| The Detroit News
Detroit — The Red Wings will have a few more fans in the stands next week when they return home to Little Caesars Arena.
The Wings began selling a limited number of tickets for March home games at LCA Thursday, given the loosening on restrictions from the state earlier this week, allowing for 750 people in arenas.
The Wings’ next home game is Tuesday against Tampa Bay.
The Wings have been hosting up to 500 fans for the last several weeks, mostly friends and family of team personnel.
On Tuesday, the Wings played in Columbus where Nationwide Arena had about 2,000 fans in attendance for the first time.
The Red Wings also have played at Dallas and Florida, where a limited number of fans have been in attendance.
“It’s funny what perspective is,” coach Jeff Blashill said Wednesday during a Zoom chat with media. “If we would have been playing in full buildings all year and walked into last night (Tuesday), we would have thought it was empty.
“And last night it seemed full. You could hear the crowd. They were into it. It was great. It was great to be part of. It’s closer to what we’re used to and what makes it such a great thing to be part of.”
Forward Luke Glendening felt the Columbus game, with at least some fans in an area, was a return “normalcy”.
“It was nice, a little bit of normalcy coming back to hockey,” Glendening said. “It’s nice to have fans. It would have been nice if they were cheering for you and not against you, but it was nice to have people in the building.”
The Wings’ minor-league affiliate Grand Rapids Griffins also is beginning to welcome back fans to Van Andel Arena.
The Griffins will host 750 fans at home games, beginning with games against Rockford Saturday and Tuesday. Griffins season ticket members will be given the first opportunity to purchase tickets to these and other home games during the remainder of the season.
The Red Wings entered Thursday’s game with a power-play goal in three consecutive games.
That comes, after the Wings were 0-for-40 in a span of 14 games, a particularly dreadful time for the unit.
Blashill feels the personnel on the power play now have a confidence they can be successful in those two minutes.
“It helps a ton going on the ice with the belief you have a real chance to score,” Blashill said. “Guys have executed better, and a big part of it is wining faceoffs.”
If a power play doesn’t score, if can at least turn the complexion of the game at a given time, that in itself can be a huge advantage for a team.
“Really good power plays, what they do, they score once every four or five times, but they give you momentum four-of-the-five times,” Blashill said. “The power play looks better.”
Adjusting to the times
Wednesday’s COVID-19 protocol list only had four players on it: Pittsburgh’s Sidney Crosby, Boston’s Charlie Coyle, San Jose’s Tomas Hertl, and Nashville’s Ryan Johansen.
Considering the opening weeks of this shortened season, with teams being decimated —the Wings had five regulars out one time — and games being cancelled and scheduled fairly regularly, its been a dramatic overall improvement.
With virus infections, generally, going down throughout North America, the number of people being vaccinated, and more vaccines available, it all likely contributes to the NHL’s better numbers.
“We’ve all learned how to best handle all of this on the fly,” Blashill said.
But there has been an adjustment, said Blashill, in terms of not seeing arena personnel, media, and various other game-day staff on a daily basis.
“There is a human interaction, that’s living, and that’s fans in stands, that’s living, and moments you can share in those situations is living and certainly has been been tough (not having fans),” Blashill said. “I don’t want to use the word tough. We get a chance to coach and play in the NHL and it’s awesome. It’s just been different.”
The Wings were without forwards Dylan Larkin (upper body) and Tyler Bertuzzi (upper body) and defenseman Troy Stecher (lower body. Both Larkin and Stecher should be ready to play Tuesday against Tampa Bay, the Wings’ next game. Bertuzzi probably wouldn’t be available until the following week.
…Glendening won 20-of-25 faceoffs Tuesday against Columbus. It was the first time a Red Wings player won 20-plus faceoffs in a game since Pavel Datsyuk went 22-for-29 (75.9%) on Nov. 28, 2014 at New Jersey.
Glendening entered Thursday’s NHL games ranked No. 1 with a 68.4 win percentage in the circle.