Detroit — The final season at Joe Louis Arena wasn’t always a home ice advantage for the Red Wings.
And, in the early going at Little Caesars Arena, it’s been the same way.
So, with the rare home game Tuesday against Arizona, and then being able to spend most of November at home, the Red Wings want to beginning establishing more of a home-ice advantage — and win some hockey games in front of the home fans.
“We need to keep winning,” forward Gustav Nyquist said. “Coming home, we don’t have the best record (1-2-1), so we have to take care of that; it’s not as good as it needs to be. We have a lot of work to do.”
Thus far, early in the NHL schedule, the Red Wings simply haven’t been around their new arena much.
Tuesday’s game was only the fifth for the Red Wings at LCA, against eight road games, in what has been a road-heavy schedule up to this point.
And it doesn’t end soon.
The Red Wings go right back on the road for four more games on the road in Canada, before returning home for a truly advantageous, home-dominant schedule.
Beginning Nov. 11, the Red Wings play 13 of their next 15 games at home.
The way coach Jeff Blashill sees it, Tuesday’s game against Arizona is as good a place as any to begin taking advantage of being at home.
“There has to be a sense of urgency at home,” said Blashill, noting the Red Wings’ lack of success last season at Joe Louis Arena.
Despite the nightly sell-out crowds, and the festive atmosphere nearly every game at Joe Louis Arena last season, the Red Wings were still only 17-17-7 at home.
There were many reasons the Red Wings didn’t make the playoffs, but not securing enough wins and points at home surely was key.
“We haven’t won at home enough the last couple of years and these home games are critical,” Blashill said “It’s tough to go .750 (winning percentage) on the road. We have to find a way to make sure our home record is better than it’s been.”
The Red Wings, and their fans, are all seemingly trying to make themselves feel more at home at Little Caesars Arena.
And that could be one reason the new digs haven’t entirely been beneficial, yet, for the Red Wings.
Nobody is really disputing that tickets are being sold for games, but fans have been spending more time on the concourse areas and enjoying the game from the comfort of LCA restaurants and sports bars rather than their seats.
The lack of people in the stands, have in turn lessened the atmosphere and noise level in the arena.
The ice, itself, hasn’t consistently been fast and smooth, either, right from the preseason, making it that much of a challenge for both teams.
But a few Red Wings players maintain it’s more up to the team itself to succeed at home, no matter who is the opponent, the schedule involved, or any other point of contention.
“It’s just important for us to go out there and take care of the business we need to take care of,” goaltender Jimmy Howard said.
Learing to adjust
It’s startling to see forward Dylan Larkin lead the NHL with nine minor penalties taken.
Larkin had 16 minor penalties all of last season.
Slashing continues to be a particular problem for Larkin, with the majority of his calls being on the infraction referees are paying particular attention to this season.
“It’s something that’s just habits, and the way they’re calling it is completely different than the past years or your whole life playing hockey,” Larkin said of the adjustment this season to slashing calls. “You’re used to going after the stick or being in stick battles, but these are definitely penalties I can clean up and I need to, to help our team.”
It would be easy for any player to get frustrated, but Larkin feels it’s vital to keep an even keel.
“You get frustrated and you want to yell at them (referees), but it doesn’t do any good,” Larkin said. “Just leave them alone and let them figure it out. They way they’re going to call it is the way they’re going to call it.
“Just play smarter.”
Arizona forward Clayton Keller, with eight goals in 12 games to start the season, is making a strong case for rookie-of-the-year honors. Keller is a graduate of the Plymouth-based USA Hockey national development program.
“He has great ability, really smart and crafty,” said Blashill, who coached Keller at last spring’s world championships. “He’s creating a lot of offense and he has great hockey sense. He can make a lot of plays.”
… These past couple of days have been the first attempt for forward Andreas Athanasiou to see Little Caesars Arena, after starting the season on the road last week after agreeing to a new contract.
Athanasiou likes what he’s seen.
“It’s an unbelievable facility,” Athanasiou said. “It’ll be a lot of fun coming in here every day. I never saw the inside (before). I wanted to see it with my own eyes for the first time. It’s unbelievable.”
… Always among the leaders in faceoff percentage, Frans Nielsen has been below 50 percent most of the season. The new emphasis on faceoff penalties seem to be affecting Nielsen.
“He’s had a hard time adjusting,” Blashill said. “It’s harder for those guys who’ve been in the league for a long time and won face offs a certain way.
“All of a sudden they govern the rules a different way and he has to adjust, and it hasn’t been easy. But I believe he’ll find his way out of it. He’s a smart player.”