Detroit Red Wings see schedule ahead as chance to ‘get into a groove’

Detroit Free Press

Rest is important, but what the Detroit Red Wings crave — along with winning — is rhythm.

They turn their attention to the Toronto Maple Leafs, who come to Little Caesars Arena on Saturday, dinged by losing after a week between games. The Wings only had seven games on February’s slate, and playing twice a week or less gets old quickly.

“We get in a rhythm,” captain Dylan Larkin said after Wednesday’s 5-2 loss to the Colorado Avalanche. “We’re creatures of habit, playing hockey. We played a lot of games and then we have a little bit of a break and we don’t play a lot of games this month. We need to get back in a groove, and we need to find a way to build confidence game in and game out, and it starts Saturday night against Toronto.”

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Coach Jeff Blashill estimated the Avalanche’s chances as “fairly minimal, but we have to make sure they’re not going in our net. To beat good teams, we’re going to have to be really good defensively.”

Over the past 10 days, the Wings have lost at the Minnesota Wild and won at the New York Rangers. Following the Leafs, the schedule offers the Carolina Hurricanes, Tampa Bay Lightning and Florida Panthers the first week of March. For a team trying to close a double-digit points gap on a wild-card spot, that’s a killer slate.

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“All those teams are pretty elite,” Blashill said. “We have to play good hockey and we have to do it for 60. Last time we played Toronto, I thought we outplayed them for a good period of time, but we didn’t finish the job. We’re going to have to find a way to make sure we give up less goals — you can’t try to outscore these teams. We have to defend better in those situations.

“You either have to score more or give up less. We had opportunities to score more and we gave up too many. The easier fix on a night-to-night basis against real good teams is to make sure that you’re not giving up as many.”

The Wings got caught flatfooted to start Wednesday’s game, and that cost them a 2-0 deficit. They worked their way to a one-goal game, but giving up goals late in the second period and early in the third proved insurmountable.

“That third goal was a killer, and so was the fourth one,” Larkin said. “It was right after a big kill and they get one. It wasn’t the best timing for the goals against.

“We know where we’re at in the standings. We know we have to do a lot of work to catch them, and there are other teams in the hunt. We have to get on a run here and we have to do it pretty quickly, and we have no better time to do it than against some of the teams we have coming up.”

Contact Helene St. James at 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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