Red Wings seeking better defense, consistency at 10-game mark

Ted Kulfan John Niyo
The Detroit News

Boston — The Red Wings played their 10th game Tuesday night, suffering an ugly 3-0 loss in Montreal to the Canadiens.

It was a disappointing way to hit the benchmark.

Detroit Red Wings center Dylan Larkin is out for personal reasons.

Many NHL coaches, including Wings coach Jeff Blashill, like to break the schedule into 10-game segments to get an idea where their team is at, and where it's headed.

The Wings are 4-4-2 record, earning 10 of a possible 20 points.

"It's been up and down ride so far," defenseman Danny DeKeyser said. "We want to level that out."

Tuesday's lethargic loss put a damper on this segment for Blashill.

"I would say for a large part of those 10 games, our compete level was extremely high and our work ethic was extremely high," he said. "It's hard to talk about 10 games with the taste I have in my mouth right now (after Tuesday's loss) because that wasn't even close to what we've been.

"We worked hard to develop an identity of being a team that is hard to play against."

The Wings need to improve defensively. They are 30th out of 32 teams in goals against per game, with a too-high 3.40 average.

Some of that is tied to a penalty kill that's 24th (74.3%), some of it to rare nights (like Tuesday's), where the work ethic lagged. Allowing seven goals to Tampa on opening night doesn't help, either.

The Wings need to start cutting down the goals against.

"We knew the formula for us to have a chance to have success," Blashill said. "We have to be better defensively. Over the 10 games, that's one of the things we can be better at. We know the work ethic, compete and urgency we have to play with.

"For whatever reason, it was missing (Tuesday). It's been a regular staple of our team and it'll have to be to give us a chance."

Bertuzzi, Larkin update

Tyler Bertuzzi, the Red Wings’ leading scorer, rejoined his teammates at practice Wednesday in Boston after missing the team’s last two games in Canada due to his vaccination status. 

But still missing from the ice was top-line center Dylan Larkin, the team captain who was out of the lineup for Tuesday night’s 3-0 loss at Montreal while dealing with what the team is calling “personal reasons.” Blashill said he had no update to provide on Larkin’s status. 

Asked if Larkin will miss Thursday night’s game against the Bruins, Blashill said, “I don’t have that answer. I don’t know.” 

Bertuzzi, who leads the team with nine points (six goals) in seven games, stayed home in Detroit skating on his own the last four days because he has opted not to get vaccinated for COVID-19 and isn’t allowed to travel to Canada. Per NHL rules, Bertuzzi wasn’t paid while away from the team and he was responsible for arranging his own travel to Boston ahead of Thursday night’s contest.  

But Bertuzzi was back in his usual spot at practice Wednesday, skating on a line with rookie Lucas Raymond and Robby Fabbri, who was filling in for Larkin as the No. 1 center. 

“He’s up to speed,” Blashill said of Bertuzzi. “He skated at home, he has put himself in position to step in and have success. I have no worries about him stepping into the lineup.” 

The Wings’ losses at Toronto and Montreal dropped them to 0-3 this season in games Bertuzzi — the NHL’s lone remaining unvaccinated player —  has missed this season. Detroit isn't scheduled to play on the road in Canada again until Feb. 26 at Toronto.

Another chance

Forward Joe Veleno had an impressive, nearly game-altering third period in his regular- season debut Saturday in Toronto. Against Montreal, Veleno, like many of his teammates, was average at best.

Veleno will stay in the lineup against Boston, and has another opportunity to show he should stay with the Wings a bit longer.

"He certainly wasn't alone," said Blashill, of the less than dazzling game in Montreal. "He's going to get another chance (Thursday) and prove, make a claim, he's a guy who can help us win hockey games."

Red Wings at Bruins

Faceoff: 7 p.m. Thursday, TD Garden, Boston.

 TV/radio: BSD/97.1

► Outlook: The Bruins (4-3-0) have gotten off to an uneven start, but remain one of the dangerous teams in the NHL. ... The Bruins are coming off a rare four-day break in the schedule. ... LW Brad Marchand (four goals, eight points) and RW David Pastrnak (five points) and C Patrice Bergeron (three assists) are arguably the best line in hockey.

— Ted Kulfan

Twitter: @JohnNiyo