Red Wings losing numbers game on power play

Ted Kulfan


Frans Nielsen

Sunrise, Fla. — It was beautiful outside in South Florida Thursday morning.

The sun was warm but the Red Wings wouldn’t have known it.

The Red Wings, as could be predicted, were attempting to — somehow — get their special teams on track.

The power play and penalty kill faltered Tuesday in Tampa, as the Red Wings lost their seventh game in the last 10 (3-5-2).

It’s that head-scratching power play that’s been the source of most concern.

It’s a dismal 1-for-32 over the last 10 games.

Tuesday in Tampa (where it went 0-for-5), coach Jeff Blashill wasn’t pleased that the Red Wings were outmanned for pucks they should have owned.

“No way on the power play, if you’re battling for the puck, they should have more guys than you or equal,” Blashill said. “We have to do a better job of winning those battles. We turned some pucks over needlessly.

“I also thought, similar to what we’ve gone through 5-on-5, we passed the puck to deliver the puck to the net. It’s hard to get inside the dots against (penalty) killers. You have to just deliver it to the net.

“Especially when it’s not going great. When things aren’t going good, put it on the goalie.”

Forward Frans Nielsen saw a similar problem when it comes to passing up shots.

“When we have opportunities to get it to the net, we’re kind of passing up those and trying to make a hard play instead of going through guys,” Nielsen said.

“We have to be more simple with it.”

Injuries to key players haven’t helped the Red Wings either. But, somehow, forward Steve Ott feels the team will get through this difficult stretch and be strengthened because of it.

“We’re a mixed bag of players right now in the sense we’ve had some really key injuries and young guys have stepped in, but all together we need to continue to work on things,” Ott said. “Our five-on-five game, but these games here in the last while, we’ve lost because of special teams.

“The power play not clicking sometimes and our penalty killing not supporting, and vice versa. We spent a lot of time on special teams (Thursday).

“We worked on things on the penalty kill, shore that up and get that back to where it was. We’re starting to see progress in that.”

Still in it

Despite the Red Wings’ struggles, they find themselves squarely in the chase of an automatic playoff spot in the Atlantic Division.

The top three teams earn automatic spots.

The top five teams in the Metropolitan Division have run away in the opposite division, and appear likely to claim the two wild-card spots in the Eastern Conference.

So if the Red Wings are going to make the playoffs for a 26th consecutive season, it’s looking as if they’ll have to do it by finishing in the top three in the Atlantic.

“We know it isn’t good (lately) but at the same time, we’re a little lucky more teams in our division haven’t been (playing well),” Nielsen said.

“Had we been in the other division, the way things are going. … But there’s still spots in our division so we realize we’re lucky and we know we have to take advantage of that.

“For sure we’re in it and we have a chance. We have to put a streak together like we did early on. We feel we’re right there and we have a chance.

“(But) we just can’t win two and lose two and win one and lose one. We have to find a way to put a streak together real soon.”

Ice chips

Goaltender Jimmy Howard (lower body) had an MRI Thursday in Detroit. Howard was injured Tuesday in Tampa and placed on the seven-day injured list. General manager Ken Holland said Howard will be “out a while” but the extent isn’t known yet.

…Defenseman Mike Green (lower body) also will be unavailable and is seeing doctors in Detroit. Blashill said it’s not certain if Green will be available immediately after Christmas. @tkulfan