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Notes: Wings face tough challenge in explosive Oilers

Athanasiou looking for first goal of the season; Helm fined by league

by Dana Wakiji @Dwakiji /

EDMONTON -- Playing a team that has Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl is never an easy task but it's even harder when the whole team is playing well.

The Edmonton Oilers have gotten off to a 6-1-0 start and are averaging four goals a game.

"They're playing some really good hockey, obviously," Andreas Athanasiou said. "They've had a great start to the season. We know they're going to be coming tonight so it's on us to match that and play a good road game."

McDavid leads the way with 17 points (5-12-17) in seven games and Draisaitl is right behind with 15 points (6-9-15).

"It's evident," Red Wings coach Jeff Blashill said. "You obviously gotta do a great job with Draisaitl and McDavid. You gotta do the best you can to make them defend and not have the puck all night. If they have the puck all night, they're going to get lots of opportunities. So you gotta make them defend as much as you can."

The Oilers' power play is ranked first in the league at 45.5 percent, with 10 goals in 22 chances.

Tweet from @EdmontonOilers: "We have a lot of confidence in those five guys when they go out there."Bear on the #Oilers lethal power play of late, clicking at a League-best 45.5% right now

The Wings have struggled on the penalty kill in the last two games, giving up three goals on five chances to the Vancouver Canucks on Tuesday and two goals on five chances to the Calgary Flames on Thursday.

Currently the Wings are tied for 24th in the league on the penalty kill at 69.6 percent.

So there seems to be just one solution -- stay out of the box.

"The one thing we did a good job of the first number of games is we weren't in the box much, we didn't have to kill, we had to kill two penalties," Blashill said. "If you do a good job early, one, you don't have to kill any more; two, they can't get any rhythm on it. Lately we've taken too many penalties. So now when you start killing five and six, it gets hard, especially if you don't have success early. Then you kind of chink away at your own confidence a little bit. We gotta make sure one, we stay disciplined.

Tweet from @DetroitRedWings: "We gotta react a little better when we get scored on and make sure we're playing 60 minutes."Blashill ahead of #DETvsEDM.

"Obviously they got a power play that's really humming right now. I think like any power play, if you can win face-offs, clear the puck down and not let them set up with a good PK forecheck, it gives you the best chance. When you're in your zone for a long time against a great power play, there's a good chance they're going to get a real shot on net. We gotta make sure when we do take penalties that we win the face-off, we clear it down and have a great PK forecheck."

The Wings have lost their last three games and have allowed five goals in each of those games, but Athanasiou said they have to put that behind them.

"Those games are in the past now," Athanasiou said. "Obviously we got a big one tonight and we want to end this road trip off right. It's obviously not the outcomes we wanted clearly but we have a game tonight and I think everyone's focus is on that right now. We'll put those games in the past and come ready to play for 60 tonight."

GETTING ATHANASIOU GOING: The Wings need secondary scoring from anywhere but the most logical place to look is to Athanasiou, who finished second on the team last year in goals with 30 to Dylan Larkin's 32.

Athanasiou, who missed the first two games of the season with an injury, has been getting chances but has not yet scored a goal. He has one assist in his five games.

"I think four out of the five games I've had a breakaway so far so it's obviously frustrating that they're not going in," Athanasiou said. "I want to be able to help the team and put some goals in the net and give us that little bit of edge, but unfortunately they haven't been going in. You just gotta keep working through it. I know I'll get another breakaway and hopefully one goes in sooner rather than later. But that's the way it is."

Tweet from @DetroitRedWings: "We have a game tonight & I think everyone's focus is on that right now. We'll put those games in the past & come ready to play for 60 tonight."AA ahead of #DETvsEDM.

Blashill has switched Athanasiou's linemates in an attempt to spark some more scoring but said he's not concerned about him.

"I think if Athanasiou would score on the chances that he's had, which he normally does, we wouldn't be talking about it," Blashill said. "It just hasn't gone in. He's had chances and it hasn't gone in. So he's just gotta keep working hard, playing the right way and he'll keep getting chances and we all know he'll score when he gets those chances over time. I'm not worried about it. It's gotta go in here soon for sure, we need that, we need that secondary scoring, but if he keeps getting chances, he'll score."

HELM FINED: In Thursday night's game in Calgary, Darren Helm retaliated when Elias Lindholm elbowed him in the head.

After getting up, Helm slashed Lindholm across the legs.

Lindholm was given a minor for interference while Helm received a slashing major and a game misconduct.

On Friday, the league fined Helm for his actions.

Tweet from @NHLPlayerSafety: Detroit���s Darren Helm has been fined $5,000, the maximum allowable under the CBA, for Slashing Calgary���s Elias Lindholm.

"I'd just like to know what happened on the elbow. I don't know that answer yet," Blashill said. "The elbow was way more vicious to me than the slash. The slash was a slash on the back of the legs, the elbow was at someone's head. That's a big deal for Darren Helm, who's had multiple concussions and has had a history of that. If somebody throws a flying elbow at me, I'd be pretty pissed. So I'd like to know what happened with the elbow and I don't know that answer right now."

OPTIONAL SKATE: Forward Adam Erne, who missed Thursday's game with an upper-body injury, was one of the players who took part in the team's optional morning skate at Rogers Place Friday.

Tweet from @DetroitRedWings: 📍: Edmonton. #DETvsEDM | #LGRW

While not confirming any lineup changes, Blashill said that Erne was a possibility to play against the Oilers.

Tweet from @DetroitRedWings: "My confidence is high with my goal of being a Red Wing well within my reach"Catch up with @givanismith24's latest blog entry in our Taking Flight series:

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