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Wings hold team meeting after losses

by Bill Roose / Detroit Red Wings
Petr Mrazek didn't receive much help defensively Thursday. The Red Wings' goaltender was pulled in the third period after allowing five goals on 31 shots. (Photo by Getty Images)

KANATA, Ontario – After giving up 15 goals in the past three games, the Red Wings held a team meeting before Friday’s optional practice at Canadian Tire Centre.

While specific details of what was said and by whom were not discussed with the media, what is known is there are 24 games left in the regular season and the Wings need to clamp down defensively if they are to stretch their playoff streak to 25 straight seasons.

The coaches used video footage Friday to emphasize areas of concern, especially as it relates to defensive lapses in their own end of the ice.

“Just showing some stuff that we need to improve on,” Wings forward Justin Abdelkader said. “Obviously, giving up five goals (per game) is not the style and the type of play that we want. That’s gonna move us forward here. We’ve got to be better with some better attention to detail. Obviously we have 24 games left, so it’s gonna be a sprint to the end here.

“We all know that we need to be better, but you can’t come about your everyday business today and think everything is fine. It’s not. Last game was uncharacteristic with some of the mistakes and how we played and that’s got to be better, and obviously that needs to be addressed.”

The Wings are on a four-game road losing streak, something that hasn’t happened since March 2014. In their current tailspin, the Wings have been outscored 19-8 in road losses at Tampa Bay, Florida, New York Islanders and Pittsburgh.

Currently on three-game road swing, the Wings will visit Atlantic Division rival Ottawa on Saturday before taking on the Rangers in New York on Sunday.

Coach Jeff Blashill hopes today’s meeting can put a stop to the bleeding.

“There’s just areas in our game that we’ve got to be better at,” Blashill said. “I spoke last night about making sure we’re better defensively, so we want to make sure that we’re learning. One of the best ways to learn is by seeing it on video. The video never lies so we went through some stuff that we’ve got to be better at. … My job is to try to teach and make sure that we’re learning and getting better as a hockey team.”

Following Thursday’s 6-3 loss at Pittsburgh, where the Penguins scored several goals on rebounds and second chances, Blashill was bothered by his team’s overall lack on mental energy.

“Sometimes mental freshness is real important, so that’s why we didn’t practice today,” Blashill said. “I just thought you go through long periods of the year and it can be a grind on you mentally, and I didn’t love our energy level two days ago in practice, I didn’t love our energy level just last night in terms of the energy around the room. It’s a grind, so I think given the guys a chance to mentally refresh and make sure that our focus level is extremely high. Working hard gets you in the door. You have to have a high focus of attention to detail, doing it right every single shift in order to have success. And we didn’t do it right enough certainly last night.”

While the majority of players skated Friday on Ottawa, four players – Henrik Zetterberg, Darren Helm, Brad Richards and Kyle Quincey – received maintenance days.

Moving forward, Blashill would like to see more physical play from the forwards and defensemen, making it tougher on teams to crash the net where rebounds and second-chance scoring lurks.

“The first area in physicality could be our first contact in our D-zone where you can separate the man from the puck quicker so we can get out of our zone faster,” he said. “But really the defensive lapses were maybe, I guess, more physical in front of the net. Those two areas in our D-zone, we can do a better job of.”

The last two starts haven’t been Petr Mrazek’s best games, and Thursday was the first time he hasn’t finished a start all season. But as he’s watched his last two starters – against the Bruins and Penguins – Blashill says he doesn’t see blemishes in Mrazek’s game.

“I don’t think Pete’s played nearly to his high level. Honestly, that’s the ebb and flow of the year,” Blashill said. “He was 95 percent (save percentage) or something like that through January. Well, that’s not sustainable. I know that’s not sustainable. Nobody does that, so I’d be concerned if I saw real flaws. I don’t see flaws. He just hasn’t quite been as sharp as he has been prior. But I expected that at some point. I knew at some point that would happen.”

Though Jimmy Howard finished Thursday’s game by stopping all six shots he faced in the final 11 minutes of the third period, the Wings plan to go back to Mrazek against the Senators on Saturday.

Jonathan Ericsson
Defense  - DET
Goals: 2 | Assists: 7 | Pts: 9
Shots: 48 | +/-: 8
ERICSSON SKATED: Jonathan Ericsson skated on his own Friday afternoon at Canadian Tire Centre. It was the first time he’s been on the ice since suffering a lower-body injury in the 3-2 shootout loss to Colorado a week ago.

The Wings’ defenseman time on the ice seemed more leisurely as he skated a few timed laps while stopping at the team bench on occasion to talk with either trainer Piet Van Zant or conditioning coach Mike Kadar.

Blashill said earlier this week that he does not expect Ericsson to play in either of the Wings’ road games this weekend.

SUNDAY AT MSG: The Red Wings’ morning skate scheduled for Sunday in New York has been dunked on by Big East men’s basketball.

St. John’s is hosting Seton Hall at noon Sunday at Madison Square Garden. The Red Wings and Rangers will faceoff at 7 p.m.

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