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Notes: Red Wings searching for confidence

Fabbri and Lindstrom appear healthy; Bertuzzi misses practice

by Arthur J. Regner @ArthurJRegner / DetroitRedWings.com

DETROIT -- There was a melancholy hanging over the Red Wings dressing room after Friday's practice at the BELFOR Training Center inside Little Caesars Arena.

Players quietly packed their gear for a quick trip to Ottawa, where the Wings will take on the Senators this Saturday night at Canadian Tire Centre.

Usually the dressing room is a place where players are comfortable and loose, with a little horsing around going on, but after two embarrassing home losses to the New Jersey Devils (4-1) and the Minnesota Wild (7-1) by the combined scores of 11-2, the Wings were in no mood for any tomfoolery.

It has been a miserable year for the Detroiters, but since Monday's trade deadline day when the Wings sent Mike Green and Andreas Athanasiou to the Edmonton Oilers in two separate deals, the Red Wings game has deteriorated to their lowest level of the season.

"We got to be better than last night (Thursday's 7-1 loss to Minnesota)," was how Wings coach Jeff Blashill began his address to the media after Friday's practice. "We talked about where we're at as a group, we obviously traded away a couple good players, so we better show up, out-compete, outwork and out-detail the other team.

"If not, we're going to have nights like last night. And we didn't do it last night and we got embarrassed, so we got to look ourselves in the mirror after every game and say, 'Did we do our best?' If we did that, you can hold your head high regardless of what the outcome is. But when you do what you did last night, you can't hold your head high."

Blashill has been blunt about how his team seems to be sulking since the trade deadline and when he was asked if he's been dismayed by the Red Wings' reaction after seeing two popular players leave the room, he said:

"I don't know if dismayed, disappointed maybe. We got to dig in. Again, when you lose some good pieces, and those guys are both good players, you have to dig in and win other ways and we haven't done that.

"In two games, we haven't done the things that we're going to have to do now more than ever, and more than we did earlier in the year, as talented pieces get taken off your roster you got to find other ways to win and that's the thing I talked about earlier, competing and working and detail, and somebody brought up we had three blocked shots, they (Minnesota) had 15, so to me that's one team fighting like crazy to make the playoffs and one team skating around in their jerseys. We can't skate around in our jerseys."

Anthony Mantha and Athanasiou are extremely tight friends, yet Mantha's game has not dropped off like several of his teammates' since his buddy was dealt.

Instead of taking the trade personally, he looks at it as a terrific opportunity for his friend Athanasiou.

"It's hard not having him around, but it's going to be good for his career," Mantha said. "He's going to be playing with either (Connor) McDavid or (Leon) Draisaitl, so number one, and the (third) or (fourth) best player in the NHL in my opinion, so it's going to be great for him. I guess it sucks losing him, he was a good buddy on and off the ice, but I am happy for him to get the chance."

Mantha took a little exception that the Red Wings have been a lot worse since the deadline, citing the whole year has not been very good, but he did concede the last two games have been rough.

"We're not just competing, that's on us, it's not on anyone not being here or add-ons, it's just the way we show up and the way we play the game," Mantha said. "(We need) to play way better in general, I mean, we've been playing bad hockey lately, so the message is to compete and finish the season strong. Everyone is going to have to take a step forward. We need to compete for 60 minutes, yesterday (Thursday) we let our goalies down, so we'll need to step up for them and try and be a better team in general."

Detroit's confidence has wavered all season as the losses have piled up, but with only 16 games remaining, the Red Wings are going to have to find their collective confidence if they want to finish the season strong; similar to last year when they won nine of the last 14 games.

"There's been different moments in the year where you can feel the losses mount. It is a weight at times," Blashill said. "But that's up to us to decide how we react to it. We didn't react the right way the last couple games, so we better find a way to react better.

"Confidence is a tough thing. I know it can only come from within, within our locker room, within ourselves individually. The biggest thing that I've always felt on that, if you put the work into preparing and you have the skill set to succeed, that should breed your inner confidence. I guess I'd ask our guys when they skate off the ice today, did they put the work into preparing. I think for a lot of them the answer's yes.

"So let's go out and play with more confidence. Now we need some good things to happen in order to breed that confidence, so what comes first, the chicken or the egg? I know the one thing you can take care of for sure is your work ethic and your competitiveness. So that's what we're trying to focus on more than anything else."

FABBRI AGREES - HUGHES HIT DIRTY: Robby Fabbri told reporters after practice he was ready to return the Wings lineup after missing Thursday's games with a knee tweak he suffered when New Jersey's Jack Hughes delivered a knee-on-knee hit during Tuesday's 4-1 loss to the Devils.

Fabbri has had two major knee surgeries in his short career and was a little apprehensive about the severity of the hit when Hughes delivered the check.

