Sputtering Red Wings look to right ship at home

Gregg Krupa
The Detroit News

Detroit — With the morning skate optional for the Red Wings, five defensemen worked on puck movement and Thomas Vanek was among the few forwards, and almost certainly in the lineup tonight against the Ducks (7 p.m. FSD, 97.1).

Detroit left wing Thomas Vanek missed practice Friday but expects to play in Saturday's game against the Ducks.

“Just took a maintenance day yesterday to get ready for today, and I’ll be in,” said Vanek, the 12-year veteran whose 15 points have spurred the Red Wings' unproductive offense in the 20 games he has played.

Vanek said he was not injured, “but it was just recommended that I stay off.”

He missed 11 games from Oct. 27 to Nov. 20 with an injured hip.

The Wings were 5-2 when Vanek left the lineup and 3-7-1 without the offseason free-agent acquisition.
Vanek would play in his 14th straight game tonight.

The Red Wings are 5-5-3 since his return, having gone 0-3-1 in the first four games of five at home.

Their paltry offense is conspicuous, with just three goals in the four games.

But the suddenly generous Red Wings also have allowed 13.

They have asked Jimmy Howard and Petr Mrazek to do too much.

Anemic offense dampens Red Wings' spirits

Mrazek, who was the first goalie off the ice and considered the likely starter, regardless, had a tough game in his last start against the Blue Jackets, a 4-1 loss Dec. 9 at the head of this home stretch.

In perhaps trying to do too much, he was caught wandering wildly from the net, on a key goal that knocked the Red Wings back on their heels for much of the game.

Jeff Blashill may be looking for goals against the Ducks, but he is also looking for better defense and the sort of defense that helps produce offense.

“I think the one thing important to remember is, we’ve done a good job all season long for the most part of limiting chances,” Blashill said.
“We’ve got to make sure we continue to do a good job of that.

“Sometimes when you get frustrated when you’re not scoring, you start to open it up a little more and you start to give up more chances. And that’s not a formula for success.
“If you look around the league generally the teams that give up less chances are generally the ones that have success.”

The Wings have yielded four goals to the Blue Jackets, Coyotes and Kings on the home stand, while limiting the Flyers to one in a game in which they were shutout.

While it was recommended that Vanek not practice Friday, he said it can be important for a team struggling on offense.

“When you’re struggling to score, you’ve got to score in practice,” he said. “If you’re struggling, you’d better score on your own goalies and hope that carries over.
“But, again, I don’t think we’re that far off, as crazy as that sounds.”

The Red Wings find themselves in much the same shape as on Nov. 23 when they played in Buffalo, having lost four straight in regulation to the Canadiens, Lightning, Capitals and Flames.

Before the game, they talked about winning an ugly one and launching a streak.

They beat the Sabres in a poorly played game and went 5-2-1 in the next eight.

“Sometimes all it takes is one win,” Vanek said. “It doesn’t matter how ugly or how good it is

“Just one win to kind of relax and get on the road, from there.”

Red Wings turn to Mrazek in slump-breaking effort

After the Ducks, the Red Wings play 10 of the next 11 on the road, from Dec. 19 to Jan. 14. They return to Joe Louis Arena against the Penguins, Canadiens and Bruins.
The tough road trip underlined the importance of the five-game home stand.

Unfortunately, despite coming home with points in seven of the previous eight games and thoughts about possibly having their season turned around, their poor performance at home leaves them five points out of second and third place in Atlantic Division and 11 points out of the wild cards.

Even if they could somehow manage to maintain the status quo in the standings on the long trip, they would still return home to a significant deficit four games into the second half of the season.

“I think, coming down to tonight, it’s a big game for us, obviously,” said Danny DeKeyser, who is a minus-7 after appearing in all 31 games this season.
“We know what’s happened in the last few games, here. We’re not happy about it, and we’ve got to just take it upon ourselves to change things.”


Twitter: @greggkrupa