Red Wings understand urgent need to nip winless ways in the bud
Detroit — One of the negative aspects about last season for the Red Wings was the inability to stop losing streaks.
The Wings had separate losing streaks of eight, nine and 12 games last season. Losses would stockpile, the Wings would fall deeper in the standings, and the regular season felt that much longer.
It’s a shorter NHL season this time around because of the pandemic. But the Wings would rather avoid the long losing streaks.
Which makes this short, two-game home stand against Florida this weekend that much more important.
The Wings entered Saturday’s game against Florida winless in four games — all on this recent four-game road trip. They face a good Panthers team twice, then go on a lengthy six-game road trip through Stanley Cup champion Tampa, Florida, and another good Nashville team.
So, you see why a win, or wins, at home are important this weekend.
“We have an opportunity, we’re at home now. We’ve got to take pride in playing at home,” defenseman Troy Stecher said. “This is a good opportunity to change the page.”
Especially in a short season like this one, a long losing streak early is likely to knock a team out of contention (the top four teams in the eight-team division qualify for the playoffs) quickly.
Getting a victory would build some confidence, said Stecher, who added the Wings’ locker room wasn’t pleased with the recent road trip.
“Anytime you’re on a losing streak, guys are upset,” Stecher said. “We didn’t get the results we wanted but it was definitely a good learning curve for our group, understanding we’ve got to play a certain way if we want to have success. When you get away from that, you’re going to get exposed, and especially at this level.”
Panthers on prowl
Florida has been one of the surprise teams in these opening days of the NHL season.
The Panthers had their first four games canceled due to COVID-19 protocol, and had a comparatively late start to the season.
But they entered Saturday's game 3-0-1, and with an impressive offensive attack, having scored four or more goals in three of the games.
"They've been in some close games and found ways to get points or win them," coach Jeff Blashill said. "That's what the league is. Every night, you are going to have opportunities, even if the score doesn't end up close, to make a play to either win or lose.
"They've found a way to be on the right side."
Blashill wouldn't speculate, after Saturday's morning skate, on the availability of goaltender Jonathan Bernier (upper body). But the Wings' calling up goaltender Calvin Pickard from the taxi squad Saturday afternoon likely meant Bernier will be unavailable to back up goaltender Thomas Greiss.
...Forwards Adam Erne, Robby Fabbri, Sam Gagner and Filip Zadina, and defenseman Jon Merrill, remain on the COVID-19 protocol list, but some of them should be coming off at some point this week.
Panthers at Red Wings
Faceoff: 5 p.m., Sunday, Little Caesars Arena, Detroit
Outlook: The Red Wings and Panthers complete the quick, two-game series on back-to-back days…The two teams play each other eight times this season.