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Special Focus

by Dana Wakiji / Detroit Red Wings
Justin Abdelkader has had good success against Edmonton, Calgary and Vancouver. (Photo by Getty Images)

TAYLOR, Mich. -- Before heading to western Canada, the Red Wings held a short practice focused mostly on special teams.

"What we did a little bit was give them a chance to slow it down a little bit, we took a little more time on it," Wings coach Jeff Blashill said. "Sometimes I think we want to have practice go at such a high pace we rush through and maybe don’t get as much teaching time, so we slowed it down on one end so we’ll see if it helps."

Through five games, the Wings were 20th in the league on the power play, hitting on 15.4 percent of their man-advantage chances.

"That can be better," captain Henrik Zetterberg said. "We’ve had our chances to either get back in games or go ahead in games with our power play but we didn’t create enough chances. PK I think has been good. They’ve been keeping us in games but the power play has to be better, especially on this trip."

One of the Wings' problems has been not spending enough time in the offensive zone when they are on the power play.

"I think we need to be a little more dangerous," Justin Abdelkader said. "Better zone time, execution off face-offs, winning face-offs, trying to keep the puck in their zone as much as possible. It can't be just one and done. We got the talent here to get it done, we just gotta go out and execute. I think we'll be fine. It's still early."

The Wings actually have a lower penalty kill ranking than power play ranking, 22nd in the league at 80 percent.

Generally speaking, the Wings have traditionally preferred that the combined ranking of their specialty teams be no more than 10, so there's some work to be done.

GOOD TIME FOR A TRIP: Now that the Wings are in the Eastern Conference, they don't have to travel out west as much, but when they do, it's good to get it out of the way sooner than later.

"This will be a nice road trip," Abdelkader said. "Guys always enjoy going out to western Canada. We gotta get playing a little better here and sometimes on the road you gotta play a simpler game so it can help you that way."

Another advantage is that the weather won't be as dreadfully cold as it is in the middle of winter.

"It’s better to be out there in the mid-40s than the mid-20s," Zetterberg said. "It’s a weekend so we’ve got a back-to-back again, but obviously it’s nice to go out on the road like this early in the season. It’s good for the team, good to spend some time on the road and play some games and go for dinners and bond as a team."

In general, Abdelkader has performed well on western Canadian swings.

Against the Edmonton Oilers, Abdelkader has four goals and seven assists in 16 games; against the Calgary Flames, he has five goals and three assists in 15 games; and against the Vancouver Canucks, he has six goals and two assists in 17 games.

"For whatever reason, I always enjoy going out there and playing in these rinks, playing in Edmonton, Calgary, Vancouver," Abdelkader said. "I think as a team we've had successful trips out there. Anytime you're struggling a little bit, it's sometimes good to go on the road and try to find our game. The big thing is keeping it simple and not turning pucks over."

HALLOWEEN HIT: The Wings held their annual Halloween party and the players all went in costume, some more impressive than others.

"The best outfit probably was Abdelkader," Zetterberg said. "I’ll keep that to myself what he was. I think he still has some of his costume still on him."

Abdelkader revealed that he went as an Avatar.

"I had my face painted and my whole body painted and I just had blue spandex so it all kind of matched together so it was good," Abdelkader said.

Abdelkader said he and his girlfriend were tossing around ideas and came up with this one. He wasn't willing to declare his own costume the best.

"I probably put the most effort in," Abdelkader said. "I don't know if that means the best. Going out and getting my whole body painted, the most I saw was a few people had their face painted. I thought it was really good. The lady that came over did a good job. It was fun. It's once a year. I enjoy doing something like that."

Abdelkader said Zetterberg was correct that the costume was not completely gone yet.

"There's a little blue paint I'm still trying to get off my body," he said. "Most of it came off."

LINEUP AND GOALTENDERS: Blashill said he planned to keep the lineup as it has been in practice the last couple of days.

Lines:

Justin Abdelkader-Henrik Zetterberg-Dylan Larkin

Tomas Tatar-Riley Sheahan-Gustav Nyquist

Darren Helm-Brad Richards-Teemu Pulkkinen

Drew Miller-Luke Glendening-Landon Ferraro

Defense pairs:

Niklas Kronwall-Jonathan Ericsson

Danny DeKeyser-Mike Green

Kyle Quincey-Jakub Kindl

Blashill said Petr Mrazek would be in goal Wednesday in Edmonton, Jimmy Howard in Calgary on Friday and Mrazek in Vancouver on Saturday.

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