Blashill trying to find winning blend for wobbly Wings

Ted Kulfan
The Detroit News

Calgary, Alberta — It wasn't just the defense that coach Jeff Blashill shuffled heading into Friday's game against Calgary, the forwards got a new look, too.

With Brad Richards unavailable because of a sore back — Blashill said it's a day-to-day thing — Blashill was forced to rework his forward lines.

So Gustav Nyquist went to play with Henrik Zetterberg and Justin Abdelkader, while Dylan Larkin centered a line with Tomas Tatar and Teemu Pulkkinen.

Riley Sheahan was between Darren Helm and Luke Glendening, while Joakim Andersson centered Landon Ferraro and Drew Miller.

Blashill delivers message to Wings defensemen: Improve

"We think these are four lines that can play," said Blashill, who was particularly interested in the Larkin line given their production in brief instances. "They were effective and we're hoping we can build off that. I have confidence in Dylan Larkin and he's earned that trust."

But it's on defense where the changes went full scale.

Blashill reunited Danny DeKeyser and Kyle Quincey, a pairing that was arguably the Red Wings' best last season.

Blashill separated longtime pair Niklas Kronwall and Jonathan Ericsson, putting Kronwall alongside Mike Green while Ericsson played with Brendan Smith, a healthy scratch the last two games.

Jakub Kindl was the healthy scratch for the first time this season.

Detroit defenseman Kyle Quincey has been reunited with Danny DeKeyser on the blue line.

"You're looking for the best chemistry," Blashill said. "Until you try it, you don't know. To a man, each guy can still be better regardless of pairings.

"Hopefully we're putting them in a spot to be successful."

Reuniting DeKeyser and Quincey was the base move.

"They were real good together last year and ended up against other teams' best players," Blashill said. "We think they can continue to be better. That pairing has chemistry, and let's start from there."

Green had one point (an assist) in the season's first six games with a minus-1 rating.

The Red Wings signed the veteran free agent for his offensive spark, but he only had five shots in the first six games.

"Mike has elite talent and Mike cares a bunch," Blashill said. "He wants to win. He wants to be part of a winner and he wants to improve.

"You transition from one way to a new way, different systems and a different way of doing things, he's still trying to get comfortable."

Blashill added he wants Green to do what comes naturally on the ice.

"Obviously I want to make sure I'm doing the right things and what's asked of me," said Green, who spent the first 10 years of his career in Washington. "What comes naturally. Otherwise you're thinking too much and not accomplishing what you want to accomplish."

Thinking positive

Smith had a simple and firm mindset in his return to the lineup.

"Make plays, make good plays, and play my game," said Smith, who wasn't surprised he was sat for two games. "I have to play better, just be better. That was kind of the message."

Smith was also put on the second power play unit Friday, the first time Smith had the opportunity to play on the unit in the NHL.

"I'm excited about it, it'll be a challenge, but I think I can help in that area," said Smith, who was a productive offensive defenseman collegiately at Wisconsin.

Said Blashill: "Smitty can be a real effective player. He has to go out and execute."

Ice chips

All the lineup changes kept forward Tomas Jurco as a healthy scratch for fifth time in seven games this season (no points).

Blashill said the team has a long-range plan at this point with Jurco.

"Jurcs is somebody who has done a real good job for me in the past," said Blashill, referring to their time together in Grand Rapids. "I believe in Jurcs and I believe there's another level in him…to where he's skating I think needs to skate to be effective."

Red Wings at Canucks

Faceoff: 10 Saturday, Rogers Arena, Vancouver, British Columbia

TV/radio: CBC, FSD/97.1

Outlook: The Canucks are 3-2-2 but are winless at home (0-2-2). ... LW Daniel Sedin and C Brandon Sutter lead offensively (five points apiece), but it's been G Ryan Miller (Michigan State) who has been the Canucks best player (1.98 GAA, .931 SVS).