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Notes: Wings mostly pleased but still looking to get better

Team's penalty kill currently third in the league behind Ottawa and Los Angeles

by Dana Wakiji @Dwakiji / DetroitRedWings.com

DETROIT - So far, so good but there is still plenty of work to be done.

That is the general assessment of the Red Wings, who are 4-1-0 after the first 10 days of regular-season play.

"I think we're playing whole team together, we showed a lot of character out there," Tomas Tatar said after the team practiced Sunday at the BELFOR Training Center. "Even when we - for example, the game against Minnesota, they scored quickly, two goals and came back. We stick with it and keep playing and won that game, too, so we don't have these mental errors as last year so far. We're playing pretty good."

Wings coach Jeff Blashill agreed with Tatar.

"I'd say this, I guess, one is we've done a good job of weathering the storm when we haven't played great and part of that's goaltending," Blashill said. "We've done a good job of hanging in there and being calm and staying with it and finding ways to win."

Defenseman Trevor Daley believes everyone on the team is making a contribution.

"I feel that we're finding different ways and different guys are contributing to winning," Daley said. "That's a recipe for a good team. With what you guys are talking about, the consistency, and get a little bit of run going here and a little confidence. A little swagger to our step is not a bad thing."

Captain Henrik Zetterberg knows how important special teams are and feels that the penalty kill has been a difference-maker in the early going.

"The penalty kill has been outstanding for us and really helped us win games," Zetterberg said. "sThe goaltending has been good. Petr (Mrazek) was fantastic in Vegas and (Jimmy) Howard's been good all his starts. Those two things but also I think we have a pretty even team. All four lines are doing well and all four lines can play in all situations. I think that's easy for the coach to put us out there."

Detroit is currently third in the league on the penalty kill at 91.3 percent.

Only the Ottawa Senators at 100 percent and the Los Angeles Kings at 94.4 percent are ahead of the Wings.

"That's going to be a huge part of it, with the way the penalties are being called," Daley said. "Special teams, you're going to have to win on both sides to win the game now. It's such a big part of it. Obviously goaltending is a big key to that, and when those two guys are playing the way they are, it makes the penalty kill a lot better."

While the Wings are mostly pleased with the way things are going, there are areas that need improvement.

"We've got to be better if we want to continue to have success," Blashill said. "I thought we gave up too many, certainly in Friday's game, too many outnumbered rushes. We can't have success if we do that and we've got to manage the puck better. Those are two areas we still got to get better at."

"There's still a little I think in the neutral zone we've got to change a little bit," Zetterberg said. "We've got to get comfortable there. There's a few times where teams have just been coming through too easily. And also in our own end, there's stuff that we have to do better."

The Wings made an adjustment to their neutral zone play and players are still getting used to it.

"We have a little struggle in the neutral zone," Tatar said. "We have to do better, everybody have to take their routes, everybody has to know what we're doing so we can't have those mistakes and those easy 2-on-1s."

Blashill was happy to hear that the players recognize that neutral zone play is one area that has to get better.

"I would say we've had a couple moments in the neutral zone where we've given up chances out of that and we certainly don't want to do that," Blashill said. "I think neutral zone forecheck at best is something that helps you break out by forcing the puck out of other people's hands and making it hard for them to skate through. I think at worst is giving up chances so we got to make sure we don't give up chances."

DEKEYSER UPDATE: Defenseman Danny DeKeyser has not played since leaving Tuesday night's game in Dallas with a lower-body injury.

"I guess it's that day to day, two-week deal," Blashill said. "As far as I know, it's day to day but he didn't skate today so he's certainly not in tomorrow."

Everyone but DeKeyser practiced Sunday and Blashill said as far as he knows, everyone who played in Las Vegas Friday is available for Monday night's game against the Tampa Bay Lightning.

BATTLE READY: Luke Witkowski may have some competition for tough guy on the Wings.

Well, not really, but Tatar showed Friday night in Las Vegas that he is prepared to mix it up.

At 13:37 of the third period, Tatar and Golden Knights forward Erik Haula ended up dropping the gloves.

"I'm not looking for it, obviously," Tatar said. "I want to play more, maybe score goals, help the team this way but when it comes to that, I'm not afraid of it and I can stand up for myself for sure. I thought it was one of the reasons why we drop it, it was a hit, then we start to talk and we just dropped the gloves. Sometimes that happens."

According to hockeyfights.com, it was the first career NHL fight for both players.

Tatar does have seven AHL bouts to his credit and Haula has two USHL fights.

"I've seen that side before, to be honest with you," Blashill said after Friday's game. "I saw it a couple times in the American League. He's got real toughness to him and he got challenged and he answered the bell. That doesn't surprise me at all about Tomas."

Visitors to hockeyfights.com ruled Tatar as the winner of the fight, with 93 percent casting their votes for him.

Tatar's teammates were also impressed.

"I don't think I've ever seen that but he was good," Zetterberg said. "He held up well and threw some good punches."

Said linemate Gustav Nyquist: "That was awesome to see. He really took care of business there. It was fun to see and good for him."

POINTING IT OUT: The Wings are one of five teams that have at least three players with at least seven points so far this season.

Mike Green has eight points, all assists. Zetterberg and Anthony Mantha have three goals and four assists apiece.

The Washington Capitals (Nicklas Backstrom, Evgeny Kuznetsov, Alex Ovechkin and T.J. Oshie) and Tampa Bay Lightning (Nikita Kucherov, Brayden Point, Alex Killorn and Steven Stamkos) have four players each with seven or more points.

The Chicago Blackhawks (Brandon Saad, Patrick Kane and Ryan Hartman) and Philadelphia Flyers (Jakub Voracek, Shayne Gostisbehere and Claude Giroux) also have three players with seven or more points.

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