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Notes: Wings look for better success against Capitals

Green progressing: Zadina returns to Griffins this week after world junior championships

by Dana Wakiji @Dwakiji /

DETROIT -- It's been a tough go for the Red Wings against the Washington Capitals of late.

The Capitals have won both previous contests in Washington this season, 3-1 on Nov. 23, and 6-2 on Dec. 11.

The Capitals have earned points in 10 straight games against the Wings, going 8-0-2.

"I thought the first game we played good, played good enough to win," Wings coach Jeff Blashill said before Sunday evening's game. "They're two interesting games in the sense that the first one we played good enough to win, certainly did the things it takes to win, although they still created chances.

"The second one, we were a step slow all over the ice, so sometimes those games are hard to judge. We had no energy, we played Mike Green through an injury that he ended up obviously being out since. We didn't have the jump that's needed. So when you're a step slow all over the ice, it's hard at times to judge yourself schematically."

Tweet from @DetroitRedWings: Coach Blashill ahead of #WSHvsDET:

The Capitals have a lot of weapons and know how to best use all of their abilities.

"Without question, Washington does a couple things that are unique and better than anybody else in the league," Blashill said. "They spread the offensive zone as well as anybody in the league. They spread the ice coming up the ice as well, much different than most teams. Most teams slash across and have close support and they play a little bit different style that way. We have to do a good job in our D-zone of being fast initially. Once they spread you out, it gets hard but once they spread us out, we got to make sure we're not giving up any back-door chances. We got to make sure that our gaps are very, very good initially coming out of our offensive zone so that they can't hit some of that white ice. Lastly, they're a very, very, very good gapping team and we have to drive through those gaps and put pucks behind so that we can play offense and do what we did against Nashville."

Washington comes in with the 10th ranked power play in the league at 22.1 percent.

Star Alex Ovechkin leads his team with eight power-play goals.

Even though you know what Ovechkin is going to do, head to his spot in the left circle and fire away, it's more than the usual challenge to stop it.

"It's the other four weapons, that's how it's possible to be dead honest with you," Blashill said. "I've coached against a similar power play in the American League, Milwaukee ran a real similar power play and it was good but it wasn't even close to the same effectiveness because they didn't have the specific weapons in each spot. If you really look at it, (Nicklas) Backstrom's probably the best passer in the league, (John) Carlson's got a bomb as a right shot up top, (T.J.) Oshie's as good as anybody at finding space in that little area in the bumper. Now you've got (Evgeny) Kuznetsov down at the goal line who's dangerous. Other teams have real good players and we have real good players but they fit the power play exactly how they want to run it. So if you just take one option away, you're going to deal with other options."

Carlson leads the Capitals with 17 power-play points, Backstrom is second with 16, Kuznetsov is third with 15 and Ovechkin has 13.

Those four players have 61 power-play points, more than the Wings' team total of 52.

"We didn't have enough success last time, although I would say the first goal was a John Carlson shot that went off off (Brett) Connolly, I don't think it was really a tip, it kind of deflected off him," Blashill said. "That's something you'll probably give up, that's something we'll probably give up today and you hope to control the stick and not allow the tip, but you have to give up something. The other one was a real, kind of a miscue where we tried to pressure when we shouldn't have. So at that point the game's going the wrong way. So we'll see.

"We obviously have a plan in place of how we want to do it, it doesn't always work. We had a plan four years ago, we thought we'd let Ovi 15 one-timers and tire his shoulder out and it worked. But it really didn't work."

Darren Helm will play in his third game since returning to the lineup and his presence adds to the Wings' penalty kill.

"He allows you more pressure up the ice for sure and he also is a real threat shorthanded because any turnover turns into a rush for, and just his quickness all over the ice, I think, allows you to win more pucks and get out of the zone so you don't spend as much time in your zone," Blashill said.

GREEN UPDATE: Green will not get the chance to play against his former team but he could return late this week if things keep progressing.

"I haven't talked to our trainer. I'll have a better read tomorrow," Blashill said. "I have not heard that the seven-day window has started. And the seven-day is a window, it's not an exact number that's for sure. Initially, (athletic trainer) Piet Van Zant has said to me when he's really able to skate and start and not feel any pain then you can start getting into the conditioning that's going to be needed. The heavy heavy conditioning that's going to be needed to make sure his body is ready for when he does play. I would say the closest game would be Minnesota next weekend. We're not going to play him back to back when he's been out that long, so Minnesota makes most sense."

Green has skated on his own the last couple of days.

ZADINA REJOINS GRIFFINS: On Friday, the Wings reassigned forward Filip Zadina to the AHL's Grand Rapids Griffins.

Zadina skated in his second straight world junior championships for Team Czech Republic.

Zadina is expected to return to practice this coming Tuesday.

Zadina had one assist in five games as Team Czech Republic did not make it past the quarterfinals.

"Tough tournament. Sometimes that's based on production. That happens," Blashill said. "Do you judge and say 'he's not very good, he had a tough tournament,' or do you say at the same tournament he scored a bunch before. Sometimes that's the way it goes. He didn't play as much with (Martin) Necas this year as he did a year ago. I think Filip is a guy that probably needs to play with a real good centerman. I think he gets exponentially better. Some guys get just a little bit better. I think he gets exponentially better. It's just one of those tournaments where it didn't go his way. I think anytime you judge a small sample of anything it's dangerous. It wasn't a great small sample. The year before it was a great small sample."

In last year's tournament, Zadina had seven goals and one assist in seven games.

"It wouldn't have built the confidence that we had hoped he could have went there and had another 6-7 goal tournament and now he feels great about himself," Blashill acknoledged. "What do you do? (Griffins coach) Ben Simon I know will have already sat down with him and said, 'This is life. What are you going to do? Are you going to work? Are you going to keep getting better? Are you going to keep getting better at the little details? That tournament is over. Let's go to work today and the thing I hear from Ben Simon all the time, from (director of player development) Shawn Horcoff, from (general manager) Ken Holland, is that this kid works. And if he works and he wants it, you got to be mentally tough and he'll stay mentally tough and he'll be fine. In the end you could be a better player because you faced adversity. I think a lot of times adversity helps you."

So far this season with the Griffins, Zadina has eight goals and nine assists in 27 games.

"I think Zadina has had a good year in the American League, a real good year," Blashill said. "We all want him to be Wayne Gretzky tomorrow because of the fact he's an important piece for the Detroit Red Wings but that's not the way it always works. Filip just has to come along at his own pace, keep believing in himself and he's going to be a good NHL player. How good? He'll get a chance to prove it over time."

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