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Red Wings’ Ericsson thrives with tougher attitude

Ted Kulfan
The Detroit News
Jonathan Ericsson fights Ottawa Senators defenseman Dion Phaneuf on Oct. 17.

Detroit – Like many of his teammates, Detroit Red Wings defenseman Jonathan Ericsson entered this season with renewed motivation.

The end of last season was rather sour, so Ericsson was intent on changing things once training camp opened in September.

“I know I didn’t finish the season the way I wanted,” said Ericsson, who through the opening two weeks has been one of the Red Wings’ best defensemen. “I did what I could in the offseason to prepare and I felt some revenge coming back and proving I can be a lot better player.”

Ericsson is averaging 17:04 ice time, and he has two assists and a plus-2 rating through six games, and he has been a physical presence.

Ericsson struggled in a variety of ways last season, and admitted he may have lost some confidence toward the end of the season, which reflected in his lack of decisiveness at times on the ice.

But it’s been a much more assertive and confident Ericsson in the lineup early in the season.

“A lot of guys felt the same way,” said Ericsson, of having a chip on their shoulders entering this season. “We want to go way further in the playoffs. We’ve been shut down early for the last couple of years and it’s not fun.”

Wings’ Ryan Sproul makes immediate impact

The Wings have won four straight and are tied for second in the Eastern Conference with eight points.

Coach Jeff Blashill says there are numerous players that came into this season wanting to forget about the first-round playoff exit last season.

“They felt they had something to prove as individuals,” Blashill said. “As a team, we feel we have something to prove every day, and as coaching staff.

“We obviously have a high standard here and we want to make sure we’re living up to that standard.”

Ericsson continues to manage a hip impingement injury. He likely will need surgery at some point, but wants to put it off as long as he can.

“It’s something I’m playing with,” Ericsson said. “I did what I could in the offseason to improve mobility-wise and strength-wise.”

Special teams work

The Red Wings killed all four San Jose power plays in Saturday’s 3-0 victory but the penalty kill – along with a power play that itself went without a goal in six attempts – were areas that were addressed during Monday’s practice.

“The penalty kill, to a large extent, won us the game Saturday,” Blashill said. “But we want to continue to get better at things regardless of what the result was.”

Blashill wanted to concentrate on power-play breakouts and the penalty kill forecheck. The Red Wings entered Monday’s games ranked 24th in the penalty kill (73.9 percent).

“Pucks are going in, even if they’re (teams) breaking sticks and finding ways to get through,” Ericsson said. “We’re not close to where we want to be. It’s something we want to clean up. We’re trying to be one unit moving together.”

Honor for Green

Defenseman Mike Green was named the NHL’s Third Star of the week.

Green scored three goals against Ottawa, and is tied for the team lead with seven points.

Blashill says Green, in his second season with the Red Wings, is more comfortable than last year.

“Sometimes we look at these guys as players but they’re people and when you move from one organization to a new organization, it’s an adjustment,” Blashill said. “It’s an adjustment socially, with your family, an adjustment in so many areas.

“He’s much more comfortable, and from a coaching (standpoint), we know him better and that allows us to utilize him better. He’s been really good.”

Ice chips

Justin Abdelkader (mid-body) didn’t skate Monday but Blashill, who said Abdelkader is day to-day, hasn’t ruled him out for Tuesday’s game against Carolina. Abdelkader didn’t play Saturday against the Sharks.

… Blashill felt defenseman Alexey Marchenko played his best game of the season Saturday against San Jose. “Marchey struggled a little bit early, more than I saw  last year, but he’s a mentally tough person,” Blashill said.

… Niklas Kronwall (knee) has yet to play this season and didn’t skate Monday. “He’s on a plan where he’s a couple days on (skating) and a day off,” said Blashill, who added Kronwall skated with strength and conditioning coach Mike Kadar. “He’s got to come where he can go full with us three days in a row before he’ll have an opportunity to play.’

… Tomas Jurco (back) has done light skating and is working off-ice, but isn’t expected to begin playing until mid-November.

Hurricanes at Red Wings

Faceoff: Tuesday, 7:30 p.m., Joe Louis Arena.

TV / radio: FSD / 97.1 FM.

Outlook: The Hurricanes (1-2-2) have yet to play a home game this season; their first is Friday against the Rangers. … Carolina’s power play has been red-hot (28.6 percent, ranked fourth). … RW Lee Stempniak leads with four goals, while rookie RW Sebastian Aho has five assists.

ted.kulfan@detroitnews.com

Twitter @tkulfan