DETROIT - The Red Wings did not hold a morning skate Wednesday ahead of their game with the St. Blues, but for a very good reason.
Coach Jeff Blashill and his team all went to the Fox Theatre for a private visitation for owner Mike Ilitch, who passed away last Friday.
"I just think that having had a chance to be there today and I was actually there last night, the visitation, prayer service, and I think for our team, even as we were waiting this morning, just to sit there as the coaches were going through and you see everything that Mr. Ilitch did for this organization and this city and state," Blashill said. "There's no question, as I said before, I think our players always play very hard for our ownership. They have an affinity for ownership, they know what special owners we have. Certainly, that's magnified today."
Captain Henrik Zetterberg said they will carry that memory into the game.
"It is going to be a special night for us," Zetterberg said. "It started this morning when we had the whole team went to the Fox for visitation and it will carry on for tonight. It's a big game for our hockey club, a special night."
Tomas Tatar did not get to know Mr. Ilitch as well as some of the older players, but he said everyone will miss him.
"He was just such a nice person, down to earth, he was great, he was good to talk to and just a great person," Tatar said. "I heard about him a lot before I even become a Red Wing, just the great things he did for the city and for this team. I just knew how he cared about the organization and it meant a lot for the players and for the fans for sure."
The Wings will all wear a "Mr. I" patch on the sleeve of their jerseys.
Fans will have the opportunity to sign a Mr. Ilitch tribute banner outside of section 112 tonight. Markers will be available.
DEKEYSER REMAINS POSITIVE: Defenseman and Detroit native Danny DeKeyser cannot remember the Red Wings ever missing the NHL playoffs.
DeKeyser will turn 27 in March and admits that this season has been frustrating, but he believes that a positive approach by himself and his teammates could turn the Wings' fortunes around.
"It's definitely difficult. It's a different year so far. It's been tough," DeKeyser said. "A lot of things haven't been working for us this year. It's extremely frustrating. We're going out there every night and expecting different results, but still not being good enough. It's extremely tough.
"It's tough to stay positive when stuff like that happens. You have to do the best you can to stay positive and keep a good energy in the room and try to execute plays at a higher level."
Entering Wednesday's game against the Blues, DeKeyser realizes that the Wings must begin to string some victories together to keep Detroit's playoff streak of 25 consecutive seasons alive.
"Every game is huge right now, home or away, but we've got to take care of our home ice first," DeKeyser said, "and then try and get rolling and get some point on the road, but first things first. We have to take care of home ice first."
Without trying to sound like a cliché, DeKeyser feels that it's a pretty simple approach for the Wings at this point.
"I think just every night you have to take it one game at a time and try and get two points," DeKeyser said. "That's the only thing you can do right now it take it one game at a time.
"If you're looking too far forward it's probably not going to work out for you, so I guess the biggest thing is to take it one game at a time."
Detroit's penalty killing has not been stellar this year with the Wings ranking 21st in the NHL overall.
DeKeyser has seen flashes of the PK unit pulling it together, but he says the penalty kill needs to be more consistent.
"We've just got to get out there and execute," DeKeyser said. "We know the scouting report and it's up to the four guys out there to get the puck and get it down the ice and limit the amount of scoring chances they have."
It does sound simple enough and Wednesday's opponent, the Blues, should be a good challenge for the Wings penalty killers.
The Blues' power play ranks 6th overall in the NHL, but on the road their power play has been dynamic, converting at a 23.9% clip, which is good for second best on the road this year in the NHL.
MRAZEK GOOD AGAINST ST. LOUIS: If the Wings have a distinct advantage over the Blues, it may be in goal.
Petr Mrazek will start in Wednesday's game against St. Louis and Detroit's young goaltender has had considerable success against the Blues.
In six career games vs. St. Louis, Mrazek is 4-1-0 with a 1.25 GAA. .951 save percentage and one shutout.
He made his NHL debut in St. Louis on February 7, 2013, recording his first career victory as the Wings defeated the Blues 5-1.
Mrazek shut out the Blues 3-0 on April 13, 2014, making 23 saves and this season in St. Louis, he defeated the Blues on October 27, 2-1 in a shootout for his 50th career win in his 100th NHL game.
VANEK SHOULD BE READY: Thomas Vanek, who missed Sunday's game in Minnesota with an ankle injury, practiced Monday and is expected to play. Blashill said the final decision will be made after warmups.