Red Wings 'sick of losing,' eager to prove predictions wrong

Ted Kulfan
The Detroit News
Wings goalie Jimmy Howard said the players are motivated to "make some noise" this season.

Detroit — If you scour the internet looking for an NHL prediction story that has the Red Wings anywhere but at the bottom of their division and conference, good luck.

Most everyone has the Wings above one team, Ottawa, in the Atlantic Division and Eastern Conference.

Most analysts feel only the Senators and the Los Angeles Kings will finish below the Wings in the overall NHL standings.

Red Wings players aren’t buying it.

“Guys are not even listening to the outside,” forward Frans Nielsen said. “We’re trying to worry about ourselves.

“But at the same time, you see in the guys’ eyes and when we’re talking in here, guys are not happy with what’s been going on here lately.”

The Wings haven’t made the playoffs the past three seasons. They missed the playoffs by 24 points last season.

“Hopefully you get to see a little more 'mad' Red Wings,” Nielsen said. “(Players) want to go out there and prove something and we have to be. We think we have a good team but not good enough to skill our way through the league.”

Goaltender Jimmy Howard has been with the organization since the Wings were annual contenders and competing for Stanley Cup berths.

Things have changed, but Howard feels this roster wants to get back into that sort of contention.

“It’s no fun to be here the first week of April packing your stuff,” Howard said. “We’re looking to go out there and make some noise this season.

“The intensity has been through the roof since Day 1 (of training camp). Guys are (angry) over the way everything has transpired over the last several years and want to put an end to it.”

More than a few players, since the start of training camp, have talked about the Wings having a “chip on their shoulders” and wanting to prove people wrong.

The consistent losing has been a mental grind and a disappointment for an organization that had made the playoffs for 25 consecutive seasons.

“Everyone has us not making the playoffs again, and just the same path we’ve been on the last few years,” forward Tyler Bertuzzi said. “We want to change that.

“Just kind of our ending last year, we were playing real well at the end of the season. We got a couple of new guys, just more experience from guys and we have our older guys leading the way.”

The motivation of wanting to reverse the last three years, said coach Jeff Blashill, could be positive for the Wings.

“It’s a huge motivator when you’ve had enough and you’re willing to do anything it takes to win,” Blashill said. “You can say you should always be willing to, but you’re probably even more willing to sacrifice personal gain to win and that’s a level few teams get to.

“Most teams, it’s hard to ask guys to care more about winning than their own personal game. This group is at a spot where they’re sick of losing enough, they’re willing to sacrifice a little personal gain to make sure we’re more of a winning hockey team.

“You still have to go out and execute at a high level. But I know guys are ready to give that type of commitment and sacrifice level that is needed for this group to win.”

Ice chips

Andreas Athanasiou practiced Friday but Blashill said afterward Athanasiou remains a “game-time decision” for Saturday’s regular-season opener in Nashville.

If Athanasiou is in the lineup, he’ll center between Luke Glendening and Taro Hirose, in an attempt to create more secondary scoring for the Wings after the Bertuzzi, Dylan Larkin and Anthony Mantha line.

“The thing that helps with Doubles (Athanasiou) in the lineup is it makes Taro more dangerous,” Blashill said. “If we can get them playing together, it helps create more synergy in that group offensively.”

…The Red Wings and Kings are going to be the last teams in the NHL to begin their seasons on Saturday.

Red Wings at Predators

Faceoff: 8 p.m. Saturday, Bridgestone Arena, Nashville, Tennessee

TV/radio: FSD/97.1

Outlook: The Predators opened their season Thursday with a 5-2 victory over the Wild. Center Matt Duchene, Nashville’s big free agent signing, had three assists...The Wings return home Sunday to host the Stars in the home opener.

Twitter: @tkulfan