Dallas— The Red Wings had an opportunity to get acquainted with Little Caesars Arena to begin the season.
But that’ll be about it for most of the next month, as they are in the midst of playing 12 of 16 games away from their new home.
Four home games scattered at the end of October are all there is, before the Red Wings begin a lengthy homestand in mid-November.
“You have to do it at some point, right?” said forward Luke Witkowski of having to face a long stretch of road games. “You have to win at home and on the road. We have a good challenge ahead of us, but like I said, you have to do it at some point (in the schedule).”
The Red Wings opened the road-heavy schedule Saturday by grinding out a 2-1 shootout victory in Ottawa.
If the Red Wings are to be successful during this stretch, that’s the type of game they’ll need to play. Not flashy, defensive, and limit mistakes.
“Really, I’m just focused on playing good hockey, whether we’re at home or on the road,” coach Jeff Blashill said. “But one big key on the road is you can’t give up easy chances. You can’t give up easy goals. Momentum is a big deal in all games, and you don’t want to make it easy for them on the road.”
Red Wings coach talks about the keys to success when playing on the road. Ted Kulfan, Detroit News
Said forward Justin Abdelkader: “It’s never easy winning on the road in this league, especially when you’re factoring in back-to-back games. But you just have to come out and in the first five to 10 minutes, make sure you don’t give the other team momentum and chances and energize the building. Just play a simple game, get pucks in, and limit turnovers as much as you can.”
Another key coming out of this stretch will be to stay in, or close to, the top of the standings. Nobody wants to fall into a big hole and be forced to climb up the standings.
Winning the first two games of the season helped the Red Wings’ confidence.
“You can’t win or lose the season in the first two games,” Witkowski said. “But being 2-0 is a lot better than 0-2.”
Hitch is back
When former Red Wings assistant general manager Jim Nill — the GM of the Dallas Stars — went looking for a new coach, Nill turned to a former Stars coach.
Ken Hitchcock, who won the Stanley Cup in Dallas in 1999, spent the first seven years of his head coaching career in Dallas from 1996-2002.
Hitchcock, 65, has also coached in Philadelphia, Columbus and St. Louis, where he was let go last season.
Blashill talked to Hitchcock last season and valued the conversations.
Red Wings defenseman talks about returning to Dallas to face his former team on Tuesday night. Ted Kulfan, Detroit News
“He’s a brilliant hockey mind,” Blashill said. “He’ll go down as one of the better coaches of all time. I was real fortunate to have that time. He was a really good resource for me.”
Dallas opened its season 0-2 but Blashill expects the Stars to rebound strongly, playing the style Hitchcock-coached teams use.
“They’re going to not give you anything easy over time,” Blashill said. “They’ll be a hard forechecking team. They’re already heavy, so they spend a lot of time in the offensive zone.”
Blashill was expected to go with goaltender Petr Mrazek in Dallas, giving Mrazek his first taste of game action this season.
Jimmy Howard started the first two games and was excellent, winning both games and posting a .961 save percentage.
Mrazek struggled last season and was exposed in the expansion draft, although Las Vegas declined to select him.
But a summer of hard work, said Blashill, has changed Mrazek’s mindset.
“I’ve got great confidence in him,” Blashill said. “He put tons of work in this summer and done all he’s needed to do to put his game into position to be successful.
“We’re going to need both goalies to have an impact. Jimmy has been excellent and his game is in a great spot, and I believe Petr’s is as well.”