Red Wings look to rev up sputtering power play

Ted Kulfan
The Detroit News

Detroit — The power play isn’t giving the Red Wings any sort of lift lately.

It failed to score on its two attempts in Saturday’s 3-2 loss to the Florida Panthers, which has been a continuing trend for the unit.

The power play has been 1-for-11 in its last five games, something that has to change if the Red Wings have any hope of turning around the rest of their season.

“We’re not getting what we want to get from our power play,” forward Henrik Zetterberg said. “You want to get goals, obviously. We got some momentum lately. It’s been a little better than it was a while ago, but we need some goals.”

Coach Jeff Blashill talked in training camp, and hasn’t stopped, about the need of both special teams to be in the NHL’s top 10 to be a playoff team.

That isn’t happening right now, particularly with the power play.

Entering Monday’s schedule the Red Wings ranked 18th on the penalty kill (79.7 percent) — but a meager 21st on the power play (18.2 percent).

All of which is a key reason the Red Wings are on the outside of the playoff race.

“It’s not good enough, it has to be better,” Blashill said of the power play. “I still think for us to be a playoff team the rest of the year, they have to be in the top 10. Our PK has been better the last little bit, but our power play hasn’t been good enough.

“We have to eliminate unforced errors and we have to have a better attack mentality.”

Compared to how the power play was looking in early and late December, when simply entering the zone was an adventure, the Red Wings have improved considerably.

But ultimately converting the man advantage into a goal remains an issue.

“We’re getting chances,” Zetterberg said. “There was a part (of the season) there when we didn’t get into the zone, but we’re better than that now. We’re actually in there and creating shots and chaos in front of the net.

“Now we just have to get the puck behind the goalie.”


Feeling blue

There were lingering hard feelings about the non-call on apparent interference by Florida’s Jonathan Huberdeau on goalie Petr Mrazek, which gave the Panthers a late win when Huberdeau scored.

Confusion as to what constitutes goalie interference remains high.

But don’t expect the Red Wings to go charging full bore into the blue paint, just yet.

“The blue paint is the blue paint. You don’t want to be in there because there’s a good chance the goal will be disallowed,” Zetterberg said “But in the same way, you obviously can do more stuff now than you could do at the start of the year.

“We have to go in there and try to get those ugly goals and battle hard.”

Blashill told his players to keep going strong to the net.

“We have to make sure from an offensive standpoint that we get to the net hard,” Blashill said. “We still have to be careful about the blue. That’s all I can go on from what I’ve been told (by the league).

“I still think you have to be real careful, still have to get to the edge of that crease and not get into that blue. Once you get into the blue you’re subject to them calling the goal off. Let’s just play as we’ve played all year.

“If you’re in the blue paint and you make contact with the goalie, it’s got a chance to be called back. That one didn’t go our way.”

Forward drought

Thankfully defensemen — namely Danny DeKeyser and Trevor Daley — have scored goals lately because the production from many of the forwards has been spotty.

The list of forwards struggling to score goals is getting longer.

Zetterberg hasn’t scored in 14 games. Martin Frk has gone 17 games without a goal, and Andreas Athanasiou has gone seven. Dylan Larkin and Anthony Mantha have one goal each in their last eight games.

Tomas Tatar hasn’t scored in six games and has one goal in 11 games, while Gustav Nyquist has one goal in his last 10 games and Frans Nielsen one goal in 13 games.

“We’ve talked, certainly in the last little bit, about the importance of our defense getting more offense and we’ve gotten that,” Blashill said. “But you can’t have the defense creating offense and the forwards go dry.

“We need as much offense as we can get without giving up any more defensively. We just have to keep going and hope as many guys get hot as possible.”

Ice chips

Darren Helm didn’t practice Monday and whether he’d play Tuesday against Boston was unclear.

Helm has five points (one goal, four assists) in the last two games, but apparently has aggravated the lower body injury which forced him to miss six games in mid-January.

“I would say right now he’s probable for (Tuesday) but we’ll see,” Blashill said.

… Boston (31-11-8, 70 points) has been surging for over the last month, and has defeated the Red Wings twice this season (once in a shootout).

“They’re as good as any team in the league, for sure,” Blashill said.

Bruins at Red Wings

Faceoff: 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Little Caesars Arena, Detroit

TV/radio: Fox Sports Detroit//97.1 FM

Outlook: The Bruins (31-11-8, 70 points) have put themselves among the NHL’e elite with a remarkable 21-3-4 record since late November. … G Tuukka Rask hasn’t lost a regulation game in his last 20 starts (18-0-2) with .943 save percentage.