Blashill saying less with Wings in stretch drive

Gregg Krupa
The Detroit News
Jimmy Howard

Chicago – Who is the starting goalie? Will Brendan Smith rotate back in on defense?

Will Tomas Jurco or Riley Sheahan provide the net-front presence on the second unit of the power play?

Questions, questions, questions, and at the head of the stretch drive, Jeff Blashill asserted Sunday before the game with the Blackhawks that he is increasingly inclined to keep his decisions to himself.

“I think it’s important as we move through the latter part of the season, here, that we make sure we don’t divulge any more information than we have to,” Blashill said, outside of the visitors’ dressing room.

“So, Petr Mrazek will start, and we, I made the decision right after the last game.

“The rest of the lineup decisions will be evaluated and decided after warmups.”

The Wings have 18 games remaining in the regular season, including Sunday’s. They have 75 points, fourth in the Atlantic Division.

Jimmy Howard has restored many of the better aspects of his game recently, while Mrazek has cooled after a torrid pace that established him among the top goalies in the league for about two months beginning in mid-December.

“Petr’s earned the No. 1 spot,” Blashill said. “But I believe you need two guys ready.

“I think Jimmy’s played great the last number of games. It gives me great confidence to put him in the next chance that we feel is the right time. But I’ll evaluate that after tonight’s game.

“Right now, Petr’s starting tonight.”

Datsyuk out

Pavel Datsyuk was a late scratch for Sunday’s game with an illness.

On the power play

As for the forward at the crease on the power play, it is an important question affecting a critical part of the Red Wings play that simply must improve this month and next, as they strive to make the playoffs and go on a deeper run than the last two seasons of eliminations in the first round.

The Wings entered the game still sputtering a bit offensively, with a paltry season-long performance on the power play -- a big difference from last season, when they finished second at 23.5 percent.

They entered the game Sunday 22nd at 17.5 percent.

“I think there’s a number of guys that can do the job on the net front on the power play,” Blashill said. “So, Jurco I hadn’t tried yet. So, I said why not give him a shot at being in that spot.

“Luke Glendening was in that spot when we scored the last goal, because of his ability to win faceoffs, which I think is an important part of the power play.

“But, we’ll keep charting different guys into that spot and see who’s most effective.”

Good test

Blashill said high-flying Chicago is a good test for the younger Red Wings.

“I think it’s always great to test yourself and learn and get better, and test yourself again and learn and get better. And this is a great test here,” he said. “It’s a fun building to play in. It’s against a really good team. It’s a big rivalry.

“I think it’s a great experience for our young guys to continue to learn and get better. Hopefully, we do that with a ‘W.’”