Red Wings coach on latest strategy to repair struggling power play. Ted Kulfan
Detroit — Opponents have appeared to have caught on to what the Red Wings are doing on the power play.
So now it’s the Red Wings’ move to counter, and they began doing so during Friday’s practice.
Coach Jeff Blashill tweaked both power play units, putting Andreas Athanasiou and Martin Frk with Henrik Zetterberg, Anthony Mantha and Niklas Kronwall — and inserting Tomas Tatar and Gustav Nyquist with Dylan Larkin, Tyler Bertuzzi and Mike Green.
So, essentially, it was swapping Athanasiou and Frk for Tatar and Nyquist, and hoping Athanasiou’s speed will be an asset on Zetterberg’s unit.
“We wanted to make sure and give Double-A to that Zetterberg unit to give them a little more speed and entry success,” Blashill said. “Zetterberg’s unit had a great run of getting into the zone and it’s only really been the last couple of weeks they haven’t.
“But it’s gone dry, so let’s see if we can help them there. With Frk, it gives them a real shooting element on that power play.”
The power play has been a squashed momentum for a period of time now.
The Red Wings are a dismal 2-for-33 over their last 10 games, with simply entering the zone a problem area.
“We’re hoping they can get some chemistry quick,” said Blashill of the new units. “That’s the hard part when you switch around, you have to get chemistry quick.
“But you get to a point where we’ve stayed patient with it and we aren’t getting results. We have to look for other ways.”
Players were optimistic the new looks could spark success.
“Teams obviously watch your game tapes and know what you’re doing,” Green said. “After things are going the way they were, you adjust and that’s what we’re doing.”
Athanasiou’s speed balances the two units, with Larkin able to generate similar speed on the other unit.
Red Wings forward talks about moves to generate spark on team's struggling power play. Ted Kulfan
“Anytime you can change something up it can spark something,” Athanasiou said. “When things aren’t going so well, it’s never a bad thing to change it up and see.
“It gives us a little bit of a variety and we’ll see how it works.”
Blashill wants to see both units get the puck to the net and create scoring chances off shots, eliminate needless unforced errors, as well as, most importantly, gain entry and set up.
Blashill resisted the idea of changing personnel, at least temporarily, keeping Frans Nielsen and Trevor Daley off the power play for the time being.
Kronwall was intending to watch the upcoming Winter Olympics regardless — for the hockey, and he’s a big curling fan — but he now has another reason.
His brother Staffan Kronwall, also a defenseman, has been named to Sweden’s Olympic hockey team.
Staffan has been playing in Russia’s Kontinental Hockey League after playing for three NHL organizations.
“It’s definitely a proud moment any time you get a chance to represent your country and the Olympics are a pretty big deal,” Niklas Kronwall said. “He’s carved out a pretty nice career for himself over in Russia. I’m really happy for him.”
But Niklas Kronwall, like many other NHL players, will be disappointed when the Olympics begin in a few weeks and they aren’t in South Korea competing.
The NHL has decided to skip these Olympics.
“The players still don’t quite get why we’re not there,” Kronwall said. “Wish we were there, but we’re not, but we’ll watch as much as possible.”
Henrik Zetterberg and Tyler Bertuzzi returned to practice after missing Thursday’s skate. Both are expected to be in the lineup Saturday against Carolina.
… Blashill said both Justin Abdelkader and Darren Helm, both out with lower-body injuries, will not return until Thursday’s game against Chicago at the earliest.
… Luke Glendening (wrist) participated in Friday’s practice but isn’t expected to play until after the All-Star break at the end of the month.
HURRICANES at RED WINGS
Faceoff: 7, Saturday, Little Caesars Arena
TV/radio: Fox Sports Detroit/97.1 FM
Outlook: The Hurricanes (20-17-8, 48 points) are coming off their five-day “bye” week…They lost their last game, Jan. 14, 4-1 to Calgary, a game in which the Hurricanes lost leading scorer RW Sebastian Aho (concussion)…LW Teuvo Teravainen (24 assists, 35 points) will carry a heavier load.