penguins Saturday night at Little Caesars Arena.

Pittsburgh (16-9-4, 36 points) has been besieged with injuries this season and has been without superstar Sidney Crosby since early November after he decided to undergo surgery for a lingering sports hernia.

Tweet from @DetroitRedWings: Tonight���s giveaway for the first 5,000 fans in attendance: #RedWings nesting dolls. 😃Thanks, @DMC_Heals!

Even with Crosby on IR, the Pens are firmly entrenched in the wild-card race and are competing to finish in one of the top three slots in the Metropolitan Division.

"I watched their game last night (a 2-0 home victory against Arizona). They're definitely playing good defensively," Wings coach Jeff Blashill said after Saturday's optional morning skate. "Obviously when (Evgeni) Malkin's line's on the ice, they're super dynamic. Those three players (Malkin, Jake Guentzel and Bryan Rust) are really, really good players. Then the rest of them are buying into a team game up front and they're not giving a whole bunch up but creating offense.

"We've had a week here to really worry about ourselves. We're way more worried about ourselves than anybody else. There's some areas that we felt we needed to get way better at and kind of rebuild our foundation that we had built coming out of camp and hopefully we've done that."

It's easy to see why Blashill's attention is completely zoned in on his team. Detroit is winless in its last 10 games (0-8-2), but with an almost unprecedented four days off in today's NHL, the Red Wings were able to practice and reinforce many of the good habits they established during the preseason and the early part of the regular season.

Whether it translates into a string of victories remains to be seen, yet during this recent slide, the Wings for the most part have stuck together and remain confident in themselves and their structure.

"Confidence matters. The only way to get confidence though is to go out and earn it," Blashill said. "You have to go out and play really good hockey. I think we've done a pretty good job of playing good hockey over the last number of games with the exception of the Toronto game. If we continue to play good hockey, we'll find our way to a win.

"Once you find your way to a win, it helps boost your confidence. There's no easy answer to it, nobody can inject confidence into you, you have to go out and earn it."

Blashill is aware his team's confidence ebbs and flows. He has said he can sense when the Wings are teetering towards what he terms "being fragile" during a game.

"I'm just speaking on reality. Reality is when you haven't won enough, if things go wrong, you react a little bit different than if you've won a ton and things go wrong. It's just reality of life," Blashill said. "We just have to make sure that when things go wrong, we just have a next-shift mentality. We must have a next-game mentality. I think we've done a decent job of that.

"We've been challenged here. But we just have to do a really good job of having a short memory and worrying about what's ahead of us. Not anything that's happened, whether it's in the game, whether it's from game to game. And I think our guys did a good job of coming to work this week, we had a great energy, we had great, positive attitudes.

"Now we have to go out and we have to play good hockey. There's going to be bad things that happen tonight, there's going to be good things that happen tonight. We can't overreact to either one, we just have keep playing good hockey."

When things begin to go badly during a game, Blashill revealed he needs to keep his own emotions in check.

"I would say I'm no different than them," Blashill said. "I can control my own emotions and I think that's extremely important as a coach and as a leader that you control your own emotions and that you focus on solutions.

"Again, frustration is one of the biggest wasted emotions in life. We just keep continuing to focus on solutions, continuing to focus on what's ahead of us, whether it's my job doing that's leading the way, whether it's the players' job doing that going out on the ice on a shift by shift basis, just focusing on what's ahead."

Detroit's second season begins Saturday night and with a four-day respite to reflect, recharge, and recommit, a season of disappointment could still morph into a season of renewal.

Tweet from @DetroitRedWings: "If continue to play good hockey we'll find our way to a win. Once you find your way to a win you'll boost your confidence. Nobody can inject confidence in you, you have to go out and earn it."Coach Blashill | #PITvsDET

ZADINA IS ABOUT THE TEAM: Filip Zadina knows most eyes are glued on him when he's on the ice.

It comes with the territory when you're a high first-round draft pick (sixth overall, 2018 NHL Entry Draft), everyone expects you to be an elite-level player from day one.

