How Detroit Red Wings must right themselves amid COVID-19 scare

Detroit Free Press

LAS VEGAS — The Detroit Red Wings face the task of righting themselves amid a COVID-19 scare.

They did not practice Wednesday, after playing back-to-back games to start their road trip, which continues Thursday against the Vegas Golden Knights. The Wings kept quiet regarding the status of captain Dylan Larkin, who was pulled from Tuesday’s game and sent into pandemic protocol. He stayed in Dallas while his teammates flew west. Most recently, coach Jeff Blashill said there was “a sequence of other things” that a player who has a positive test undergoes, but he did not get into specifics.

LARKIN’S IMPACT: Larkin’s second goal brings home 3-2 win over Canadiens in OT

LARKIN’S PAIN: Dylan Larkin emotional in return from family emergency

TUESDAY’S GAME: Red Wings lose at Dallas, 5-2, lose Dylan Larkin to COVID-19 protocol

Blashill was more expansive on what the Wings (8-8-2) need to do to get themselves back above .500.

“We’ve got to get better defensively,” he said. “That’s just the reality of it. We’re a pretty good team when we have the puck. We’re a pretty good team when we’re hounding. We’re a pretty good team when we’re playing offense.

“We’re not a good enough team defensively right now and I spoke of that the other night. It’s not because guys don’t want to, but we’ve got to get better defensively. We have to. So that’s, to me, the No. 1 priority. I think we do a pretty good job when we’re on the attack. We do a pretty good job in the O-zone, stuff like that. We just have to get better defensively.”

Blashill described Monday’s 5-3 loss to the Blue Jackets as a slap in the face, one he deemed the Wings were due for because they had been winning despite not being playing tight defensively. But the deficiencies were on display in the 5-2 loss at Dallas, too.

“It’s definitely something we’re going to need to continue to work on as the season goes on and try to get better at it each night,” defenseman Danny DeKeyser said. “For us, it’s going to be a process of trying to get better every night in the D-zone and try to bear down when we get chances.”

Larkin is a key player at both ends. The Wings already have been without him four times, going 2-2. He missed the second game of the season serving a suspension for punching Tampa Bay Lightning forward Mathieu Joseph in retaliation for being shoved from behind into the boards. That cheap shot set off Larkin, because he didn’t finish last season after suffering a neck injury April 20 that left him in a brace for eight weeks. Larkin also left the team for a week at the start of November to deal with a family matter. He returned Nov. 7 and scored Tuesday to extend his goal streak to three games (with four goals),  bringing him to 14 points in 14 games.

The Wings had multiple players in COVID protocol last season — starting with five a week into the 56-game season — but this is the first time a Wings player has been pulled during a game. It has happened before in the NHL, though — ex-Wings forward Tomas Nosek was pulled during a game last season. In baseball, Justin Turner was pulled during Game 6 of the 2020 World Series in Arlington, Texas, but controversially returned to the field to celebrate the Dodgers’ championship.

Contact Helene St. James at hstjames@freepress.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 AmazonBarnes & Noble and Triumph Books. Personalized copies available via her e-mail. 

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