Jeff Blashill wants Red Wings to embrace history of organization

Ted Kulfan
The Detroit News
Dylan Larkin

Detroit – There aren’t any players in the Red Wings locker room who’ve seen Red Kelly play.

But they’ve certainly heard of Kelly and his amazing career.

The respect is certainly there, as Kelly’s number 4 was to be retired before Friday’s game against the Toronto Maple Leafs at Little Caesars Arena.

Kelly starred for the Wings and Leafs from 1947-48 to 1966-67 and was part of eight Stanley Cup-winning teams (four with each organization) and won three Lady Byng Trophy and one Norris Trophy.

“A special guy,” said forward Dylan Larkin.

Kelly began his NHL career as a forward before transitioning to defense.

“It’s tough going from wing to center; I can’t imagine going back to defense,” Larkin said. “It would be tough, tough. But it’s impressive. It speaks to his hockey sense, which was off the charts.”

Coach Jeff Blashill was going to address Kelly’s ceremony during team meetings before the game. Blashill feels it’s important for this young roster to learn about and embrace the impressive history of the Red Wings organization.

“It’s another remembrance for us that every franchise in the NHL has history, but very few have the history of success that the Detroit Red Wings have, and for that matter, the Red Wings and Toronto Maple Leafs have,” Blashill said. “That’s something I’ve talked about, it’s something that we want to embrace. Games like this, it’s a good reminder for our guys what it means to be a Red Wing.

“I would say the group in here has much more knowledge in the recent history. Some of these guys have played (with retired stars), but we’re starting to lose some of those guys, but we know the recent history. But to reach back into the 1950s and what really puts in greater context what made this such a great organization is an awesome thing for all of us.”

Second-half goals

Red Wings playoff hopes have largely been eliminated, and Detroit is near the bottom of the NHL standings. But there’s plenty of time left in the season to improve.

Both Larkin and Blashill talked about how the Wings have played good hockey over the last 15 games, at least statistically, but haven’t been rewarded with victories.

“We have to keep playing good hockey and the results will follow,” Blashill said. “Keep your focus, and that’s on the game we have ahead of us, and that’s it. Just try to get better every single day as a group, as individuals and have a short memory.

“And once that game is over, you learn from it and move on.”

Larkin believes the Wings are capable of their best hockey in the weeks ahead.

“I don’t think it’s over for us,” Larkin said. “There’s still hope. I feel we’re playing our best hockey the last 15 games. We had a road trip where we played real well for three games and we didn’t win two, but we found a way to win in Edmonton and it gave us confidence going into the break.

“We’ve never lost the culture in here, we’ve always worked hard, always come to the rink with a positive attitude. Blash and the coaching staff have done a real good job (stressing) we’re here for a reason – don’t waste any time in practice or preparing for a game.”

Ice chips

With Tyler Bertuzzi (upper body) out, Blashill moved Justin Abdelkader to the top line with Larkin and Gustav Nyquist.

“Bert’s playing real good hockey so it’s unfortunate he won’t be available (Friday and Saturday), but that’s the way life goes in pro sports,” Blashill said. “I moved Abdelkader back up to that spot because he had done a real good job there prior, so we’ll see if we make any further adjustments as we go along here.”

… Martin Frk, who hadn’t played in the last 10 games, was back in the lineup Friday, with Bertuzzi out. Frk last played Dec. 31 against Florida.

... Friday’s game was the first for Toronto with new acquisition, defenseman Jake Muzzin. Many analysts felt it was another shrewd move by the Leafs, who dealt prospects and a first-round draft pick to Los Angeles to strengthen an already dangerous roster.

“He’s a star defenseman, hard to play against,” said Larkin. “Makes big hits, good offensively. He’s hard to match up against.”

Red Wings at Senators

Faceoff: 7 p.m. Saturday, Canadian Tire Centre, Ottawa, Ontario

TV/radio: FSD Plus/97.1 FM

Outlook: The Wings were two points ahead of Ottawa (45-43) at the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings heading into Friday’s games. … All the attention in Ottawa these days is whether the Senators will deal RW Mark Stone (22 goals) and C Matt Duchene (27 assists) before the trade deadline.

Twitter: @tkulfan