No Dylan Larkin, no offense has Red Wings winless on road trip

Detroit News

Boston — A week ago the Red Wings had just rallied to defeat the Washington Capitals  in overtime, then came back against the then-undefeated Florida Panthers, losing in overtime.

Two quality opponents, two games in which the Red Wings looked like a team on the rise.

What a difference a seven days makes.

The Wings have since lost three consecutive games and, suddenly, a lot of things aren’t going well.

“We need more guys going at a high level,” coach Jeff Blashill said Friday. “A week ago today we had a lot of guys going at a high level. As of last night (Thursday’s 5-1 loss in Boston), we didn’t.”

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On and off the ice, red flags have gone up. The results are beginning to look reminiscent of the last few seasons, when losses began stockpiling.

The Wings are in Buffalo on Saturday, ending this road trip against a Sabres team that is also rebuilding. Buffalo just traded away its franchise player (Jack Eichel) and completed a four-game West Coast trip on which they won once.

If ever the Wings needed a victory, now would be one time.

“Whether they’re coming from the East Coast, West Coast or Florida, we just need to play good hockey and take care of our own business,” Blashill said.

The four-game winless streak has sapped optimism from a promising start.

“It goes so quick,” forward Pius Suter said. “One week ago, completely different situation. You just remind yourself of the good games.”

Among the issues:

►Dylan Larkin’s murky status: Larkin has been out of the lineup for “personal reasons” since Monday. Coach Jeff Blashill said after Friday’s practice there was “no further update as of right now,” and wouldn’t speculate as to when Larkin would return.

The Wings haven’t disclosed anything other than “personal reasons” for Larkin’s absence. Blashill said Friday the Wings support Larkin.

“He’s somebody we all care tons about and we’ll continue to care tons about him,” Blashill said. “Certainly I don’t want to get into it too deep, because that’s not fair. So our guys care a ton about him and certainly that continues.”

►Offensive woes: The Wings have scored one goal in the last two games. In the last eight games, in which the Wings have won twice, they’ve scored two goals or less in regulation time in six of those contests.

With no Larkin in the lineup, Tyler Bertuzzi (unvaccinated) not being available for three games in Canada and many other forwards sputtering, offense is a void.

Blashill fashioned some new-look lines Friday.

Suter was between Bertuzzi and Lucas Raymond, while Joe Veleno centered Robby Fabbri and Filip Zadina. Mitchell Stephens was between Vladislav Namestnikov and Sam Gagner on the third line. Michael Rasmussen centered Givani Smith and Adam Erne on the fourth line.

Suter has one goal and one assist in 11 games. Not the production envisioned when he signed as an unrestricted free agent last summer. But the Wings are hopeful Suter will benefit from playing with Bertuzzi and Raymond.

“He’s our most experienced center right now,” Blashill said. “He did a good job last year playing with Patrick Kane (in Chicago), with good players, and we thought, potentially, the makeup of that line gives him some beef.

“We have to find ways for guys to bring it to another level. And if takes a little bit of line juggling, then it takes a little bit of line juggling. It gives opportunities for new looks and maybe it’ll spark somebody.”

Suter is excited about the chance to play with Bertuzzi (a junior linemate at Guelph) and the exciting rookie, Raymond.  But also about the chance to turn things around.

“Production hasn’t been what I would like it to be,” Suter said. “The chances have been there.”

►Lack of shots: The Wings were only credited with 15 shots in Boston, after putting 22 on net in Tuesday’s loss in Montreal.

The Zadina, Suter and Fabbri line had one shot against the Bruins.

“We have to be quicker on pucks, quick to loose pucks and we have to be harder around the net,” Blashill said. “We have to shoot the puck more.”

Blashill is a big believer that getting pucks on net generates chaos and creates offensive chances.

“I just thought that we passed up tons of shots,” Blashill said after the Boston game. “We’d have times where we are in their end and we didn’t shoot enough. We didn’t create enough chaos at that spot. It wasn’t that we didn’t have opportunities to create more shots. We don’t create any chances because we didn’t want to shoot the puck enough.”

►Special teams: The Wings rank 25th on the power play (15.4%). After allowing three Patrice Bergeron power-play goals Thursday, they are 27th on the penalty kill (70%). Bergeron found open room on two of the goals, as the Wings struggled.

“The game comes down to special teams,” Blashill said. “You got to stay out of the box, but you also got to kill a penalty. There were moments of execution where we just got to be better.”

►The good news: Raymond and defenseman Moritz Seider are, on many nights, two of the Wings’ best players.

Raymond leads all rookies with 10 points and five goals. Seider is second in the NHL with nine points, all assists, tops among rookies.

They offer plenty of hope. Wings fans can use it.

Twitter: tkulfan

Red Wings at Sabres

Faceoff: 7 p.m. Saturday, KeyBank Center, Buffalo.

 TV/radio: BSD/97.1

 Outlook: The Sabres (5-4-1) are coming off a four-game West Coast trip where they went 1-3-0. … LW Victor Olofsson (five goals) and C Rasmus Asplund (eight points) lead offensively. … D Rasmus Dahlin (five points, minus-3 rating), the 2018 No. 1 overall pick, is struggling and beginning to feel heat from Sabres fans.

— Ted Kulfan

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