Red Wings look to stay on the defensive

Ted Kulfan
The Detroit News
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The Red Wings didn’t play a exciting, wide open, offensive-minded game Tuesday in Dallas by any stretch.

If anything, it was a defensive-minded game by the Wings and Dallas Stars both, with the Stars ultimately winning 2-1 in overtime.

Red Wings defenseman Marc Staal (18) and center Valtteri Filppula (51) combine to strip the puck away from Stars right wing Alexander Radulov (47) during the first period Tuesday in Dallas.

It probably wasn't the most exciting hockey game fans watched recently, and it might not be the most exciting or easy game for Wings players to play.

But for the Wings to be successful both short- and long-term, coach Jeff Blashill said it’s how the team must continue playing.

“It’s the type of game we have to play regardless of who is in the lineup, and certainly with the people we have out of the lineup, it’s critical we play that way," Blashill said. "If you think back to the Columbus game in overtime we won (Jan. 19), there were very few chances both ways. That's the way we'll have to play. We have to make sure we're a good team defensively that protects that critical ice and is good structurally and we get our offense having the puck more.”

After two sub-par defensive games in Chicago, which resulted in two losses, the Red Wings were much better in that area against Dallas.

Blashill was pleased with the structure defensively, and defending the key areas of the ice.

Blashill also was pleased with the patience and maturity his team showed in a close, low-scoring game and the Wings content to be in that sort of a tough-minded game.

“It’s a mentality for sure,” Blashill said. “I go back to (former Wings captain) Henrik Zetterberg, you used to say ‘you have to be OK with nothing happening on a shift, and that’s OK”.

“You can’t force things to happen. You have to attack when the opposition is vulnerable, that’s when you strike. If you force it, generally bad things happen.

“We showed fairly good maturity as the game went along (Tuesday). Just playing pucks behind them and being OK with that. We didn’t try to force plays. We were in the position we want to be in and we have to be comfortable in that position.”

Larkin not at practice

There was a big piece missing at Red Wing practice Wednesday in Dallas.

Forward Dylan Larkin did not participate, Blashill said during a Zoom call with media. Blashill said he is optimistic Larkin will be in the lineup when the Red Wings play Thursday in Dallas.

Larkin’s absence had nothing to do with COVID-19 protocol, Blashill said, so it was some sort of physical injury.

“Again, I don’t think it’s going to be anything that’ll force him to miss the game, but we’ll see,” Blashill said.

Larkin played a season-low 17 minutes, 4 seconds during Tuesday’s 2-1 overtime loss in Dallas, having missed a chunk of time during the second period.

If Larkin were to miss Thursday’s game it would be a gut-punch in terms of missing the team’s leading scorer through seven games (six points), but also weakens a center position that has seen its depth chipped away.

If Larkin isn’t able to play, “everybody” must contribute more.

“When you are missing guys, and again, I don’t anticipate missing Dylan, but when you are missing guys, everybody has to play great,” Blashill said. “We have more to give.”

Ice chips

Forward Vladislav Namestnikov said the Wings took to heart they needed to play better in several areas after the Chicago losses.

"We weren't satisfied with the way we played in Chicago," Namestnikov said. "We talked about it in meetings, that we want to be a tough team to play against. A lot of people don't believe in us, but we believe in each other in the locker room."

... The Wings continue to struggle on the power play (3-for-20) and failed to capitalize in three attempts Tuesday, including a late third-period opportunity.

“It’s puck execution probably more than anything else," Blashill said. "On our entries we were in good position to establish possession time, and we didn’t execute the way we needed to. We needed to make a different play than what we did."

... For the second consecutive game Blashill was pleased with the play of forwards Givani Smith and Taro Hirose, and might be looking to increase their playing time.

Red Wings at Dallas Stars

Faceoff: 8:30 p.m. Thursday, American Airlines Center, Dallas.

TV/radio: Fox Sports Detroit-plus/97.1 FM

Outlook: The Red Wings are 0-2-1 so far on this four-game road trip, looking to salvage a victory in this finale of a two-game series in Dallas. ... The Red Wings continue to be without injured Darren Helm (day-to-day), and Adam Erne, Robby Fabbri, Sam Gagner, Filip Zadina and Jon Merrill, all on the COVID-19 protocol list.

ted.kulfan@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @tkulfan

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