Red Wings notice livelier LCA crowds as play has improved

Ted Kulfan
The Detroit News
Dylan Larkin

Detroit — Is Little Caesars Arena becoming a legitimate home-ice advantage for the Detroit Red Wings?

The season is still young, but this recent stretch certainly bodes well for the Wings.

Heading into Tuesday’s game against Arizona, the Red Wings have won four of their last five games at LCA, pushing the record at home to an even .500 (4-4-1).

Generally speaking, the crowds have been a bit livelier and it’s made an impact.

Red Wings forward Dylan Larkin was asked if he's noticed a difference lately.

“I do,” Larkin said. “It’s nice to have them in the seats, especially late in the game, and we feed off that. Our record at home has been pretty good this season. We feel comfortable at home, the ice conditions have been good, so it’s nice to come in here and have the crowd behind us.”

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The Wings were 16-16-9 at LCA in its debut year last season, as everyone, both fans and players, got acclimated with the lavish new rink.

“The building seems a lot louder (this season), but that comes with the territory,” goaltender Jimmy Howard said. “When you’re winning, it seems like the fans are having that much more fun.”

According to NHL statistics, the Wings are third in the league in average attendance at 19,279 per game. That's 98.8 percent of LCA capacity, though many tickets go unused each game.

Back above water

That 1-7-2 start to this season has been gradually forgotten in the Wings’ locker room, thanks in large part to the recent stretch of six wins in seven games.

There’s still plenty of work to do in terms of moving upward in the standings, but at least there’s a real sense of optimism now.

“We’ve put ourselves in a pretty good spot making up for the start we had,” Larkin said. “We’re having fun right now winning games, and everyone is contributing and working hard. It’s been good.”

The Wings have shown to be a resilient team during this stretch, including winning the last three after having fallen behind by two goals.

Coach Jeff Blashill has liked the tenacity, but gives credit to Howard and No. 2 goalie Jonathan Bernier for giving the Wings a chance to rally these last three games.

“Our goaltenders have allowed us to hang in the games, but you can’t rely on that forever,” Blashill said. “The reality is, any of those games, if it goes to three-goal games, it’s way harder to come back.”

Poor starts continue to plague the Wings, but they’ve been able to overcome them.

“We’re playing with the confidence, we know we can do it,” forward Frans Nielsen said. “We’re definitely not playing our best hockey, but we are finding ways, and we’ll take that right now.”

Ice chips

Arizona comes into Tuesday’s game leading the NHL with an incredible nine shorthanded goals.

The Coyotes also have the best penalty killing unit in the league, at 91.8 percent.

“They’ve been able to capitalize to a level that’s probably never been seen before,” said Blashill, of the Coyotes’ scoring opportunities on the PK. “On top of that, their actual PK hasn’t allowed much at all.

“They have real confidence and swagger to them.”

… Blashill said forward Jacob de la Rose (undisclosed injury) will miss his second consecutive game and his availability is day-to-day. Jonathan Ericsson (upper body) skated before Monday’s practice, but isn’t expected to return for the next couple games, at least.

Coyotes at Red Wings

Faceoff: 7:30 Tuesday, Little Caesars Arena, Detroit

TV/radio: FSD/97.1

Outlook: Arizona (8-7-1, 17 points) is 6-3-1 in its last 10 games. … G Anntti Raanta is off to a fine start (2.10 GAA, .929 save percentage), as is C Clayton Keller (12 points) and D Oliver Ekman-Larsson (9 assists).

Twitter: tkulfan