Wings will have to solve woes on road

Ted Kulfan
The Detroit News

Taylor — If the Red Wings are going to snap out of this current slump, they’ll have to do it away from Joe Louis Arena.

Beginning with Saturday afternoon’s game in Buffalo they’re on the road for six consecutive games, which will have a significant impact on the standings when the trip is finally over in two weeks.

But to end this current three-game losing streak, it’s up to the Red Wings to correct their current flaws and increase a competitiveness level that has been lacking.

Coach Jeff Blashill addressed the compete level at Thursday’s practice at Taylor Sportsplex.

“Individuals have to go out and raise their levels,” Blashill said. “Sometimes as a human you think you’re at a high level and you realize you can dig deeper.”

Said defenseman Niklas Kronwall: “Just in general we have to play with more edge in our game. We all have to be stronger on our sticks and just every shift, every battle, we have to be stronger. We’re losing too many of the 50-50 battles right now and that’s one reason we’re at where we’re at.”

Detroit Red Wings goalie Petr Mrazek will start in Buffalo Saturday.

Penguins offense erupts in win over Red Wings

The Red Wings went through a stretch in which they earned a point in 13 consecutive games from Nov. 16-Dec. 11.

But even then, Blashill was concerned, especially in allowing opponents too many quality scoring chances.

“Maybe we were during our stretch (of earning points), certainly in the end of that we weren’t playing good enough but we were still able to get points,” Blashill said. “We talked about that fact that we better straighten our game out otherwise we’ll end up on the wrong side.

“Here we are ending up on the wrong side for too many nights now.”

What are the differences between that point streak and this current three-game losing streak?

“I don’t think there are huge differences,” Blashill said. “Obviously, we’ve given up too many goals here lately (12 in the last three games). I still think we’ve got to do a better job of managing the puck, making teams earn their (scoring) chances.

“I still think we’re giving up too many chances.”

The Red Wings allowed the Penguins 37 shots on net, allowing too much space and time for the likes of Pittsburgh stars Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin to spark a five-goal rally.

But even before then, even after holding a 2-0 first period lead, the Red Wings weren’t playing like a confident team.

“We’ve got to find a way to earn our confidence back with really good play,” Blashill said. “You create  your own confidence by the way you play. You can’t come off it at all because if you do, you’ll be in the spot we’re in.”

Maybe going to Buffalo and New Jersey (Monday) will help after all, and after then, heading out to the West Coast beginning Thursday in San Jose.

Getting away from the comforts of Joe Louis Arena, and getting back to playing a simple and hard-edged game could be the tonic.

“Sometimes it is, for whatever reason (easier to play a simpler game on the road),” Kronwall said. “We have to come together as a team and really be better, stronger and bear down more.”

Special teams not so special

If the Red Wings are to reverse their losing streak, improved special teams would help.

During the three losses they’ve allowed four power-play goals in seven attempts — while going 1-for-11 on their own power play.

Blashill felt the power play was effective — other than not converting with a goal — but it was a penalty kill that’s been equally an issue.

“We shot it (on the power play) but we probably didn’t get the puck back (enough),” Blashill said. “Overall I’ll combine it. I don’t think it should be just talking about the power play. It’s the special teams.

“We’ve given up too many goals when we’re on the penalty kill. Our specialty teams combined have to be better.”

As for the power play, forward Brad Richards feels it’s a matter of getting back to a simple attack.

“Sometimes when things go the other way, you start trying things that are a little less simple,” Richards said. “We tried to get some pucks to the net (Thursday). The goalie smothered a few, but sometimes we’re making plays that are getting intercepted and sometimes that’s just not being simple. It’s maybe trying too hard, trying to find that great play to make it work.

“Everybody cares.  I’m sure we’ll look at it, get back to basics and try to pound pucks and get traffic.”

Ice chips

Petr Mrazek will get the start in net against Buffalo.

“We just thought he gave us our best chance of winning tomorrow,” Blashill said.

Tomas Jurco (upper body) left Thursday’s game after the first period, but he was on the ice Friday, albeit not participating in any contact drills.

Blashill said Jurco likely wouldn’t play in Buffalo but was unsure if any player would be called up from Grand Rapids.

Joakim Andersson is available to play, having been a  healthy scratch against the Penguins.

Teemu Pulkkinen (shoulder), Drew Miller (broken jaw) and Kyle Quincey (ankle) all were on the ice but are unlikely to play until the latter part of the road trip.

ted.kulfan@detroitnews.com

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Red Wings at Sabres

Faceoff: 1 p.m. Saturday, First Niagara Center.

TV/radio: FSD; 97.1, 1270-AM.

Outlook:  Two teams on three-game losing streaks….They’ve split two games at Joe Louis Arena in December, the Red Wings winning in a shootout…The Sabres (15-19-4, 34 points) are led by C Ryan O’Reilly (15 goals) and rookie C Jack Eichel (11 goals, 23 points).