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John Niyo and Ted Kulfan take a look at the Red Wings at the one-quarter mark of the NHL season. The Detroit News

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The Red Wings’ poor first quarter of the season – they have 17 points, tied with Los Angeles for worst in the NHL – hasn’t soured Steve Yzerman’s opinion about the direction of the franchise.

“I think (Jeff Blashill) and his staff are doing a really good job of preparing the players, of practicing,” Yzerman told NHL.com this week at the NHL general managers’ meetings in Toronto. “I like to think we're improving from training camp to the start of the regular season. As we speak here today, I think you're seeing good progress in our team."

An encouraging start to the season – three wins in the first four games – was torpedoed by a horrible skid that followed, during which the Wings won once in 13 games.

"Even during that stretch where we lost a lot and gave up a lot (of goals), I can't say it was because we weren't competing," Yzerman said.

Blashill is in his fifth season as Red Wings coach and is on pace for his worst record. The Wings had 93 points in his first season in 2015-16, 79 in 2016-17, 73 in 2017-18 and 74 last season.

At their current pace, the Wings would finish with 61 points this season.

"I'm encouraged by the speed of play and the enthusiasm and the work ethic that the team has, and I think we're seeing progress,” Yzerman told NHL.com. “I think collectively as a team, the team plays fast, the team plays hard, and it's a competitive group.

"So obviously we've got a long way to go, but I like the atmosphere within the locker room, within the coaching staff. I think it's very good."

The Wings return to action Thursday night with a 7 p.m. game at Columbus.

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