Red Wings 'have to pull together' as they limp home from California trip

Ted Kulfan
The Detroit News

Detroit — The Red Wings needed, and wanted, more in terms of success on this road trip through California.

With that dream of a wild-card playoff spot gradually slipping away, the Wings needed more than the two of a possible six points out of the three games in Los Angeles, Anaheim and San Jose.

Red Wings right wing Riley Barber (26) is helped off the ice by Moritz Seider (53) and Jordan Oesterle during the first period of Tuesday night's game against the San Jose Sharks.

Tuesday's 3-2 overtime loss in San Jose capped the winless (0-1-2) trip and put the Wings three points behind Boston — with the Bruins having five games in hand. The task for a young team such as the Wings will be difficult.

That's why earning more than just two points would have been beneficial for the Wings to stay closer to the Bruins. The fact the Wings didn't play their best during these three games also was aggravating.

"Obviously we had chances to get a couple of more points, like (Tuesday)," defenseman Nick Leddy said after the disheartening loss to the Sharks. "I wish I could have tied up his (Sharks forward Logan Couture) stick for a split second longer (possibly preventing the game-winning goal). But that's kind of how it goes. It's a long season. Every game we've shown good steps in areas. 

"We just have to pull together."

Originally, the Wings were supposed to start the trip Thursday in Anaheim. But because the Ducks had on-going COVID protocol issues, the game was rescheduled for Sunday, and what was expected to be three games in six days with days in between games, suddenly became three games in four nights at the end of the trip.

The switch might have contributed to the Wings' lack of push in much of Tuesday's loss.

“It seemed like we were tired," coach Jeff Blashill said. "I’m not sure if that’s the case or not, but that’s what it looked like to me. We made some mental and physical errors as the game went along."

Blashill was disappointed with the winless road trip. 

"We wanted to come in here and wanted more than that, for sure," Blashill said. "We had moments of playing good hockey and moments of not good enough. We have to play better hockey overall, and we have to find a way to get points as we head back (home).

"We have a relentless reschedule here, and we have to make sure we're playing as good as we can on a nightly basis. These are challenges you face in the NHL and you have to overcome the challenges. Guys have to step up and play great hockey."

In a slight departure from the norm, the Wings spent the night in San Jose after Tuesday's game and flew back to Detroit on Wednesday — before another three-games-in-five-days stretch.

"We have no choice but to face the challenge and try to overcome it," Blashill said.

Some key developments coming out out of this trip:

► Goaltender Alex Nedeljkovic continues to take a firm grasp on the starter's job, the latest evidence is Tuesday's 37-save effort against the Sharks.

If it wasn't for Nedeljkovic, the Wings may not have even gotten the one point. Nedeljkovic arguably was the game's best player in San Jose.

"He got us a point,” Blashill said. “He gave us a chance to steal one for sure.”

► Forward Dylan Larkin (upper-body) missed Tuesday's game and is considered day-to-day. Blashill wouldn't rule out Larkin for Thursday's game against Winnipeg. Not having Larkin leaves a gaping hole in the Wings' lineup, missing the leading goal-scorer (16 goals) on a team that struggles to produce consistent offense.

► Leddy's goal against the Sharks was his first with the Wings and ended a personal 45-game goal-less streak, dating to April 18 when Leddy was still with the New York Islanders.

"Nick's played good for us all year," Blashill said. "He's pretty consistent in his game. The goal was at the end of a shift and he found a way to get through the neutral zone, which he can do, and he used his strengths which are skating and his poise."

► Tough break for forward Riley Barber, who was recalled from Grand Rapids, given the Larkin injury, and was expected to see power-play time against San Jose, but suffered a lower-body injury in the first period, forcing Barber from the game.

"Very unfortunate for Riley,” Blashill said. “He was getting a pretty good opportunity, he was going to be on our power play, so I feel real bad for him.”

► Blashill would like to see the Wings continue to shoot pucks on net.

"We’re gaining a little bit in our shooting mentality, but there’s still areas to improve in that,” Blashill said. “We have to continue to make sure we understand the chaos the shot can create, whether goes directly or indirectly on net. It leads to chaos."

Jets at Red Wings

Faceoff: 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Little Caesars Arena, Detroit

TV/radio: BSD/97.1 FM

Outlook: The Jets (16-12-5) and Wings play for the first time this season. ... The Jets have had key injuries, but have games in hand on teams around them in the playoff chase, which could help. ... LW Kyle Connor (Shelby Township, 19 goals) and G Connor Hellebuyck (Commerce Township, .913 SVS) pace the Jets.

Twitter: @tkulfan