Why Dylan Larkin was shaking his head as Detroit Red Wings came up empty

Detroit Free Press

The Detroit Red Wings look to make up for lost opportunities in New York after failing to edge closer to a playoff spot in Minnesota.

Captain Dylan Larkin sounded as disappointed as he looked after Monday’s loss, when the Wings squandered four power plays before pulling within a goal. Their desperation led them to gamble on playing with an empty net, which resulted in the 7-4 final.

“I think it was a game we could have won,” Larkin said. “I’m shaking my head right now. It’s not a good feeling. We understand the position we’re in. We know we’re not going to win every game but I felt it was a game we could have won.”

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The Wings (22-22-6) next play Thursday at the New York Rangers, an opponent, like the Wild, jockeying for positioning inside the playoff picture. It’s what the Wings have talked about after winning their first two games out of the All-Star break. This is the time of year games intensify, and while every game has some back-and-forth, the Wings can’t be as loose as they were for much of the game in Minny and still be in the conversation for a wild card spot.

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“I thought we had a lot of guys not nearly on their A game, and we can’t afford that,” coach Jeff Blashill said. “We are going to play a whole group of teams here that are some of the upper echelon teams in the league. If you want to win, you have to be as close to your A game as possible every single night. The level of intensity is going to continue to ramp up here the last 30 games, the goals, lots of times they get harder to come by, so we better make sure we ramp up our game up as well.”

The Wings may get a boost if Jakub Vrana is cleared by his surgeon to go full contact in practices. The Wings haven’t had Vrana all season because of a shoulder injury. Adding such an offensively skilled winger should make them more dangerous, including on power plays.

The Wings haven’t been near the playoff picture at this point in the past several seasons, and while they face a tough schedule (including three games against each of the Rangers, Florida Panthers and Tampa Bay Lightning), at the very least they don’t want to come away from games shaking their heads.

“You couldn’t ask for a better position,” Larkin said. “I mean you could, with us being in the playoffs. But we want to play playoff hockey and it’s got to start now and it’s got to start with our intensity and how we approach every game. Every game is huge for us.”

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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