Detroit — It was as if they flipped a switch.
The third period and overtime against the Canucks on Saturday night looked much more like Red Wings hockey, and it produced a big win in the early season.
That elevated level of play is critical to the Wings success, in the long run; and it just got a heck of a lot more important in the short term, too, based on the injury report from practice, Monday.
The team is now without two of their top offensive players, Pavel Datsyuk (ankle) and Johan Franzen (concussion symptoms), both of the big free-agent acquisitions from the summer, defenseman Mike Green (upper body) and forward Brad Richards (back) and arguably their best defensive defenseman, Kyle Quincey (concussion symptoms).
Green will miss two to three weeks, general manager Ken Holland said, after practice.
Quincey is likely out through the weekend, Holland said, given the NHL protocol and the fact Quincey was still feeling the effects of a body check to the head Friday, which was reviewed by the NHL but did not result in any disciplinary action.
Richards’ back kept him out through the trip in western Canada, and he is now to see a specialist in Toronto before his situation is assessed again, Holland said.
Despite Datsyuk skating with the team through some drills in the first half of practice, Monday, he is still on course to return in mid-November.
Franzen’s future is unclear.
And all of that makes playing the battling, up-tempo, puck-possession, mostly-mistake-free hockey, of critical importance.
“We adjusted a little bit going into the third period against Vancouver, and that’s winning one-on-one puck races and one-on-one puck battles,” Coach Jeff Blashill said.
Only Henrik Zetterberg seemed to be highly engaged, Blashill said.
“I think there’s lot of young guys in this room, that it’s unacceptable to have it be only your captain,” he said. “So I think in the end those guys looked at themselves and had a much higher compete and battle level.”
“Now, we’ve set a standard for what that battle level should be.”
The Red Wings also have uncharacteristic trouble controlling the puck.
“I think we’ve spent too much time in our own end and not enough time in the other guy’s end,” Blashill said.
On the road against the Hurricanes, Canadiens and Canucks, the Wings spent more than four minutes in their defensive zone than in the offensive zone.
“We have to manage the puck better,” Blashill said. “We have to get the puck out of our end better. And we’ve got to spend more time in the other team’s zone better.
“We’ve tried to address that over the course of the past week, in specifics, and I think we actually have gotten better at it. “Take away maybe the first two periods in Vancouver, I thought the rest of the trip we were much better at it.”
“We’re still turning too many pucks over.”
Blashill said he has decided on tonight’s starting goalie against the Hurricanes, but he was not telling.
With Quincey and Green out, the defensive six will remain the same, he said. But he will consider getting Tomas Jurco back into the lineup.
Hurricanes at Red Wings
Faceoff: 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Joe Louis Arena, Detroit.
TV/radio: FSD+/ 97.1
Notes: Hurricanes already have out-skated and outplayed the Wings for a game-and-a-half this season. But thanks to Petr Mrazek, the Wings won the first game, 4-3, despite being outshot 18-2 in the first period, and eventually 34-8, through two.