Helene St. James | Detroit Free Press
The Detroit Red Wings aim to build on a nascent point streak — their first of the season — and to trust their mental fortitude will help them bounce back from a rough opening month.
They host the Chicago Blackhawks on Wednesday, two nights after being dealt a 3-2 overtime loss. The Wings’ past three losses have been by one goal, as were two prior to a two-game series at Tampa Bay in which the Wings were outscored 8-2 combined.
“We’ve been playing pretty good the last couple games,” Vladislav Namestnikov said Tuesday. “They were all tight games. We can’t get too frustrated. Obviously, we want the outcome to be different, but we just have to keep working and things will turn around here soon for us.”
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The Wings are 4-10-3, and three of those victories have come in the second game of a miniseries. They returned to Little Caesars Arena after their last one, a 4-2 victory at Nashville, intent on crafting a winning streak, and got a point despite giving up a pair of first-period goals to the Blackhawks.
“There’s no quit in this team,” Namestnikov said. “We were down 2-0, and we battled back. Overall, I thought we played a really good game.
“We want that as our identity — we want to be a tough team to play against. Teams coming in here have to know it’s not going to be an easy game. I think lately we’ve been doing that and hopefully we can continue and get a streak of wins.”
Tyler Bertuzzi remains sidelined by an upper-body injury. But it’s encouraging that while Bertuzzi is missed — especially on the power play, where he has three of the team’s four goals — the Wings have gotten goals from unusual sources. Monday, it was defenseman Christian Djoos; in Sunday’s victory, it was Luke Glendening and Adam Erne.
Djoos’ goal made it 2-2 in the third period, after Namestnikov scored in the final minute of the first to halve Chicago’s lead. In the Wings’ first game at Nashville, on Friday, Marc Staal scored in the final minute of the second period, answering 14 seconds after the Predators had taken a 2-1 lead.
Djoos, Namestnikov, Staal and fellow newcomers Jon Merrill and Troy Stecher and goaltender Thomas Greiss have helped stabilize the Wings, even if their record after 17 games isn’t much better than last year’s 4-12-1.
This year, though, the Wings’ goal differential is minus-19. At this point last season, it was minus-33.
“There were times last year we got scored on, it felt like 10, or we lost a game and it felt like we had lost 100,” coach Jeff Blashill said. “Part of it is the maturation of some of the guys who have returned, and part of it is the fresh faces. Staal is good that way, Stetch is good that way, Merrill is good that way. Vladdy. They’re not rattled by what really is just a normal course of the season and normal course of a game.”
While the hope, of course, is that this mental toughness will lead to a better record, it’s a good sign of growth for a team that already has endured an eight-game losing streak.
“We’ve done a good job with that overall and there are a number of factors that play into that,” Blashill said. “One is getting a big save to keep you in it at times, and two is timely scoring. We had a timely goal at the end of the first, which I think helps keep you afloat. But part of it is just we are playing better hockey. So when you are down 2-0, and you give up the third goal, it gets way harder. But if you’re playing good hockey, the likelihood of giving up the third goal is way less. So I think there’s a mental fortitude that’s been fairly good.
“Even answering the bell against Nashville after a really tough loss in the first game, where you lose in the last minute, that showed a lot about what our guys are about. We keep coming to the rink and working hard and trying to get better.”
Contact Helene St. James at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @helenestjames. Read more on the Detroit Red Wings and sign up for our Red Wings newsletter. Her book, The Big 50: The Detroit Red Wings is available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Triumph Books. Personalized copies available via her e-mail.