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Notes: Red Wings regroup with a spirited practice

Cholowski likely to play versus Canadiens; DeKeyser is out

by Arthur J. Regner @ArthurJRegner / DetroitRedWings.com

MONTREAL - A little less than 24 hours after their lackluster effort against the Boston Bruins, which resulted in a lopsided 8-2 defeat, the Red Wings hit the practice ice on Sunday with a renewed commitment to be a much harder team to play against.

Detroit's practice was reminiscent of training camp where the drills emphasized aggressiveness with a lot of one-on-one battles for the puck.

"We've had a bunch of guys who have had lots of chances over the course of the first four games and didn't score. I think the answer to that can't be hoping for offense and cheating for offense and to stop working," Blashill said. "It's got to be to make sure and work and do it right and simplify.

"We talked about getting pucks behind them last night and we turned too many pucks over in the neutral zone. We talked about being hard on the forecheck and we weren't skating enough to create enough pressure to create turnovers. We talked about holding onto it in the O-zone, we made too many hope plays where we turned it over right away and we didn't win enough one-on-one battles."

That's why Blashill incorporated some of the concepts he stressed during the first few days in Traverse City.

"We did do one drill that we did opening day of training camp," Blashill said. "It's just making sure you own the lane to the puck and you win the puck battle and if you have the puck on your stick, it's a heck of a lot more fun game and last night we didn't have it enough.

"That's why we just re-hit those habits. We've got a core of things that we think are real important to us that we just got to keep hitting them when we can."

Blashill was still irked about Saturday's blowout loss, but he believes if the Red Wings play hard they can beat any team in the NHL.

"I showed 19 clips today, not one of them were clips where we didn't have enough talent to win. That's not the case," Blashill said. "We've got good enough players to win, without a question or a shadow of a doubt. We got to make sure that we're doing the work and winning the battles that it takes to win."

Tweet from @DetroitRedWings: "We've got good enough players to win without a question or shadow of a doubt, but we got to make sure we're doing the work and winning the battles that it takes to win." Coach: pic.twitter.com/6fOxOSVVjU

KRONWALL: OUR ROOKIES ARE NOT THE ISSUE: It has been a common theme this season to ask the Wings' veteran players about how the rookies are handling themselves as they adjust to the best hockey league in the world.

With the Wings starting the season 0-3-2, one could point to the number of young players Detroit has in its lineup as a factor in the team's slow start.

Just don't suggest that to Niklas Kronwall.

"That's not any issue whatsoever. I think it's easy to say, 'Oh, you've got a young lineup.' Trust me, that's not the issue here," Kronwall said. "The issue is not doing it right. And that goes for all of us. It's time that especially the older guys, myself and some of the other guys, we have to be better.

"The old cliché is that we have to be better, but everything comes down to winning the puck battles, winning the one-on-one battle. And just doing it right. We have to play a certain way to be successful and when we don't string together 60 minutes, it shows fairly quickly. So, we have to find a way here to playing fast and wanting the puck. Do the things we have to do to be successful."

As disappointed and miffed as Kronwall is, he knows one victory could alleviate the Red Wings' anxiety level by boosting the team's confidence.

"Life is a lot easier when you win. That's just really the reality of things. But to be able to win, you have to do it a certain way," Kronwall said. "We have to get back to - I thought the two games in Anaheim and L.A., sure we might have lost both of them, but we were playing fast and were on it.

"These last two games, it hasn't felt like we've been as good, and a lot of it is you get away from the details of the game. It doesn't work like that."

Tweet from @DetroitRedWings: "Everything comes down to winning the puck battles, winning the one-on-one battles, and just doing it right." Hear from Kronner following today's practice: pic.twitter.com/v6qTHICYxe

WITKOWSKI ON LARKIN FIGHTING: After Saturday's loss to the Bruins, Dylan Larkin called himself out for not fighting Boston's Noel Acciari, when Acciari dropped his gloves after a flare-up between the two at the end of the first period.

The reaction to Larkin's comments had many thinking if there's one Wings player who shouldn't be engaging in fisticuffs, it's Larkin. The Wings need Larkin on the ice, not in the box or worse yet, on injured reserve if he gets hurt during a skirmish.

Red Wings enforcer Luke Witkowski understands where Larkin is coming from, though he may not want to see his teammate fight very often.

"Sometimes you're going to have to (fight), but that's Larks holding himself to a different standard. Larks doesn't need to fight," Witkowski said. "So him turning that down is not make or breaking that game, but sometimes when guys like Larks do fight, it amps the boys up even more than if it were me because I fight more often.

"I don't think he needs to do that. He gets paid way too much money (laughs). You don't want him to get hurt."

Witkowski didn't suit up on Saturday, but if he were in the lineup, would he have sent the 5-foot-10, 205-pound Acciari a message?

"I would get in there but that kid's not really in my weight class. I'd definitely tell him to stop messing around because Larks is one of our best players," Witkowski said. "But I don't think I'm going to be on the ice the same time as Larks."

So far this season Witkowski hasn't a played in a game, but with Detroit's blue line depleted by injury, the forward/defenseman is ready to go when called upon.

"That's part of being a professional, I got to be ready every day and try to have a smile on my face and sometimes guys are down in the room and try to pick guys up," Witkowski said. "Show up every day and work hard, that's what got me here and I'm not going to stop doing that.

"You see how thin the blue line is right now and there's a good chance coming up here pretty soon but I'm ready for whatever - forward, D - I just want to get back in the lineup."

HICKETTS MUST BE FEARLESS: During the Larkin-Acciari rumble, a scrum ensued among the players and somehow 6-foot-9, 250-pound Zdeno Chara and Detroit's Joe Hicketts, all of 5-foot-8 and 180 pounds, became entangled.

"He's a big boy out there. I said before, I can't play (with) fear. I have to go in there with a no-care attitude when it comes down to backing down to guys," Hicketts said. "At the end of the day, I thought he was trying to get after Larks there around the pile and I grabbed his stick and he gave me a pretty good shot, so he's one of those guys who's a lot bigger, a lot stronger, so maybe I pick and choose my spots but I'm definitely not going to back down."

A huge smile came to Witkowski's face when he was asked about the Hicketts-Chara confrontation.

"That's just how Hicks is, he's like a bull in a China shop, a little pit bull in a China shop," Witkowski said. "He throws his weight around. I don't think he cares who it is."

Tweet from @DetroitRedWings: "We all learned some things and I think it's going to help us in the long run." More from Joe Hicketts: pic.twitter.com/eLriNDq7XP

INJURY UPDATE: Blashill told reporters he expects rookie defenseman Dennis Cholowski to play against the Canadiens, but he wants to double check with doctors before he says he's definitely in Monday's lineup.

The news on Danny DeKeyser appears not so encouraging.

"DeKeyser's going to see a specialist on Tuesday when we get back. I don't know if it's a day-to-day thing, I don't know if it'll be longer. I'd be misleading you if I said it was only day-to-day, it could be, I just don't know the answer," Blashill said. "It's a similar injury to what he had earlier in the year (finger) and he was able to come back and be fine.

"Then three weeks later it gets tweaked again. I don't know if it's something that the only way that's going to solve it is rest and how much. I don't know that answer."

Among the injured players, Cholowski is the only one who is likely to play against Montreal, but forward Martin Frk will be inserted into the Wings lineup, according to Blashill.

It will be Frk's first game of the season.

Blashill knows whom Frk will replace in the Red Wings lineup, but he said he will not reveal his decision until after Monday's morning skate.

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