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Notes: Red Wings need to be more disciplined

Wings have been shorthanded 53 times, tied for tops in the NHL

by Arthur J. Regner @arthurjregner /

DETROIT - Since training camp the Red Wings have stressed if they're going to be in playoff contention, their special teams must be top notch.

While Detroit's power play has been a struggle, converting at a 14 percent clip (6-of-43), which ranks 25th in the NHL, the Wings' penalty kill has been decent, checking in at 83 percent (9-of-53), which is tied with Nashville for 11th overall in the league.

However, the Wings are flirting with disaster.

Heading into Tuesday's Halloween tilt against the Arizona Coyotes, the Wings, the Penguins and Predators share the league lead in most times being shorthanded at 53.

If the Red Wings do not clean up their act soon, their playoff aspirations could be in serious jeopardy.

What is even more startling is Dylan Larkin is the NHL leader with nine minor penalties taken. Larkin took 16 minor penalties all of last season.

When Larkin was asked if adjusting to his role at center has increased his penalty minutes, he wasn't about to let the move become a convenient excuse.

"I don't think so. I think it's just being lazy, cheating," he said. "Something that I'm trying to get out of my game. You should never have to take penalties if you're on the right side of the puck, or doing the right thing. I've just got to be more disciplined, more focused.

 "The refs are calling it the way they are. It's strict, but there've been some calls that have gone against us. It's not the same every night, so we've got to feel it out early and we've got to stay disciplined for sure. I think you've got to look in the mirror. I know myself I've taken way too many bad penalties. It's something that we need to work on."

Detroit's coach Jeff Blashill has been pleased with the play of Larkin despite the number of penalties he has taken.

"He's played very well, played a complete game, done a good job for us," Blashill said. "A couple of the penalties were interference or holding that honestly, I thought could have went either way. The slashing ones need to be eliminated."

Blashill is aware the players are a bit confused because each referee has his own interpretation of the rules, but regardless of how the game is being called, some penalties are preventable, especially slashing.

"I would say it (slashing) gets called different every night depending on the refs, that's just reality. But I think that's true a lot," Blashill said. "This is a big point of emphasis, so anytime you have a big point of emphasis, some call it tons and some are kind of like they used to be, so then there becomes a huge discrepancy between the two but to me, that's not in our control.

"What is in our control is not slashing around the hands, and if we never do it we're not going to get any penalties regardless of how they call it, so let's make sure we don't slash around the hands. The rest of it is excuses to me."

LARKIN, MANTHA, ATHANASIOU, TOGETHER FOREVER? The Wings have had trouble scoring goals for the last several years. Blashill has continuously tinkered with his line combinations in search of consistent offense.

With the return of Andreas Athanasiou to the fold, Blashill has put Larkin, Athanasiou and Anthony Mantha on the same line and the youngsters appear to have good chemistry.

"Whatever line you're going to play with, you want to build that chem (chemistry)," Athanasiou said. "I think with every practice that's going to be huge, as long as we stick with that line throughout the whole game, it gives us an opportunity to build and build on our last shifts.

"It's a good line, it has a little bit of everything. We got some size, we got some speed, some skill, passing, it's a little bit of everything. If we keep building that chem, it's going to be real good."

Larkin likes the possibilities of the line and feels Athanasiou has stepped right into the lineup without missing a beat.

"He looks good. Obviously with his speed, it's evident that we missed that," Larkin said. "He looks good. He's one of those guys where I guess he doesn't need training camp. He can still fly. He's in great shape.

"It's fun having him back on and playing with him has been good. We just have to keep it building. The thing about when the lines are the same, you build chemistry and you build it to the next game, and the next game, and it keeps going and going.

"You don't have to start from zero, and I think just from the talk we've had as a line, we're going to get better every game."

Mantha, who has a close bond with Athanasiou, which developed during Detroit's development camps and their time together as teammates in Grand Rapids, hopes this line evolves into the Wings' next legendary trio.

"Before the Florida game, I was talking to Larkin and I was like, 'I like our line right now, I hope we can play with this line the rest of the year,' and he turns around and says, 'I hope it is going to be for a whole career,'" Mantha said. "So, it could be realistic to say if all three of us stay here, we could all play together for the next 10, 12, or 14 next years."

It seems the line is in place, now the tough part is coming up with a name.

DEKEYSER UPDATE: Whether injured defenseman Danny DeKeyser makes the Wings' next road trip across Canada is uncertain, but what is certain is if he makes the trip it will be as a spectator.

"I would say Danny right now is … we're going to keep him off the ice for a week," Blashill said. "As he was progressing, as we ramped up to more live battle level, all of a sudden it started to hurt him more, so we reevaluated today and docs want to hold him out a week and then see where it's at right now.

"So, for me it would be 1-3 weeks. He'll stay off the ice for a week, so I shouldn't say one (week), really it's 10 days at least before he'd be available for a game, so 10-21 days is what it looks like right now."

Blashill indicated the Wings will not need to call up another defenseman from Grand Rapids.

"Right now we don't need that," Blashill said. "The other guy we've been practicing at D and at some point, I'm going to give a chance on D is (Luke) Witkowski, so he can play both."

PIKACHU LARKIN: With Halloween tomorrow, Larkin and Mantha revealed their favorite Halloween costumes.

"As a kid, I was Pikachu two years in a row. I was young obviously," Larkin said. "My mom said I wouldn't give that one up. I liked that one."

Once he grew out of the Pikachu phase, Larkin and Mantha both liked the same costume for the identical reason.

"I would always be a hockey player with roller blades and try and get to as many houses as fast as I could," Larkin said.

Back in Quebec, Mantha was on the same page as Larkin.

"Mine was the classic hockey player with roller blades so I could ride around and zoom for more candies," Mantha said. "I would go up the stairs with roller blades on and then back in the street across to the other house. Yeah, that was it.

"For me my personal favorite was just to eat as many candies in the shortest amount of time, it was awesome."

When each player was asked if they participated in any harmless Halloween mischief such as soaping a window or ringing a door bell, they both said no, but when pressed, Larkin sort of came clean.

"No, no, no, maybe a doorbell," he said.

Mantha was contemplating whether he would try a little mischief this evening in the form of ringing a door bell or two.

"It would be hard, the apartment complex is pretty close together," Mantha said, "I'll have to hurry up to my room (apartment)."

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