‘We got out-competed’: Blashill tries to toughen up Red Wings

Ted Kulfan
The Detroit News
Daniel Carr and Gustav Nyquist go for the puck Saturday night.

Detroit – The Red Wings didn’t win many puck battles in Saturday’s 5-0 loss in Montreal.

So the coaching staff took a major step in correcting that during Monday’s practice, with the Red Wings going through several high-intensity, physical and competitive one-on-one drills.

“We’ve talked about identity and talked about being relentless, talked about being fast and competitive, and you can’t win in this league and not be highly competitive,” coach Jeff Blashill said. “The game in Montreal, we got out-competed and we can’t get out-competed.

“We got slapped in the face (so) it better be a wakeup call.”

Blashill isn’t concerned or disappointed about having to work on battle drills. During the course of a long regular season, said Blashill, every team goes through it.

“There’s going to be ebbs and flows to the season,” Blashill said. “Our (coaches’) job is to make sure they’re prepared. Sometimes being prepared is doing system stuff, and sometimes it’s working on battle drills.”

Players knew Monday’s practice was sure to be competitive, and they were prepared.

“It’s never a good feeling as a hockey player, none of us were happy leaving the rink in Montreal,” Justin Abdelkader said. “Anytime you get beat like that, pretty bad like that, it never feels good. All of us take our job seriously.

“Today was a good day to come back and focus on the things we have to be better at.”

Said Luke Glendening: “It’s never fun being beat 5-0. We had time to reflect on it with the day off (Sunday) and look in the mirror. It was a good day of practice. We got back to work.”

Balancing act

In an effort to balance his lines, Blashill put Glendening on a wing on a line with Dylan Larkin and Frans Nielsen.

“We have to get to the other net better, we have to get more forecheck pressure and we have to win more puck battles,” Blashill said. “He (Glendening) does all those things.”

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Playing with two offensively-skilled players such as Larkin and Nielsen, said Glendening, doesn’t change his role.

“I’ve got to be hard (on the puck), go get pucks, be physical, be good defensively,” Glendening said. “I’ve just got to play my game.”

Blashill had Henrik Zetterberg centering Abdelkader and Tomas Tatar, while Darren Helm was between Gustav Nyquist and Anthony Mantha.

Riley Sheahan centered the fourth line, with Drew Miller on one side and Steve Ott and Tyler Bertuzzi alternating on the other.

Vanek makes progress

Thomas Vanek continues to practice full-tilt and said he should be ready to rejoin the lineup Sunday when he’s eligible to come off the injured list.

Vanek has been battling a hip injury that has caused him to miss nine games.

“It feels pretty good, I’ve skated all week, so far no setbacks,” said Vanek, one of the most impressive Red Wings in the opening few weeks. “I’ve been doing more and more (in practice) and so far, so good.”

Kronwall out

Blashill said Niklas Kronwall will sit out Tuesday’s game against Tampa Bay.

This will give Kronwall four days off – he won’t practice until Thursday – and preserve him for a pair of games this weekend.

Kronwall has knee pain that he and the training staff will attempt to manage as the season progresses.

“I want him to play as many healthy games where he feels as good as possible,” Blashill said. “You look at the schedule and opportunities where you can give him breaks. This is one of the rare ones where he only misses one game in four days.

“When he sits on the bench, it’s hard not to play him a lot of minutes. He’s been one of the elite defensemen for a long time in this league. When he’s on the bench, it’s hard not to play him. The only way not to play him is to give him some time off.”

Ryan Sproul stepped into many of Kronwall’s responsibilities during practice, but Blashill wouldn’t confirm if Sproul or Xavier Ouellet would enter the lineup.

Lightning at Red Wings

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

TV / radio: Fox Sports Detroit / 97.1 FM

Outlook:  The Lightning defeated the Red Wings 6-4 on opening night. … Tampa played in Brooklyn Monday, attempting to get on track after a recent inconsistent stretch. ... The Lightning likely will not have D Anton Stralman, who was injured Saturday.

ted.kulfan@detroitnews.com

Twitter @tkulfan