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Wings look to improve power play

by Bill Roose / Detroit Red Wings

Assistant coach Tom Renney will once again be responsible for the Red Wings' power play units this season. (Photo By Dave Reginek)

TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. – The Red Wings had holes to fill in their power play last season. Coming off a year when the special teams unit finished in the bottom third in the league, some of the responsibility to turn things around fell upon assistant coach Tom Renney.

Detroit ended up in the middle of the pack last season. The power play was 18.4 percent, scored 34 goals on 185 chances. Part of the problem, Renney acknowledges, was a lack of shots on goal with the man-advantage.

“There are guys that have good touches and get good looks that I'd like to see shoot more, no question about that,” Renney said. “There was an improvement from the previous year, I think we were 22 to 15 or something like that and you want to see marked improvement again this year. What it comes down to is a successful power play to me is all about retrievals and there's no retrievals if you're not shooting. So the bottom line is we need shots, we need net-presence, we got to get the puck back.”

As fundamental as that might sound, that is the bottom line for the Red Wings. Puck-retrieval puts the opposition under duress causing longer shifts and creating chaos in the offensive zone.

These are the nuances that the Red Wings will begin to work on when players begin the first day of training camp drills at Centre ICE Arena on Thursday.

“You get the puck back and it seems you got more room and time to work with it,” Renney said.

It wasn’t that long ago when the Red Wings had the league’s best power play. In 2008-09, Detroit’s power play mowed along at 25.5 percent and produced 90 goals, which is the most scored by any team over the last five seasons.

The Wings’ power play, especially on the road, struggled last season. They were 0-for-36 in the first 10 road games. A listless power play can adversely affect the rest of the team, which was evident in the Wings 7-11-5 record when opponents didn’t allow a power-play goal.

The coaches certainly would like to see that improve.

“It can take the wind out of your sails,” Renney said. “A good power play that doesn't score but has good looks, gets the puck to the net, gets it back and is very dynamic, can create momentum for you even if you haven't scored. The bottom line is you want to do that as much as you can. The last thing you want to see is a power play that sucks the momentum out of your squad.”

That shouldn’t happen this season with the addition of Daniel Alfredsson and Stephen Weiss, who are both expected to contribute in their own ways on the power play.

“One of the things you've got with Alfie is an experienced NHL player with a right hand shot that can navigate the whole end zone and give you more options off of that. That’s important,” Renney said. “Stephen's really an interesting player, he's a convertible type player because he can play up and play the point on the power play. How we choose to integrate him into that scheme remains to be seen. I think the power play should be more dynamic. There are some fundamental parts of the power play that are incumbent with any successful power play and that's net-presence, the shot and getting pucks back. At the end of the day, the X's and O's mean nothing if you don't do those things well.”

Follow Bill Roose on Twitter | @Bill_Roose

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