Red Wings focus on short term as losing streak builds

Ted Kulfan
The Detroit News
Red Wings goalie Jimmy Howard, left, and Joe Hicketts stop a shot from Lightning's J.T. Miller during Thursday's 3-1 loss in Tampa.

Sunrise, Fla. — Jimmy Howard has been through many good times, many victories and many playoff successes with the Red Wings.

But he’s never gone through something like what the Wings are going through — opening the regular season with seven straight losses.

After Thursday’s difficult 3-1 loss in Tampa, Howard was near his locker stall sorting his equipment and answering questions about the latest defeat.

“It’s not fun,” said Howard of the losing streak. “That’s for sure. We know we have to just keep moving along.”

Around him players shuffled along in a quiet locker room that seemed shocked more than anything.

The losing streak, which has snuck up on some people around the league, is approaching records the Wings would rather not be associated with.

The team record for consecutive winless games is 10, which was set in 1975-76.

In terms of the NHL, the record for losses to begin a season is 11 — by the New York Rangers (1943-44) and Arizona (2017-18).

The Wings would rather not be in the discussion for either milestone.

But to do so, they have to win a game. One game. And that hasn’t been easy thus far.

And with games against Carolina, Winnipeg, Dallas and Columbus coming up after Saturday's game in Florida, the Wings don't have any clear, potential victories ahead of them.

“It’s a good character test, it’s good adversity to go through,” forward Justin Abdelkader said. “We just have to stay together and continue to do things right.”

More: Chris Osgood: 'Inevitable' that Steve Yzerman returns to Red Wings

More: Wings' defense getting healthy, with likely return of Jonathan Ericsson

If ever the Wings will have an opportunity to sneak into the win column, it could be Saturday in Florida.

The Panthers entered Friday’s game in Washington as the only other team in the NHL without a victory.

Florida has key injuries and have struggled on the defensive end. The Panthers are also going to play the Wings on the back end of a back-to-back.

“Being in Washington it’s not an easy trip. It’s 45 minutes just to get back to the airport,” coach Jeff Blashill said. “I hope that game goes to overtime and is real hard fought and they’re real tired when they come here (Saturday).”

Blashill wants his team to maintain a short-term focus.

“Does it wear on you? Nobody likes losing, you want to win,” Blashill said. “But we also — as I’ve said lots going into this year — we have to have a short memory. We have to try to get better every day and we have to focus on the game ahead of us, and I’ve even gone as far (as say), a shift ahead of you.

“Mental toughness is a huge thing in life. Everybody gets kicked and everybody gets knocked down. Who gets back up? We have to get back up and come back with a real good performance.”

Thursday’s loss to the Lightning was a moral victory, of sorts, as the Wings played one of the NHL’s powerhouses to the final minute — after losing badly in Boston and Montreal by a combined score of 15-5 the previous two games.

But moral victories aren’t pleasing the Wings these days.

“We played better, but we have to find a way to get a win,” forward Luke Glendening said. “It’s enough of these moral victories. We have to find a way to get a win.

“It’s obviously not easy. But we have to stick together. This is the time when character shows through. We played better, but we didn’t get the result.

“We have to keep working.”

Blashill felt the Wings played well enough to earn a victory in Tampa. So, it’s now it’s just a matter of continuing that level of play.

“We did stuff last night that would put us in position to win games,” Blashill said. “We have to keep doing that. We can’t go back to the way we played in Boston and Montreal.”

Red Wings at Panthers

Faceoff: 7 p.m. Saturday, BB&T Center, Sunrise, Fla.

TV/radio: FSD/97.1

Outlook: Entering Friday’s schedule Florida (0-2-2) was the only other team besides the Red Wings that is winless in the NHL…The Panthers have been hurt by the loss of G Roberto Luongo (lower body)…C Aleksander Barkov is a potential MVP candidate.

Twitter: @tkulfan