Playoff streak weighs heavily on minds of young Wings

Ted Kulfan
The Detroit News
“It’s really important. You try not to think about it, look at it, you just go out and play the game. But in the end of the day, it’s in the back of your head,” Wings defenseman Brendan Smith said about making the playoffs a 25th season.

Philadelphia — The Red Wings have made the playoffs for 24 consecutive seasons, as impressive an accomplishment in today’s world of professional sports as can be.

None of the Red Wings have been there for all 24, obviously, and many haven’t been around for more than three or four.

But the younger Red Wings know of the pride that goes along with possessing that stretch of success.

And the need, they feel, to continue it.

“It’s really important,” said defenseman Brendan Smith of making the postseason for 25 consecutive seasons. “You try not to think about it, look at it, you just go out and play the game.

“But in the end of the day, it’s in the back of your head.”

This position of being on the edge of playoff race isn’t anything new.

The Red Wings haven’t clinched a playoff berth until the final week of the regular season the last three seasons, scrambling until the final days before securing a spot.

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So this season is just typical in the parity-driven NHL.

“We’re no stranger to this situation. We’ve been in this spot before,” coach Jeff Blashill said. “Our core of players have been in this spot a number of times.”

Blashill hopes the confidence and experience gained from those playoff pushes will help this roster this season.

“The confidence level is real high,” Blashill said. “Confidence comes from within and that comes from knowing you have a skill set to succeed and prepare to succeed.

“This team knows they have the skill set to succeed and they know they’ve put in the preparation. We have to go out and execute. It’s easy to make big deal of things. We have one singular focus and that’s to win a hockey game.”

Status quo on blue line

The Red Wings have the minimum six defensemen on the roster presently and will continue to do so for the immediate future.

Teams are allowed four post-trade deadline call-ups from the minor leagues. The Red Wings used one Monday when they promoted forward Anthony Mantha from Grand Rapids.

Blashill doesn’t feel there’s a significant need to pull a defenseman from Grand Rapids with the Red Wings having six healthy defensemen.

“We’re not calling up a defenseman until we need a defenseman,” Blashill said. “One thing we’ve thought is why waste a call up and have a guy sit in the stands (as a healthy scratch).”

Ice chips

Blashill expected forward Darren Helm, who missed Sunday’s game with an illness, to return Tuesday. That would leave Teemu Pulkkinen and Tomas Jurco as healthy scratches.

… The Red Wings returned home after Tuesday’s game and will not practice, instead waiting until later in the day to fly to Columbus, where the Red Wings play Thursday.

… Impressive Flyers rookie defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere played collegiately at Union (N.Y.), where the coach is a friend of Blashill’s, so the Wings coach knew of Gostisbehere’s talent.

“He attacks the game,” Blashill said. “That’s the best way to say it, he attacks it offensively. He looks for holes and is ready to shoot at any time.”