Injuries to defense another test of Red Wings' character, depth

Ted Kulfan
The Detroit News
Filip Hronek

Detroit It wasn’t just losing a hockey game Monday, but the fact the Red Wings lost another veteran defenseman that hurt just as badly.

Trevor Daley, who was recognized by the organization for playing in his 1,000th NHL game last week, came out Monday night to receive his gifts in a suit rather than game uniform.

Daley broke his foot in the morning skate and will miss the next 3-5 weeks.

Daley joins Danny DeKeyser (upper body) and Mike Green (lower body), who are all out with injuries, an ugly flashback to October when four veteran defensemen were out and the Wings struggled to a 1-7-2 start.

More: Red Wings midseason report: Larkin, Howard, rookies among high points

­So it’s up to a defensemen like Nick Jensen to play like a savvy veteran, rookies like Dennis Cholowski and Filip Hronek to play beyond their years, and the rest of the veterans to hold the fort.

“We have great players, they’re not veteran players but they’re real good players,” said Jensen, adding how the coaches have preached to the entire team about the importance of playing at a high level and maintaining that. “That’s what it’s going to take. You can’t have guys not playing great games because that’s when it’s going to show.”

Nick Jensen

During Tuesday’s practice, there were drills on maintaining control of the puck, something the Wings will stress given how it’ll be vital to play more offense than defense for the next little while.

“Play in the offensive zone, hang onto the puck, play offense as much as we can without putting our defense in real tough spots,” coach Jeff Blashill said.

Blashill said the Wings will call up a seventh defensemen within the next couple days to fill out the roster, as DeKeyser and Green aren’t likely to return for another week or two.

Injuries have been a factor for much of this season, a key reason the Wings are near the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings. The Wings have lost five in a row and nine of their last 10.

More: 'I’m not going to stop fighting': Red Wings' Mantha nears return but won't change

But Blashill isn’t dwelling what has occurred to this point of the schedule, although he’s been pleased with the work ethic and competitiveness of his team.

“Would we like to have more wins? Absolutely, losing is no fun and it stinks. Winning is why you play,” Blashill said. “From that standpoint, we’re disappointed we don’t have more wins.

“I will say we’re certainly in a spot we’re being tested right now. That’s when character shines through. We have to make sure to show our character.”

Loud practice

Blashill had to be pleased with the compete level of Tuesday’s practice, as numerous sticks were banged along the glass or on the ice, in frustration or anger.

Partly it might be because of the losing lately, part of it with the way practice went, but Blashill doesn’t want frustration seeping into the daily grind.

“Some of that today, there was some competing and things like that, and that’s what is going to happen,” Blashill said. “Some execution not as well as we need, (but) in the end, we can’t be frustrated by anything that’s happened in the past. We have to play the game tomorrow, that’s the number one thing.

“We’ll continue to harp to our guys our focus is getting better and go on to the next game.”

Good to go

Blashill expects forward Darren Helm to return to the lineup Wednesday against Calgary. Helm took part in the entire practice Tuesday and participated in all physical drills.

“I expect Helm to be ready,” Blashill said. “We’ll make a final determination after the pregame skate but I expect him to be ready.”

Helm has been out since injuring his shoulder in New Jersey Nov. 17.

Flames at Red Wings

Faceoff: 7 p.m. Wednesday, Little Caesars Arena, Detroit

TV/radio: FSD/97.1 FM

Outlook: Calgary (24-12-4, 52 points) has risen to the top of the Western Conference behind one of the most well-balanced teams in the NHL. LW Johnny Gaudreau (21 goals, 55 points), C Sean Monahan (21 goals, 48 points) and D Mark Giordano (31 assists) lead a powerful attack.

Twitter @tkulfan