Red Wings forward discusses on hard luck team has dealt with during six-game winless skid. Ted Kulfan
Sunrise, Fla. — Is it beginning to feel like last season?
If you’re a Red Wings fan, it’s fair to wonder what with the team having lost six straight and this season’s promising start long forgotten about.
Interestingly, forward Dylan Larkin thinks this winless streak “feels worse” than last season.
“(Because) it’s early, the ups and down, coming in with four wins and now (losing) six in a row,” Larkin said. “No one’s happy. It’s almost a rock bottom thing. I haven’t felt like this in my career.”
Looking for a spark, anything to change around the team’s fortunes — while at the same time making everyone a bit more accountable — coach Jeff Blashill isn’t going to change lines anymore.
No more switching around, mixing and matching, using the blender to figure out lines.
The lines you’ll see the Red Wings play Saturday against Florida will, said Blashill, stay the same for the foreseeable future.
So, you have Henrik Zetterberg centering Tomas Tatar and Gustav Nyquist with Larkin between Anthony Mantha and Andreas Athanasiou. Frans Nielsen will center Darren Helm and Justin Abdelkader and Luke Glendening will stay between Martin Frk and Scott Wilson.
“I’m done playing with the lines,” Blashill said. “The lines are the lines. The guys on those lines have to step up and make plays.
“We have guys who’ve been elite in this league and we need them to step up and be elite. We need guys, and we have them, to step up and make plays.”
Goals have been hard to come by lately, what with only three goals total in the last three games, and 11 over this six-game winless streak.
Individually, Nyquist has two goals total and that occurred in one game (Oct. 13 against Vegas). Tatar has three goals, but they all came in two games.
Mantha has one goal in the last five games, Zetterberg one point in the last four, and Abdelkader and Helm three goals combined (two for Abdelkader).
Red Wings coach talks about the six penalties the team took in 3-2 loss to the Lightning Thursday. Ted Kulfan
“As a coach you try to help guys,” Blashill said. “Sometimes they have to help themselves, and step up and realize it’s not about the combinations or this and that. I’m going to leave them (lines) the same, so there will be more chemistry. Each line can be successful. Now they have to play and make sure on their own line, they’re getting the job done.
The most intriguing line from all these configurations will be the young line centered by Larkin.
The three main pieces of the Red Wings’ future, together on one unit, with speed and skill and ability to spare.
Larkin and Mantha talked often in the exhibition season about wanting to assume more control and responsibility. Now they’ll have it, along with Athanasiou, who is finally on the roster after a lengthy contract stalemate.
“Guys have to step up and be elite players and we’ve got guys who can do it,” Blashill said. “That young line has a lot of self-belief and I have belief in them, that they can get it done.”
The chance to play together and be fixtures for the foreseeable future was exciting news for Mantha and Larkin.
Red Wings forward talks about taking the next step in becoming offensive playmakers. Ted Kulfan
“We talked about it earlier this year, we want to be impact players,” Mantha said. “The three of us together, we could create a lot of offense.”
Said Larkin: “All three of us have played together, known each other for a while, and it’s exciting, we’re happy about it.”
Larkin likes the idea of having linemates on a somewhat permanent basis, and not having to form chemistry with newer linemates.
“You don’t have those one or two, or three or four shifts, and the way this year is going there are a couple of power play and penalty kills in there, so maybe it’s two periods you get four shifts together as a line,” Larkin said. “(Now) you don’t have those four shifts to figure each other out. You build and build each game, each period, and you’re coming to the bench and talking about what to improve on and keep each other up.”
The bottom line, though, is the Red Wings need to win some games, and quick.
“We have to turn it around,” Tatar said. “Start doing the right things, and win some games.”
Defenseman Danny DeKeyser (ankle) was hoping to play Thursday in Tampa but didn’t, as Blashill said DeKeyser’s progress “stalled” — and now it looks like DeKeyser may not play Saturday. “Probably not,” said DeKeyser, who rolled an ankle blocking a shot Oct. 10 in Dallas and hasn’t played since.
... Blashill didn’t disclose a starting goaltender for Saturday but it’s likely he may turn to Petr Mrazek (1-2, 3.24 GAA, .901 SV), who has had three starts this season.
RED WINGS AT PANTHERS
Faceoff: 7 p.m. Saturday, BB&T Center, Sunrise, Fla.
TV/radio: Fox Sports Detroit/97.1 FM.
Outlook: The Panthers (4-5) are coming off an 8-3 victory over Anaheim…C Vincent Trocheck (4 goals, 10 points) leads an offense that could be getting hot…Florida is ranked 30th on the penalty kill (72.2 percent).