Record aside, Wings 'making steps in right direction'

Gregg Krupa
The Detroit News
Red Wings defenseman Joe Hicketts, right, checks Bruins ' Jordan Szwarz during Tuesday's 3-2 preseason overtime win.

Detroit — No one should make a big deal about being 6-0 in the preseason, and the Red Wings certainly are not.

Even if it is approaching the Red Wings' best warm-up mark of 8-0 before they tied the ninth game in 1997 — the preseason between their consecutive Stanley Cups after ending the 42-year title drought.

Opponents’ lineups vary, some with barely the minimally required handful of NHL regulars.

But, for a club embracing a rebuild with varying degrees of vigor, 6-0 is encouraging nonetheless.

“It’s hard to contrast it with the regular season, because you just don’t know, the lineups vary from game to game,” said forward Justin Abdelkader. “And, most nights, even if a team has a lot of their guys, they don’t have all of their guys.

“But good play out of a lot of guys, and good experience for a lot of young guys to get some games.

“They’re playing well."

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More: Wings' Blashill hints Zadina might start season in Grand Rapids

From his vantage point in net, goalie Jimmy Howard agreed.

“It’s the preseason,” chuckled Howard. “But I think, we’ve been finding ways to win, compared to last year during the regular season when we found ways to lose games. So, I think that’s a positive.”

Coach Jeff Blashill said he is encouraged, even as he is mindful of the circumstances.

“Well, I wish it carried forward to the regular season,” Blashill said, as a matter of fact.

“You know, we’ve had good records in the preseason for most of the years I’ve been here. I think we have good depth in our organization, and that tends to help with that.

“This year, we’ve had some good performances from a lot of the young ‘D,’ which is a positive thing because they’ve had to play lots of these games because of the injuries.”

Blashill said he has seen a good amount of puck battles won and a determination, especially beginning against the Bruins, to spread out the offensive zone deployment.

At the start of preseason, Blashill said he would evaluate the team and players on a shift-by-shift, period-by-period basis to see who could have a positive impact on each game. The score and winning is mostly considered secondary.

And, he is encouraged on that basis, more than the 6-0 mark.

“I think we’ve making steps in the right direction,” Blashill said.

Zadina 'taking strides'

Filip Zadina had a better game against the Bruins on Wednesday, Blashill said.

It completes a pattern of one average performance in which he struggled to have an impact followed by a better game through the four preseason contests the 18-year-old Zadina has played so far.

He will play, again, Friday in Toronto against the Maple Leafs in a Wings lineup that will include a comparatively large representation of the ultimate NHL roster.

“I thought Zadina played good again (Wednesday),” Blashill said, “He’s taking strides.

“I thought the three-on-three goal (winning goal in overtime) is a good finish by him. He was good on the power play, not great.

“We’ve talked about space, but I think there was a couple of times on the power play when he could have one-timed it, but he grabbed it and shot it. You might grab it and shoot it in the net in junior, but you’re not doing it in the NHL.

“So, let’s one-time that, whenever we can. It’s just those little things he’s got to learn.”

Promising crop

Blashill continued to compliment the performance of group of young defensemen — Dennis Cholowski, Joe Hicketts, Filip Hronek, Vili Saarijarvi and Libor Sulak — who have provided some consistently solid defense and good performances.

Blashill said he will play Cholowski, Hicketts, Hronek and Sulak against the Maple Leafs on Friday.

“You’ve got five or six guys who are all different in the way they play the game,” defenseman Niklas Kronwall said.

“So, I wouldn’t be surprised if in a few years from now, you see all those five or six guys on the same team together, because that’s how good they are.

“It’s just a matter of getting a good opportunity and making the most of it.”

Red Wings at Maple Leafs

Faceoff: 7:30 p.m. Friday, Scotiabank Arena, Toronto

TV/radio: NHL Network

Outlook: Jeff Blashill said Red Wings will play comparatively more NHL regulars, along with four young defensemen battling for roster slots — Dennis Cholowski, Joe Hicketts, Filip Hronek and Libor Sulak. The Leafs are likely to counter with one of their better preseason lineups.

Twitter: @greggkrupa