Red Wings forward Darren Helm talks about the NHL's crackdown on faceoff violations. Ted Kulfan, The Detroit News
Detroit — NHL players were told the league will be cracking down on faceoff violations and slashing.
The league called it a “point of emphasis,” determined to rid the game of the problem, particularly the slashing which led to numerous hand injuries last season.
The Red Wings are finding out the league means it — at least in the preseason.
In Wednesday’s game against Pittsburgh, the Red Wings and Penguins were called for 16 penalties total, including two faceoff violations (both against the Red Wings).
Henrik Zetterberg, who has yet to play this exhibition season but has seen the carnage, isn’t a fan of what he’s seen.
“Brutal,” Zetterberg said. “I haven’t played, so I can’t put my own experience on it, but from what I’ve heard and what I’ve seen, it makes no sense to me.
“It’s slowing down the game; it’s almost mocking the game.”
Zetterberg believes there’s a skill in winning faceoffs that is being denied.
“The 50-50 battles, there is a little part of cheating in it,” Zetterberg said. “If you look at all the good faceoff guys back in the day, there is a skill to it. Now, you’re taking that away.
“We’re slowing the game down. I don’t see any good coming out of it.”
Dylan Larkin sees this exhibition season as a “feeling out” period, and players will have to adjust.
“It’s a major part of the game now,” Larkin said. “I guess it’s just being educated on knowing what to do.”
Coach Jeff Blashill said the Red Wings — and rest of the league — will have to adjust.
“One thing we have to understand is some of us might like the rules, and some might not like the rules, that doesn’t matter,” Blashill said. “It’s like the schedule, you have to play it. You have to play to how they’re going to call it. Let them figure out how they are going to call it, and we have to live by it.”
In terms of the faceoffs, officials want to curb the cheating, specifically to players squaring up behind the L-shaped marks surrounding the dot.
“Last night’s (violations) were a little bit different; they called it a little bit different (from Tuesday’s game), we’re all getting adjusted to it,” Blashill said.
Blashill said he heard a good point from center Darren Helm regarding the rule enforcement.
“In effect, he said it’s black and white now — they have to call it 100 percent,” Blashill said. “Last night it wasn’t called 100 percent. It’s a heck of a responsibility they put on the linesmen. I get it, it’s hard as it can be. But if it’s going to be called once, it has to be called 100 times if it happens 100 times.”
Said Helm: “I don’t love it but it can work. If all the (officials) are kind of helping out and taking responsibility, it could be a good rule. It’s pretty simple — you don’t step on the circle line, you don’t put your feet into the hash marks if you’re a center, and you put your stick down.
“When the refs start backing off and not calling it, that’s you’re going to see a backlash.”
As for the slashing, Blashill felt officials gave a good description of what will be penalized.
“The top half of the stick is the red zone. It’s going to get called every time, one- or two-handed, it doesn’t matter,” Blashill said. “The next quarter of the stick is kind of that yellow-gray area, that is going to be up to the referee’s discretion. The bottom half of the stick is about making a play on the puck, it’s not going to get called.
“It was clear. We have to adjust.”
Red Wings head coach Jeff Blashill talks about young defenseman Joe Hicketts. Ted Kulfan, The Detroit News
Defenseman Joe Hicketts made a good impression in Wednesday’s game with two assists, and credited with five hits, four blocked shots and three shots on net in almost 22 minutes of ice time.
“I’ve thought this for a long time: Joe Hicketts is a hockey player,” Blashill said. “He’s a winning type of player. He has great hockey sense and he plays to win. He doesn’t play afraid to lose.”
Listed as 5-foot-8, 180 pounds, Hicketts is undersized but has been able to overcome it at the junior level and last season in Grand Rapids.
Hicketts is expected to begin the season with the Griffins.
Forward PA Parenteau, in camp on a tryout, was expected to play Thursday in Chicago. But Parenteau tweaked his back and will be replaced by fellow tryout forward David Booth (Washington Township/Michigan State).
… The group of Red Wings who weren’t going to play in Chicago worked out in the main ice at Little Caesars Arena, the first time they’ve been able to work out there since LCA was booked with Kid Rock concerts.