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Notes: Wings feeling better about defense but still searching for offense

Hirose continuing to learn; Erne, Abdelkader unlikely for Sunday

by Dana Wakiji @Dwakiji /

DETROIT -- It all seemed so promising just a couple of weeks ago.

The Red Wings started the season 3-1 and had outscored opponents 14-11.

They were coming off a 4-2 victory at Montreal's Bell Centre, a place that had not been kind to them at all.

Since then, things have swung in the other direction as Detroit has lost seven straight games and been outscored 29-9.

"I don't know. I don't think you can (put a finger on why)," defenseman Mike Green said after Saturday's practice at the BELFOR Training Center. "It's just sometimes how these things go. Sometimes, when things snowball a little bit, it's that much tougher to get out. We gotta continue to do the same process every game until we kind of dig ourselves out of a bit of a hole. We'll continue to do that, we'll continue to play the right way and we'll be fine."

After getting shut out, 2-0, by the Buffalo Sabres Friday night, center Dylan Larkin placed the onus on himself.

But getting out of this rut is not going to be a one-man job.

Green knows he is someone who can help out offensively without giving up much defensively.

Green, 34, is one of the premier offensive defensemen of his era, having scored as many as 76 points (19-57-76) in a season with the Washington Capitals in 2009-10.

Although he hasn't been quite as prolific in recent years, he can still put up points.

In an injury/illness-plagued season last year, Green had 26 points (5-21-26) in just 43 games. The previous year he had 33 points (8-25-33) in 66 games.

Almost shockingly, Green has just one goal and no assists in 11 games this season

"I think for myself I need to capitalize on some of my shots," Green said. "Get them through, bear down a little bit more. Some of these little things that make the difference. We gotta stick with it. The production will come."

Very often it's not the pretty passing play or the laser one-timer that gets things going back in the right direction offensively.

Wings coach Jeff Blashill said they need a greasy goal -- a puck that hits someone's skate and caroms into the net or a rebound near the net that a nearby player gets his stick on.

"When you're not feeling it and pucks are bouncing over your sticks, you're missing nets or hitting posts, I think that he's right," Green said. "We gotta find other ways. Whether it's just getting pucks to the net, grinding in front and getting a rebound or something. It's these little things that make a big difference. We have to find a way. That's the bottom line, really."

One positive from the Buffalo game is that Detroit had a much better defensive effort.

After allowing five goals in five of the previous six games, the Wings held the Sabres to two and limited their chances.

"I said to the team, I will guarantee you that I coach process, so if I coach process, and the chances were 20-7," Blashill said. "We had a flurry at the end, so it's a little misleading. If it's 14-7 it's still 2-1. If you do that the next 10 games in a row you're going to win lots of them. If you had won six in a row you'd say it was a good game. We got to make sure we have a next play, next shift, next game mentality and we got to move on.

"If we play defensively like we did last night we'll put ourselves in position to win the hockey game. That's the most important thing we have to do, put ourselves in position to win hockey games."

HIROSE LEARNING: Rookie Taro Hirose is having to learn a lot more this season than he did in the 10 games he spent with the team last spring.

In those 10 games, Hirose had a goal and six assists.

In the first 11 games this season, Hirose has three assists, all on the power play.

"I think he's just got to keep learning ways. He only had 10 games at the end of the year and he's (11) games here," Blashill said. "I think he's a really smart player, but it takes time to learn some tricks of the trade, so he's got to learn ways to free himself up, whether it's on board battles, ways to buy a little space and use his smarts all over the ice. As a result hopefully he'll have the puck a little bit more. The fact he got off to such a good start, everybody's expectations got real high, but the reality is sometimes it takes a little while, especially a guy like that, who is giving up size and speed. He's got to use his smarts."

Although the results haven't shown up on the scoresheet yet, Hirose said he's actually feeling more comfortable.

"I think I'm feeling better the last couple of games with the chances I'm getting and getting more as a line," Hirose said. "Just throwing pucks at the net and maybe getting a greasy one to start off with, that's what we need to do. I think with more experience we'll get more zone time, more chances. And like I said, just try to get better every game."

As he is 5-foot-10 and just 162 pounds, Hirose is not going to be able to outmuscle many NHL players.

"I think I know that puck battles, being a smaller guy are things I have to work on and win those battles," Hirose said. "When the goals aren't coming, you have to make sure you're good defensively. I think that's an area of my game that I can continue to work on to make sure that I'm keeping the puck out of the net if I'm not putting it in."

Hirose is more the calm, quiet type than the fiery sort so you're not apt to see him screaming at himself or at anyone else during a game.

"I don't think I'm that kind of guy. I'm not frustrated much," Hirose said. "I just take it day-by-by and take it in stride, I think. You're gonna have ups and downs in a season. I think we have the guys in this room to turn this thing around and I think with the veteran experience we have, they're sort of carrying the team and will get us going in the right direction."

INJURY UPDATE: Forward Adam Erne practiced with the team Saturday but did not skate on a line.

Blashill said Erne was unlikely to play and was more a possibility for Tuesday's game against the Edmonton Oilers.

Justin Abdelkader (lower body) did not skate so Blashill said he was not ready to go Sunday.

Patrik Nemeth missed most of practice but said he is fine to play against the St. Louis Blues Sunday.

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