Glendale, Ariz. — Most hockey people, including the players, still don’t exactly know why the NHL felt it was necessary to clean up faceoffs.
Not a lot of folks felt it was a serious issue. There was minor cheating, sure, by cagey veterans who knew how to exploit a younger player.
But nothing that seemed extraordinary.
Now, the NHL is going strict and some teams, including the Red Wings, appear overly cautious in the circle.
Two consecutive faceoff violations result in a minor penalty, which is making players excessively careful.
“For the second guy coming in, you might as well just give the faceoff away because you don’t want to be that guy in the box,” said captain Henrik Zetterberg, who has been critical of the faceoff emphasis since training camp. “Just not move at all. That’s the safest thing but then you won’t win any faceoffs either.”
Dallas dominated the Red Wings 58 percent to 42 percent in the faceoff circle, a key reason for the Stars’ 4-2 victory.
The Stars won faceoffs, got control of the puck, and forced the Red Wings to chase it most of the game.
Zetterberg was 15-of-34, Frans Nielsen 5-of-16, and Dylan Larkin 8-of-16 in the circle.
Basically, officials want to curb the cheating, specifically to players squaring up behind the L-shaped marks surrounding the dot.
But it’s that second guy coming in after his teammate gets thrown out that is making teams cautious.
Coach Jeff Blashill wants the Red Wings to regain their confidence and comfort level in the circle.
We have to do a better job in the faceoff circle,” Blashill said. “The one thing I’d say about that is we’re very worried about taking that penalty. I guess I have to look through the league and see if they’ve called any yet. In the preseason they did, but I want to make sure that it’s being called the same way for that second guy going in.
“I certainly want to make sure our guys are not taking a penalty. But if they’re allowing more cheating on that second guy throughout the league, we have to make sure they’re looking at that.”
Defenseman Danny DeKeyser (lower body) didn’t skate during an optional practice Wednesday — not many did — and his status for Thursday’s game against Arizona is “questionable,” said general manager Ken Holland.
DeKeyser was limited to just over 12 minutes of ice time before leaving in the third period after apparently blocking a shot.
If DeKeyser isn’t ready, defenseman Niklas Kronwall (groin) could make his regular season debut. Kronwall has steadily increased his workload in practice the last several days and could be ready to play.
Luke Witkowski could also be option, moving from forward to defense.
Forward Justin Abdelkader scored his first goal of the season Tuesday, the type of goal he should thrive on, redirecting a pass from Henrik Zetterberg near the post on the power play.
Abdelkader only had seven goals in an injury-marred last season, and is looking to quickly wipe the disappointment out of his memory.
“I want to get off to a good start,” Abdelkader said.
Red Wings at Coyotes
Faceoff: 10 p.m. Thursday, Gila River Arena, Glendale, Ariz.
Outlook: The Coyotes (0-2-1) are winless in 3 games, including 2 losses to expansion Vegas…Arizona has allowed 12 goals in the 3 losses…C Derek Stepan has only 1 point (an assist).