"I guess the history of the knees kind of gave me awareness of what's a bad one and what's a little tweak, so a little worried, obviously, but it didn't quite feel like it would have felt in the past," Fabbri said. "I'm going to tell myself in the moment, that it's not that serious. But once I kind of calmed down a bit, doc took a look at it, it was still something but (it turned out to be the) best-case scenario. I guess you could say that was good news."

Hughes received only a minor penalty on the play and the league has decided to take no further action upon last year's No. 1 overall pick in the NHL draft.

Many of the Red Wings were angry with the hit and believed it was dirty. They thought Hughes deserved at least a major penalty on the play. Fabbri also feels Hughes's hit was not clean.

"I agree with them (his teammates)," Fabbri said about the hit. "I knew he was kind of taking a run at me, but I think with the move I made he had enough time to quit on the hit. The league didn't want to do anything about it, so I'm just going to leave it at that.

"I made a hockey play and tried to knock him off the puck and I missed the hit. I guess he didn't like that I missed the hit, so maybe next time I'll land one."

Fabbri plays an aggressive game with an abrasive attitude and he will not modify his style despite two major knee surgeries and just standing 5-foot-10 and weighing 190 pounds.

"I've tried to modify the way I play and it didn't come out well," Fabbri said. "It's not really in me to stop playing that competitive and that tenacious. I've played like that my whole life, so it's hard to change now."

Tweet from @DetroitRedWings: "We want to show more character than that."Hear from Anthony Mantha, Robby Fabbri & Jeff Blashill in today's @BartonMalow Practice Report. pic.twitter.com/VCsPrBRaiF

RED WINGS HAVE NHL'S TOUGHEST SCHEDULE REMAINING: According to Tankathon, based on winning percentage, the Red Wings have the most difficult remaining schedule in the league.

In their last 16 games, Detroit will face Tampa Bay three times, Washington twice and have dates with Boston, Toronto, Florida, Colorado, St. Louis, Carolina, Vegas, Arizona, Chicago, Philadelphia and Ottawa.

"Honestly, I'm looking at tomorrow night against Ottawa. I don't want to comment a whole bunch further than that," Blashill said. "I don't care who we're playing, we got to go out and play great hockey. The league is such that it doesn't matter. Ottawa is going to give us a heck of a challenge, we better go out and play great hockey."

Mantha knows the Wings will have their work cut out for them, but it's also an opportunity for players to showcase themselves against top-flight competition.

"It's going to be hard, a lot of traveling also in between (games). We need to be ready; we need to focus even more and like I said, take a step forward and play good hockey," Mantha said. "It doesn't get tougher than that (the schedule), that's for sure, you'll see who wants to hang their skates early and who wants to finish the season strong, that's for sure."

Blashill looks at the remaining schedule also as an opportunity for players to finish the year with a positive feeling.

"You end the year feeling good about yourself and the other thing is it's just way more fun to come into the locker room after a win than a loss like last night," Blashill said. "So, every day to me is a little bit of a new day and you get a chance to go and have a new day. So why wouldn't we want to do that with wins?

"I thought last year at that time our best players were elite, they played great. We're going to need that. That hasn't happened since the trade deadline. There were a couple other factors that happened that were important for it. I think we understand this isn't fun. If you want to have fun, let's go out and play a great hockey game and then you come to the locker room and feel good about it."

Regardless of the schedule, perhaps the players biggest motivation to finish the season strong is what general manger Steve Yzerman told the press on Monday, a major factor in his player evaluations will be how the Wings handle the end of the season. 

"I just think it's an important thing to remember in this league all the time. There is no guaranteed jobs," Blashill said. "There might be guaranteed dollars to some degree. Obviously there are buyouts and stuff like that but there is no guaranteed jobs.

"I was just talking to a young player today and we were talking about it. He's a competitor, he's all those things. I said, but somebody's going to come in here in the next year, two years, and they're going to try to take your job, meaning not necessarily your place in the lineup, but your responsibilities, your whatever it is.

"Steve doesn't want guys that look good or guys that skate around. He wants guys that are winners. We want guys that are winners. I think when times are tough, this is when a lot of those characteristics come through, the guys that are winners and the guys that aren't. It's easy to do everything right when everything's going good. It's hard to do everything right when it's going like this. It's going to say a lot about our people and certainly there's an evaluation process going on."

INJURY UPDATE: Blashill is encouraged that all the Red Wings appear ready to play in Saturday's game in Ottawa.

"I'll know more tomorrow, see how everybody reacts. Promising sign from Rob (Fabbri), he finished the practice and declared himself ready," Blashill said. "I think promising sign from Lindy (Gustav Lindstrom), he finished the practice. Bert (Tyler Bertuzzi) didn't skate, I'm not ruling him out, he's got a little tweak. We got a couple other guys with little tweaks, so to say that maybe something could come up overnight where it gets worse, we'll see. But right now, I'm hoping to have the full lineup available."

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