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Notes: Wings refocus before facing Predators

Mantha reunited with Larkin and Bertuzzi; Green and Daley to miss Predators game

by Dana Wakiji @Dwakiji / DetroitRedWings.com

DETROIT -- Before the Red Wings started their morning skate Monday, coach Jeff Blashill gathered the team for a quick meeting.

The message to a team in the midst of a 1-9-1 swoon was simple.

"Basically that we didn't show up this weekend," forward Anthony Mantha said. "That we started cheating for offense in Carolina. Obviously, we don't want to do that tonight. We have four games this week, he said. Let's just start with tonight and try to win all four. And if we do, that gets us back in it, gets the guys going, obviously the confidence after that, a couple of wins, is going to be huge. We need to focus on tonight and be ready when the puck drops."

Tweet from @DetroitRedWings: "We need to focus on tonight and be ready when the puck drops."🗣��� Mantha | #NSHvsDET pic.twitter.com/FhoGlWhha0

The players said Blashill also stressed that there's nothing that can be done about what's already happened so stay in the moment.

"The message was just we just have to move on to the next game, just think about the next game, the next shift," defenseman Dennis Cholowski said. "You can't think about the past, the past is the past, it's over now. Just have to move on and try to stay positive. That's really all you can do."

On Friday, the Wings lost in Carolina, 7-3, and then followed that up by getting shut out, 4-0, by the Florida Panthers on Saturday.

"We just like to live in facts," Blashill said. "I didn't think our pushback on Saturday was good enough when we got down. I thought Friday was, I thought we kept pushing, kept playing. I thought Saturday wasn't good enough, but you can get frustrated, but frustration is probably the No. 1 wasted emotion. It does no good to anybody or anything, so you have to learn from it and move on. Again, if we win tonight, we're all going to come to the locker room and feel good. Any day you win in this league is a great day, so let's go try to win a hockey game tonight."

The Wings started the season with a 5-3 victory in Nashville on Oct. 5 and they are 10-1 in their last 11 games against the Predators since the start of the 2014-15 season.

"Obviously, everyone was excited to start the year, so everyone was hyped up," Mantha said. "I don't know, I just think against Nashville, we're always ready and we play pretty good hockey. So hopefully we can do that tonight."

In the morning skate, Mantha was back on the top line with Dylan Larkin and Tyler Bertuzzi.

"We had chemistry early on," Mantha said. "He wanted to try and couple of different lines for the past couple of games. It didn't really work out the way we wanted, I think. Us three as a line, we've done great things this year, so hopefully we can get it going again."

YOUNG D GROUP: On Saturday, veteran defenseman Mike Green missed the game due to illness and did not skate Monday.

Blashill said Green remains out because of that illness but said, to his knowledge, this illness is not related to the virus that kept him out for two long stretches last season.

Fellow veteran defenseman Trevor Daley, who was unable to finish Saturday's game, skated on Monday but did not take part in rushes.

Blashill said Daley would also miss the game.

With Danny DeKeyser still on the shelf with a lower-body injury, that means the Wings will dress a group of mostly very young defensemen.

Tweet from @DetroitRedWings: Jeff Blashill ahead of #NSHvsDET. pic.twitter.com/Es272w2o8J

"I don't know if it's young, old, doesn't matter," Blashill said. "Guys have to go out and execute. They've got to play to the very best of their abilities. We're asking a lot out of a number of guys, but that's the reality of the situation. I also think those guys want minutes. If you want the minutes, then you got to go out and execute at a high level every single night and it's really really hard to be at 100 percent your best every night.

"Nobody does that in life but you got to find a way to be as close to that as humanly possible every night. That's a trained thing, I think it takes time, it takes understanding how to manage the game. So as a defenseman, they'll just keep continuing that learning process."

During the skate, the pairs were:

Patrik Nemeth-Filip Hronek

Cholowski-Alex Biega

Joe Hicketts-Madison Bowey

Tweet from @DetroitRedWings: Morning skate action underway. #NSHvsDET tonight @ 7:30. 📺: @FOXSportsDet Plus📻: @971theticketxyt pic.twitter.com/1Buz05RZIL

The average age of that group is 24.67 with Biega the oldest at 31. Cholowski is the youngest at 21.

"Obviously it's a big challenge," Cholowski said. "There's a lot of young defensemen back here but I think we're capable and we're going to try to fill those roles and step up."

Blashill had Cholowski as a healthy scratch against Edmonton and Carolina, saying Cholowski had better hockey in him. 

"Just be me, just play assertive and play confident with the puck and make sure I end plays quickly in the D-zone so I can have the puck and then try to create plays with it," Cholowski said.

By contrast, the Predators have an accomplished group of veteran defensemen whose average age is 29 with the expected starters of Roman Josi, Ryan Ellis, Mattias Ekholm, Dan Hamhuis and Matt Irwin. Young Dante Fabbro, 21, brings the average age down a bit.

Josi, 29, signed an eight-year, $72.472 million contract on Oct. 29. He (5-9-14) and Ellis, 28, (2-12-14) are tied for the team lead in points with 14.

Ellis and Ekholm, 29, are tied for the team lead in plus-minus at plus-10.

SPECIAL TEAMS WOES: The Wings are still struggling to gain a foothold with their special teams.

The power play is ranked 25th at 14 percent and the penalty kill is ranked 28th at 70.2 percent.

"Actually, I'm probably not seeing anything," Mantha said of the power play. "I think we're just not shooting the puck enough, not getting those extra chances, those rebounds. It's a detail. (Assistant coach Dan Bylsma) came up with a stat this morning. I think we're at about 47 shots in 60 minutes on the power play. The leaders in the league are at about 70. We're 30 shots shy of that. It makes a huge difference."

Although the power play has been a little better in the last stretch, the overall numbers remain less than stellar.

"We've lost a little bit of our speed on the puck movement - the last segment, I think our power play was 17 percent," Blashill said. "So it climbed into respectability but we need some segments at 25-30 percent to get the overall number way (higher). Certainly shooting mentality and puck speed and those things matter tons. You gotta be willing to shoot it and get it back."

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