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Red Wings meet extra long to fix defensive issues

Ted Kulfan
The Detroit News

St. Paul, Minnesota — The Detroit Red Wings had an optional skate scheduled for noon Tuesday at Xcel Energy Center.

Goaltending coach Jeff Salajko was on the ice beforehand with goalies Jonathan Bernier and Calvin Pickard.

Said Wings coach Jeff Blashill of what he wants defensively: “You have to have guys wanting the puck, guys in the right spots, then you have to deliver the puck to the right spot.”

The three lingered for nearly 20 minutes before teammates finally got on the ice.

There was a meeting scheduled, going over the details and responsibilities in defensive zone coverage — and let’s say it ran a little long.

“It was something I wasn’t going to leave until we had it straight,” coach Jeff Blashill said. “We have to be better. I talked about it last night (after the 6-3 loss in Colorado). We have to get better in our D-zone coverage.

“Until everybody had a chance to make sure we understood, we weren’t leaving that meeting. If it ran a little long, it ran a little long.”

Defensive zone coverage is an area Blashill has talked often about in recent weeks, as the Wings has drifted between being average and ineffective.

Monday in Denver, though, it was particularly ineffective, and it cost the Wings any chance for a victory.

“You have to have guys wanting the puck, guys in the right spots, then you have to deliver the puck to the right spot,” Blashill said. “It’s everybody. Sometimes the more pressure you’re under, the more important it is to talk and have guys in the right spots. Our job is to train guys to be in the right spots and their job is to execute it.

“(Monday) we had a few (instances) where a little more talk and want-the-puck would have helped us.”

In the last two periods of the Avalanche game, the Wings simply wound up defending too much and allowed Colorado to capitalize.

“We still struggle at times to get the puck out of our end,” Blashill said. “We have to do a better job of making sure the support is there, making sure we are talking, and making better decisions.

“Sometimes the best play is just to put it (the puck) into space. One thing we have to be better at is once you turn puck over, you can’t turn another one over. I don’t care if you ice it. You can’t just can’t let the chaos that happens from turnovers continue.

“It’s something we’re still working on.”

Defenseman Madison Bowey agreed communication on the ice is something that is vital.

“It’s huge, and when we’re hearing and helping each other, that makes everyone’s job a little easier,” Bowey said. “It helps us get out of our defensive zone quicker.”

Injury update

Blashill confirmed defenseman Mike Green (upper body) would be out approximately two weeks because of an undisclosed injury. Because of the upcoming All-Star/bye week, Green might not miss many games, but it’s still another key injury.

“It’s one of those things that happens in hockey and it’s unfortunate,” Blashill said. “The good part is it involves the break, so you’re not missing as much action.”

Forward Frans Nielsen (upper body), who also left Monday’s game hurt, will also miss the Minnesota game, said Blashill.

Blashill also noted that forward Anthony Mantha (mid-body), out since Dec. 21, is likely to miss another month and there’s no certainty Mantha will be able to return before the end of the season April 4.

“There’s always a chance,” said Blashill, of Mantha missing the rest of the season. “I don’t anticipate that, but there’s a chance.”

The break beckons

Both the Wings and Minnesota go on their break after Wednesday’s game. Blashill is optimistic the Wings’ minds will be on hockey, rather than the beach.

“For us, we better keep getting better,” Blashill said. “The game didn’t end well in Colorado. We have to be better than that. It shouldn’t be an issue at all (not being ready). If it is, those guys will struggle and ultimately, won’t play much.”

Red Wings at Wild

Faceoff: 8 p.m. Wednesday,  Xcel Energy Center.

TV/radio: NBCSN/97.1 FM

Outlook: Minnesota (22-21-6) is coming off a painful loss to Florida in the final four seconds…The Wild have only won three of their last 10 games (3-6-1)…C Eric Staal (16 goals, 36 points) and LW Zach Parise (19 goals) lead the Wild.

Twitter: @tkulfan