| The Detroit News
When the NHL schedule was announced, players were generally enthused about the baseball-style format of it.
Mostly two-game sets, often with a day between games.
Now that the Red Wings have lived the schedule a bit and are in the midst of a road trip, they’re giving a big thumbs up, too.
“I have nothing against it, it’s good,” defenseman Patrik Nemeth said after Tuesday’s morning skate on a Zoom media chat. “Especially in times like this, it’s a real good solution. There’s nothing wrong with it.”
Players are seeing several key benefits to this format of staying in the same city for a few days.
There’s less actual travel and more opportunity for rest. The second games of the series are, generally, more intense than a standard regular-season game. And in the current COVID climate, there’s less exposure to a fewer amount of cities given teams are only playing intra-division matchups.
Nemeth is already feeling the benefits.
“I like it. You can be in bed earlier and there’s less travel. It is easier on the body,” Nemeth said. “The second game (of the series) should be really good. It can be a small playoff series, or that’s what it feels like anyway.
“I can see us keeping it in the future. If you’re flying out to the West Coast, you can play your season series there instead of bouncing back and forth. So when you’re on the road, you’re on the road, and when you’re home, you’re home for a stretch.”
On the flip side, the intra-division format, though useful this season, is something that isn’t likely to stay in the future.
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While seeing the same seven teams over and over on the schedule can accelerate rivalries and ill feelings toward opponents, it can also bring about boredom.
Nemeth, and players alike, like the idea of seeing every team.
“We should play against every team,” Nemeth said. “It is like four different leagues (currently) because that’s how we’re playing it. In the future, if we’re going to keep this type of schedule, we at least should play against the other divisions for sure.
“The Canadian teams (in the North Division) are playing each other, what, 10 games? That could get it a little old, maybe. So, play against every team in the league. They (the league) will come up with a good solution (for next season).”
It’s been a rough start for forward Vladislav Namestnikov, who was looking for his first point as a Red Wing and was struggling with a minus-5 plus-minus rating heading into Tuesday night’s game at Dallas.
Namestnikov has had quality scoring chances through the first six games, but has failed to convert.
“He’s had opportunities to score and produce and it hasn’t gone in,” coach Jeff Blashill said. “Vlade’s biggest challenge is not beating himself up, probably like most players.
“It gets hard on guys and their confidence slips. Vlade is hard on himself. You wish one of those early on would have gone in and he’d feel more confident.”
The one thing about this shortened NHL season is no team can afford a long, costly losing streak.
With the schedule being only 56 games long, a multiple-game losing streak can put a team deep down in the standings and potentially out of playoff contention.
Only the top four teams in each division automatically qualify for the playoffs this season.
“There is urgency,” Blashill said of stopping losing streaks. “Regardless of how long the season is, nobody wants to get into a streak where you’re losing. Certainly a shortened season has a bigger impact right away.
“Do we want to nip this in the bud? Absolutely. Is there urgency to do that? Absolutely.”
Darren Helm is still out with an undisclosed, day-to-day injury. Adam Erne, Robby Fabbri, Filip Zadina, Sam Gagner and Jon Merrill all are on the COVID-19 protocol list.
Blashill feels this is a good opportunity for young players who are in the lineup to show they need a permanent spot.
“They’re getting a great opportunity,” Blashill said. “But the thing about opportunity is you have to grab it. You can’t be just OK. You have to grab it. We’d love it if they show they’re impact players in the NHL.”
… Taro Hirose stepped into Sunday’s lineup and had a positive showing in over 15 minutes of ice time.
Blashill met with Hirose before the season and was impressed with Hirose’s attitude heading into this season.
“He was totally focused on what he could control and playing with the confidence,” Blashill said. “We have to make sure if he is playing well, that we’re getting him more ice time.”