Red Wings coach Jeff Blashill on the need for the team to take advantage of the remaining 34 games. Ted Kulfan
Detroit — While excitement bubbled throughout Little Caesars Arena Tuesday with the Pistons preparing for life with Blake Griffin, it was much more subdued in the Red Wings’ portion of the arena.
They returned from the All-Star break with a rigorous practice, and met beforehand, knowing the work that needs to be done.
There are 34 games left, the prospects of making the playoffs are grim.
Entering Tuesday’s games, the Red Wings trailed Toronto for an automatic playoff berth by 15 points and trailed a wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference by 10 points.
Not many folks believe they can do it. The Red Wings haven’t shown for four months they’re capable of a sustained, productive run.
But the Red Wings aren’t giving up hope, beginning with Wednesday’s game against San Jose (8 p.m., FSD/97.1 FM).
“The past hasn’t predicted a run (to come),” Blashill said. “That’s why all of you and pretty much all the hockey world would bet against us. I get that. I understand it. The past says we haven’t gone on a run.
“Where do you get that confidence from? I don’t know where Ottawa’s run came from (in 2014-15, the Senators went 23-4-4 to make the playoffs) that year. I’m sure they didn’t win that many games in a row.
“Philadelphia’s run a couple years ago (2015-16, 26-12-7 record). All of a sudden they got hot and couldn’t lose.”
Blashill is confident the personnel exists on this Red Wings roster to make a similar, successful, playoff-making run.
“We have the players to do it,” Blashill said. “We play good hockey almost every single night. We just need to get that little fraction better on a night by night basis, gain confidence, and go.”
Most fans will read that, chuckle to themselves, and say "no chance."
And Blashill sees where most people would say the Red Wings can’t do it.
“I understand why people wouldn’t believe me,” Blashill said. “I have no problem with that. I don’t care what anybody else thinks. I care what the group in this room thinks, and in the end it doesn’t matter what any of us think we have a chance to prove our worth on Wednesday.”
For the Red Wings to turn these final two months of the regular season into a miracle finish, they must score more goals and not give up the easy goals that have cost them on a consistent basis.
Red Wings defenseman says there is a lot of points out there remaining with 34 games left. Ted Kulfan
The Red Wings rank an unimpressive 28th (out of 31 teams) scoring 2.56 goals per game and rank 29th with 123 goals scored.
The offense has been streaky, at best, and simply unproductive for the majority of the season.
A perfect microcosm of the season was the final game before the All-Star break, when the Red Wings lost 5-1 against Chicago — a game the Red Wings had numerous quality scoring chances, and fumbled them away.
“We have to bear down on our chances,” Blashill said.
It’s an old hockey cliché, but the Red Wings need to create more traffic in front of opposing goalies. There hasn’t been enough on a consistent basis.
“We have to shoot the puck more and get bodies to the net,” goaltender Jimmy Howard said. “It’s no secret that’s how you score in this league.
“At the same time, we have to find a way to keep the puck out of our net. We can’t be giving up freebies on a nightly basis.”
Time is running out, if it hasn’t run out already. The trade deadline is Feb. 26 and the Red Wings are likely to be sellers.
A quick start to this post-All Star Game schedule is essential to keep any miracles alive.
“There’s still a lot of games left, a lot of points out there,” defenseman Trevor Daley said. “We realize how desperate it is. We have to get it done right now.
“We’ve played pretty good most of the time. It’s just the results haven’t come. We just have to give a little bit more and see what happens.”
Back to health
The four days off during the break gave the Red Wings sufficient time to heal.
Daley (lower body), Justin Abdelkader (lower body) and Darren Helm (knee) all practiced Tuesday and are likely to return against the Sharks.
“There’s a great chance all three of them will play, but we’ll know more (Wednesday) morning,” Blashill said.
SHARKS at RED WINGS
Faceoff: 8 p.m., Wednesday, Little Caesars Arena
TV/radio: FSD/97.1 FM
Notable: The Sharks (26-15-7, 59 points) opened the post-All Star break schedule Tuesday in Pittsburgh…The Sharks have the 5th best power play (22.8 percent) and 5th best penalty kill (83.4 percent) in the NHL…C Joe Thornton (knee) is out indefinitely.