Wings fight to keep positive energy as losses mount

Ted Kulfan
The Detroit News

Boston — Yes it’s the holiday season, and a three-day break with no hockey was beginning.

But there was also a noticeable pall around the Red Wings locker room Saturday after the 3-1 loss to the Boston Bruins.

The loss left the Red Wings 10 points behind Boston for the final automatic playoff spot in the division.

That’s a sizeable gap with the midway point in the schedule approaching in two weeks, and the Red Wings having only won three of their last 11 games (3-6-2).

“You can’t let it frustrate you, you have to keep playing well,” goaltender Jimmy Howard said. “We have to keep playing well. As a team, we have been playing well of late. We’re just not getting results.”

The Red Wings have been consistently saying they’ve played well enough in the last week or two to have grabbed a few more victories.

But the results, obviously, haven’t been there.

Coach Jeff Blashill insists the belief remains that the Wings can go on a long, successful run.

“I believe that, but we have to do it,” Blashill said. “Our guys have to believe it. So far guys have kept their belief up to a good level. I haven’t seen any drop in belief.

“But that’s my job in the end, as we come back from Christmas, we’re going to have to make sure we continue to get our guys to come and play extremely hard.

“When we get into these type of games, we have to find ways to win them.”

At this point, the Red Wings can’t even point to Boston and the divisional playoff spot, or the wild-card spot.

Divison teams Montreal, Florida and Ottawa are right there with the Red Wings, or have passed them.

“Just take it one game at a time,” Howard said. “You can’t try to string four (wins) together right away. You have to take it one at a time and just build on it.”

Bertuzzi in lineup

Forward Tyler Bertuzzi was inserted into the lineup with Luke Glendening (upper body) out with an injury — Glendening is out a month, at least — and made a positive impression on Blashill.

Bertuzzi hurt himself blocking a shot on the game’s first shift, but returned and played nearly 18 minutes (17:58) on 19 shifts, with one shot, two hits, one giveaway, one takeaway and one blocked shot.

“He’s a good player, he may have made our team out of training camp,” Blashill said of Bertuzzi, who suffered a wrist injury in camp, ending any chance of his beginning the season in the NHL.

Bertuzzi showed a knack for getting to the net Saturday, an ingredient the Red Wings need.

“He’s a guy who can score goals in this league,” Blashill said. “We have to find some more dirty goals. We need more of that.”

Ice chips

Frans Nielsen’s shorthanded goal was the Red Wings’ NHL-leading seventh of the season.

…Luke Witkowski and Xavier Ouellet were healthy scratches.

...The entire NHL goes on a three-day break beginning Sunday, with no games scheduled until Wednesday.

“We owe it to our families and to ourselves to enjoy this Christmas holiday,” Blashill said. “I’m glad, as I’ve said before, the NHL gives us a break at this time of year. It’s something that matters to me.

“My daughter just sent me a text. I can’t wait to get back and see them.”