Red Wings coach Jeff Blashill says team must play "right hockey" rest of the season. Ted Kulfan, The Detroit News
Detroit — They didn’t expect a leisurely practice, and the Red Wings surely didn’t have one.
Coming off Tuesday’s 8-1 loss to Montreal, the Wings had a regularly scheduled day off the next day. Lucky for them.
But the luck ran out.
So Thursday, with the nightmare of the Montreal loss still fresh in their heads, the coaching staff wanted to make sure to get the point across that nothing about that game was acceptable.
With the amount of skating, physicality and just old-fashioned work involved in the practice, everyone should be on the same page.
“We have to learn from Tuesday," coach Jeff Blashill said. "There were a number of things we didn’t do well enough. I didn’t think we competed hard enough. The desperation wasn’t high enough. We missed assignments … some of the simple principles of good hockey.
“(Those) were basic principles we did today.”
The verdict likely will not be known until the next game, Saturday in Arizona, but the message got through, it appears.
“Just going out there and working hard,” goaltender Jimmy Howard said of the coaching staff’s message. “What happened (Tuesday) can’t happen. You better work. That was the No. 1 thing out there today.”
Despite the growing number of losses, the Wings still have been a high-effort, hard-working team for the vast majority of the season.
Nobody accused them of taking too many nights off. Nobody could argue against the Wings in that regard.
Until the Montreal game, that is. Looking back, Blashill sensed some growing negative signs.
“I don’t think our last three games, it’s been as good as it was prior to that Philadelphia game at home (Feb. 17, a 3-1 loss),” Blashill said. “We were real good (that game). It hasn’t been quite as good in terms of when the chips are on the line, that dig and compete … and that’s been this team’s hallmark.
“There’s way better in us and certainly what happened on Tuesday, I’ll use the word 'joke' again. That can’t happen, and hopefully we got that across today.”
Forward Justin Abdelkader said he felt bad for the fans who attended the game, many of whom were booing as early as the second period.
“For the fans that come and pay money, and bring families to the game, and we give an effort like that, it’s unacceptable,” said Abdelkader, adding it doesn’t matter where the Wings are in the standings. “You’re always, as a player, if you’re not in the playoffs, you’re still showcasing yourself, and it’s a job, and you have to prove yourself each and every day.
“Fighting for spots, and playing time, and your future, regardless of the situation presented you have to go out and do your best.”
Howard has been pulled in his last three starts — worked around two games he missed to the flu — although his work in net can’t entirely be faulted for the losses.
Howard was left to fend for himself early and often Tuesday, with the Wings’ struggling defensively.
“We’re going over video and working on things,” Howard said of his own performance. “It’s not fun. It’s definitely not fun. But this game, you have to earn it out there and right now we’re not doing that.”
Blashill said he believes the goaltending will benefit from the Wings playing better team defense.
“When you give up the chances you give up the other night, you’re going to hurt your goalies, and it’s ultimately going to eat away at their confidence,” Blashill said. “We have to get back to playing good defensively.”
Dylan Larkin (soreness), Mike Green (illness), Thomas Vanek (hip flexor) and Trevor Daley (back) didn’t take part in Thursday’s practice.
Blashill said Larkin “was hurt a little bit at the end of the game," and described Larkin as “questionable” for Saturday’s game. Blashill said he felt Larkin and Green had the best chances of playing Saturday.
Vanek and Daley essentially have been ruled out for Saturday, and are day-to-day.
At this point, the Wings aren’t considering bringing anyone up from Grand Rapids.
“If Green and Larks can play, then we won’t need anybody,” Blashill said. “We’ll decide after practice (Friday) and see where everybody is at.”