Team effort helps Red Wings’ penalty kill thrive

Ted Kulfan
The Detroit News

Detroit — They’ve been impressive in a variety of areas but one in particular the Red Wings have dominated in through three games is the penalty kill.

The Red Wings have killed 11-of-12 penalties (91.7 percent) through three games, including all three Tampa Bay power plays Tuesday in a 3-1 victory.

Jimmy Howard and Petr Mrazek have been outstanding, and goaltending is crucial to any penalty kill.

But the goalies have received great assist from their teammates on the unit, not allowing opponents much breathing room or lanes to shoot.

Coach Jeff Blashill has three keys to any successful penalty kill: a good plan, good penalty killers, and goaltending.

Assistant coach Tony Granato instituted an effective plan last season and with minor tweaks, it’s still working.

“He’s done a real good job in this league for a long time on the PK and certainly has this year of putting together a good plan,” Blashill said.

No. 2, the Red Wings have some high-level penalty killers.

“We have some guys in (Drew) Miller and (Luke) Glendening who are elite,” Blashill said. “Abby (Justin Abdelkader), (Landon) Ferraro, (Riley) Sheahan, there are other guys who’ve done a real good job, they are real good killers.”

Then, there’s the goaltending.

“When you’re going to break down and give up shots, you have to have good goaltending and so far we’ve done a real good job,” Blashill said.

Working as a unit is vital, and so far the Red Wings have been doing so.

“The guys on the ice have to be working as a four-man unit, a five-man with the goalie, and you have to be true to your system,” Miller said. “The other guys on the PK have to know where everyone else is, and for us, working hard and blocking shots, and relying on our goaltending.”

Early return

The Red Wings might get an unexpected boost Saturday in Montreal.

Defenseman Danny DeKeyser (foot) practiced full-tilt Wednesday and Blashill expects him to return Saturday against the Canadiens.

It would be about two weeks earlier than the original prognosis.

“It was a step forward for Danny,” Blashill said of the practice. “He certainly looks good out there. We hope to have him for the weekend.”

DeKeyser strained ligaments when he bumped into the boards during an exhibition game Sept. 30 in Pittsburgh.

“I’ve been doing some treatments and rehab and it’s been feeling good,” DeKeyser said. “I’ve been skating a bit and it’s been feeling better every day.

“I was off the ice for nine or 10 days and that kind of hurts you a bit, but the only way to get back in game shape is to play games.”

Blashill also is thinking Darren Helm (concussion) will be ready in Montreal.

Ice chips

Johan Franzen (ill) didn’t practice Wednesday after not playing the night before. The Red Wings aren’t certain yet whether this is related to Franzen’s previous concussion issues.

Henrik Zetterberg and Mike Green didn’t practice but Blashill said it was strictly a “maintenance day” and said the two are available to play.

… Blashill will name a starting goatlender for Friday’s game against Carolina that morning.

… Abdelkader said he learned quite a bit from Tomas Holmstrom about being net-front play, and is getting increasingly comfortable.

“It’s knowing the area, and you have to stay out of the crease these days especially with replay,” Abdelkader said. “You have to be aware of where you are on the ice. Just watching him, you learn quite a bit as far as how to back into goalies and not get caught, I guess. It’s harder and harder with replay and goalie interference.”