These final weeks of the regular season, for some of the Red Wings, is an opportunity to claim a spot for the future with the organization.
Goalie Jared Coreau is definitely on that list.
Given an opportunity in the NHL when Petr Mrazek was traded to Philadelphia last month, Coreau is still looking for his first victory after Thursday’s 4-1 loss in Los Angeles.
Coreau, 26, has appeared in three games since being promoted from Grand Rapids. He has an 0-2 record with a 4.26 goals-against average and .863 save percentage.
Coreau has looked better each time, since an extremely rough start in his season debut in which he allowed four Boston goals on 16 shots March 6 — including goals on the first two shots the Bruins had — before being pulled in favor of Jimmy Howard.
“There were some good things, some bad things, and some things to learn from,” Coreau told reporters afterward. “Ultimately, we didn’t get the win.”
Goaltending coach Jeff Salajko has worked on calming Coreau in net and limiting his unnecessary movement.
And against the Kings Coreau did look much more calm and in control of his situation, not looking as jittery or jumpy as he did against the Bruins, and to a lesser extent, the Blue Jackets.
Coach Jeff Blashill said after Thursday’s game he was pleased with Coreau’s game against the Kings, saying Coreau kept the Red Wings in position to win with several key saves.
That will be one of the key assessments going forward for the Red Wings in relation to the goaltending position — can Coreau be an adequate NHL backup to Howard next season and give the team a chance to win when in the lineup?
Coreau appeared in 14 games last season — he was recalled when Howard suffered a knee injury - and had a 5-4-3 record with 3.46 GAA and .887 save percentage. There were moments when Coreau definitely looked like an NHL prospect — he posted two shutouts — but three times he was pulled, not showing the consistency that’s needed at such an important position.
The organization will likely look for a veteran to back up Howard, and it wouldn’t be utterly shocking if they at least make a call to Mrazek, 26, who isn’t likely to re-sign in Philadelphia after a shoddy performance with the Flyers since arriving there (4-5-1, 3.15 GAA, .887 SVS).
Mrazek’s price wouldn’t be anywhere close the $4 million he earned this season. But, then again, Mrazek may not be interested in returning to an organization where the relationship had strained in the last year or two.
Coreau, though, simply hasn’t taken advantage of his opportunity as much as he’d probably like — and his career marks of 5-6-3, 3.57 GAA, and .883 SVS in 17 NHL games can attest to that.
The Red Wings haven’t been totally mathematically eliminated from the playoffs, but it’s getting there.
By virtue of Toronto winning Thursday and the Red Wings losing — the loss extended the Red Wings’ winless streak to eight games (0-7-1) — the Red Wings can’t catch the Maple Leafs and will not be able to claim one of the three automatic playoff spots in the Atlantic Division.
The only way the Red Wings could make the playoffs is by earning a wild card spot but, obviously, those chances are becoming increasingly slim.
The Red Wings entered Friday’s games trailing New Jersey by 17 points with only 12 games left. Any combination of eight points earned by New Jersey or lost by the Red Wings, will eliminate the Red Wings from the playoffs for a second consecutive season.
To their credit, the Red Wings continue to play with passion and commitment.
“We’ve got lots of character in our room, there’s no question about that,” Blashill told reporters after the game. “We’ve fought our tails off for a long time here and we haven’t had results.
“That’s the hard thing. Our guys keep coming and playing. That speaks to the leadership that’s in the dressing room.”
Thursday’s loss to the Kings was similar to many others during this difficult stretch.
An odd goal by Anze Kopitar from behind the net — the puck fluttered off Coreau’s back and into the net — typified the bad breaks the Red Wings have had during this losing streak.
Kopitar’s goal gave Los Angeles a 2-1 lead in the third period, and the Kings went into their defensive mode stifling the Red Wings for much of the remainder of the game.
“You won’t get a lot of chances against a team like this,” forward Henrik Zetterberg said. “They play very solid defensively in their zone, but they don’t create that much either. It’s especially tough when they get goals like they did.
“Even though we battled back and got that tying goal on the power play (Gustav Nyquist’s 18th goal), that second goal (Kopitar’s) was a tough one.”