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Wings focused on aggressive, improved special teams

Team had preseason success and wants it to carry it over to regular season

by Dana Wakiji @Dwakiji /

DETROIT - For the Red Wings to have a better season, they know they have to have improved special teams.

Last year the Wings were around the middle of the pack in both power play and penalty kill, ranking 13th on the power play at 18.8 percent and 14th on the penalty kill at 81.5 percent.

"A lot of people look at percentage, where you sit at in the league and although that's important, one measurable we're going to look at every game is did we win the special teams battle," Wings coach Jeff Blashill told the Detroit Sports Broadcasters Association Monday. "Did we score more goals on specialty teams than the opponent? And that includes shorthanded goals for and shorthanded goals against."

According to Blashill, teams that win the special teams battle win 76 percent of the time.

New assistant coach John Torchetti is focused on the power play while Doug Houda, another new assistant coach, is working with the penalty kill.

Both are trying to instill an aggressive mentality for both special teams.

"I think getting pucks to the net, it doesn't really matter where it comes from, whether it's from down low or up high," captain Henrik Zetterberg said. "I thought we last year were focusing too much on getting pucks up from high. We might have to find different angles to get the puck to the net. We've been working on it a little bit and we're going to improve working on it. But I think mostly it's getting pucks to the net and being there for the second pucks. I think there was too many one and dones last year."

To that end, Torchetti has talked about going to the net right after the face-off on the power play.

"This year we're really focusing on getting a lot of people to the net and outnumbering them," Gustav Nyquist said. "If they got three guys in there, we want to be four. We want to attack off the face-off as well and get them scrambling a little bit. There's a couple different tweaks and I think in preseason it's been looking pretty well. We've had some good zone entries, I think, and gotten set up pretty good so hopefully we can keep doing that."

Nyquist had just seven power-play goals last year after scoring 14 the previous season. 

It's a very small sample size but in eight preseason games the Wings were second with eight power play goals and second with a 30.8 power-play percentage.

Adding players like Frans Nielsen and Thomas Vanek can also help the power play.

"Real smart player, makes plays, very skilled offensively, just an unreal shot, too," Nyquist said of Vanek. "Really knows how to score, you can tell in practice for sure."

The preseason penalty kill - again, a small sample size - ranked fourth at 93.5 percent.

"From a penalty kill aspect, one thing we've done a better job of so far this year is our up ice pressure on the forecheck," Blashill said. "That's one area. We're pressuring a little more in zone and we're OK at it but our up ice pressure has been real good and we want to continue to maintain that."

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