Wings' win rewarded with optional practice

Gregg Krupa
The Detroit News
Red Wings head coach Jeff Blashill

Detroit — At first, it seemed like an odd day for an optional practice, especially with an afternoon game dictating no morning skate, Saturday.

Pavel Datsyuk was on the ice Friday at Joe Louis Arena. Henrik Zetterberg was not.

About a dozen guys skated and about 10 did not.

Those who did not worked in various ways under the stands, including a brisk game of what looked like soccer volleyball, incorporating the use of one wall in which Nicklas Kronwall and Gustav Nyquist vigorously participated.

Nyquist seemed to win the brief but hotly contested debate over whether it was “5 to 5” or “6 to 5.”

But the Red Wings are amid a three-games-in-four-nights stretch, and by the second week of March the desirability of rest only grows.

“I think, when you practice, you always balance between where the structure is in your game and rest,” Jeff Blashill said.

“I think at this time of year, rest can be real critical. It’s a big factor in being able to play at a high level.”

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The effort the night before is a factor, too, as well as the earliness of the game start Saturday, which is a 2 p.m. matinee.

“I thought our guys, played hard, hard, hard minutes last night,” Blashill said, of the come-from-two-goals-down 3-2 victory over Winnipeg, in which they did not gain the lead until the 55th minute of play, and which was in doubt until the final moment, with Jets swirling around Petr Mrazek.

“And I thought it was best to put it in their hands to decide what they needed to do to make sure they’re ready.

“You know, Pavs skated. Some other guys decided not to skate, and my message to them was make sure you do what you need to be ready tomorrow.”

Blashill deferred any announcement of his starting lineup against the Rangers.

Meanwhile, the Flyers, who trail the Wings by four points and four wins in regulation or overtime (ROW), with a two games in hand, play the Lightning in Tampa at 7:30 p.m.

At 7 p.m., Saturday, the Flyers play the Panthers, in Sunrise, Florida, while the Red Wings will play the Maple Leafs in Joe Louis Arena at 7:30 p.m.