The Red Wings' Riley Sheahan, left, and the Panthers' Scottie Upshall battle for the puck during the first period Thursday. (J. Pat Carter / Associated Press)
Tampa, Fla. — When people were saying the Red Wings’ season was disintegrating last month, nobody in the locker room was paying attention.
There was a sense of belief that once they got healthy, once they got to playing their type of hockey, everything would be fine.
In case you haven’t noticed, the Red Wings are 6-2-2 over their last 10 games, 3-0-1 over their last four. They’re in a wild-card spot, just four points from third place in the Atlantic Division.
They’ve gotten healthy and they’re playing their type of hockey.
“When we play the right way and have all of our pieces, we’re a good team,” Niklas Kronwall said. “What other people think and feel about it doesn’t concern us. We know what we have in here.
“We believe in each other and the structure that we have. When we do it right, we’re a real good team, and we’ve shown that at times. It’s just a matter of doing it night after night.”
Whether it be the Winter Classic on Jan. 1, or the five-game road trip that followed, the Red Wings point to that time frame as a turning point.
They only went 2-3-1 in those six games, but the Red Wings saw some hope.
“We played a little better, kept it a lot simpler,” Henrik Zetterberg said. “It took a little while, but we figured out how we should play and what works and what doesn’t.”
Ericsson should play
Jonathan Ericsson sat out Friday’s practice at St. Pete Times Forum.
“Just a maintenance day,” said Ericsson, who returned Jan. 22 from a rib injury, although this isn’t related.
“It’s been bugging me for a little bit. It should be good.”
Ericsson and coach Mike Babcock both felt Ericsson would be able to play.
Red Wings players felt for former teammate Valtteri Filppula, who fractured his right ankle this week and will miss the Olympics. “I feel bad for him, nobody wants to miss the Olympics,” Kronwall said. “It’s a bad break for him. But overall this season, he’s had a huge impact (20 goals, 21 assists) for his team (Lightning).”
… Pavel Datsyuk said some of his friends and family were attending the Opening Ceremonies, which were being telecast in the locker room after Friday’s practice. “It’s a little strange,” said Zetterberg, knowing the Olympics have officially started while the Red Wings have one more game to play before the break.