But it hasn't been an easy path for Zadina since he was drafted.

He didn't make the Red Wings last season; instead his pro career began playing for the Grand Rapids Griffins, Detroit's AHL affiliate.

Though he had a good rookie season for the Griffins (16-19-35) and a decent nine-game stay with the Red Wings (1-2-3), there was a feeling Zadina may never live up to the draft day hype.

This season, Zadina once again began the year in Grand Rapids, but has shown significant improvement as a player.

In 20 games for the Griffins, he has seven goals among his 13 points.

He's been called up by the Red Wings a couple of times this season, appearing in five total games for Detroit.

Zadina has seen time on the power play and has played with confidence, picking up two assists for the Wings.

"Right now about myself (is) to get stronger and quicker. That's what I think I did when I stayed here in Detroit (last summer)," Zadina told reporters on Friday after Wings practice. "I think the reason why I'm feeling better is that I got stronger and quicker on the ice. It's probably getting me more confident in my head."

Since he's been in Detroit, Blashill has been impressed with Zadina's play, reminding everybody that the Czech Republic native is a very young hockey player.

"It was a real eye-opener to me when he had his 20th birthday (Nov. 27), I think that Toronto game. That just shows how young he still is," Blashill said. "It's a really, really hard league (AHL) and not many players that age have success to the level where they're actually helping their team win. So the fact that a year ago he went through some struggles, I've said this lots, if you go through those struggles and come out the other side, you're better for it.

"I think he is better for it. I think Ben Simon and their staff have done a real good job, I think Shawn Horcoff and the development staff have done a real good job and I think he's a better player today than he was so that's great."

Blashill has been asked numerous times why Zadina hasn't been give an opportunity on Detroit's top line with Dylan Larkin and Tyler Bertuzzi and Blashill has been consistent with his answer.

"I got Fabbs there (Robby Fabbri). Fabbs has played pretty good," Blashill said. "I can't sit here and say to you that Zadina has outplayed Fabbri. I think you gotta make sure you do it on merit. If he's outplayed him, great. But that's not what's happened so far.

"Filip's come in and done a nice job. He's played solid hockey. If he is in a position where he's dominating and says that I'm better than the wingers that are up there, then that's awesome, then he wins the spot. I think we'd all be excited about that.

"Certainly there's also defensive matchups that you've got to be concerned about. Do I want, in his whatever, (his) 15th NHL game, playing head to head against Malkin all night? That's a hard position to put a young guy in. I think it's real important as coaches that we put people in positions to succeed and sometimes that means you have to kind of feed him a little more at a time, a little more at a time and not just throw him right in there."

Zadina doesn't seem to mind his current role with the Red Wings. He feels pressure, but, if anything, he's more concerned with just contributing in any way possible to help the Wings get a much-needed victory.

"It's pressure every game, especially on this team in this town. Everyone wants to win in this hockey town, so it's pressure for everyone but it's not a huge one," Zadina said. "You've got to keep playing and just focus on the game. (Losing), it's hard for everyone in this organization. It's obviously hard but just try to focus, stay positive and play the way the coach wants and battle and try for 60 minutes and get some points for the team. So that's what's most important right now."

Red Wings general manager Steve Yzerman has developed a good rapport with Zadina, letting him know exactly what he expects from him.

"He told me what to expect when he sent me down. He's more around the locker room, so he's talking a bit after the games or something. I'm getting those ideas from him of what I (must) do better. That's what I'm trying to work on," Zadina said. "Everyone around the world knows him. He was a special player. But the game is kind of different right now, so I have to do different stuff than he did."

At this point, Zadina is taking it step-by-step. He'd like to stay put in Detroit, but he's not going to dwell on whatever the future brings.

"To be honest, I just want to focus game by and game and we'll see what happens," he said. "It would be better if we were winning. It would be better for everyone in our heads. Right now it is what it is, so we just have to keep battling and hoping for better days."

Tweet from @DetroitRedWings: Projected lineup.#PITvsDET | #LGRW

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