Detroit Red Wings have ‘hard conversations’ as they ‘try to get different guys going’

Detroit Free Press

Derek Lalonde had some “hard conversations,” as he put it, with individual Detroit Red Wings players as the team tries to move forward.

For only the second time this season, the Wings (3-1-2) face a team that made the playoffs last season when they take on the Bruins (6-1-0) in Boston Thursday. The Wings, who lost in overtime when they played the Los Angeles Kings at home on Oct. 17, are coming off a 6-2 loss to the New Jersey Devils, and the end of a five-game point streak has increased focus on players who are struggling.

Chief among them is Lucas Raymond, who is still looking for his first goal and has two assists in six games.

“Lucas is lacking some detail in his game, which is understandable of a young player,” Lalonde said Wednesday. “He is so competitive. Now he is channeling it incorrectly. He’s pressing. It’s not going in for him, and I think he believes he needs to help the team with offense. Now it’s looping, now it’s cheating, now it’s not taking care of the wall, and now he’s getting stuck in his d-zone instead of doing the things he can do in the offensive zone. Not concerned at all. It’s typical of a young player pressing a little bit. It’s our job with him to get him playing the right way.”

LESSON LEARNED?Derek Lalonde: ‘We’re not talented enough to lull through games’

Raymond, coming off a 23-goal rookie season, was on a line with Andrew Copp, who has looked rusty from missing all of camp and exhibition season, and Joe Veleno. Oskar Sundqvist missed practice with what Lalonde said was an upper-body injury, and defenseman Jordan Oesterle played up front instead, grouped with Pius Suter and Filip Zadina. Adam Erne moved into Sundqvist’s spot with Michael Rasmussen and Elmer Söderblom.

“We’re trying to work through some things and trying to get some different guys going,” Lalonde said. “I think we’re going to be in this blender look for a while.”

The season is two weeks old, and with Tyler Bertuzzi (upper body) and Jakub Vrana (players assistance program) out, the Wings’ depth has been depleted. Dylan Larkin, Dominik Kubalik and David Perron each have four goals; the only other player with more than one is Söderblom. Zadina and Copp have yet to find the back of the net.

In addition to “hard conversations with a lot of different guys,” Lalonde said he relies on his assistants to help relay messages to players, and alert them if they’re going to be front and center in team meetings. “If some of our players are going to show up in team video in a hard way, sometimes that’s a good heads-up from an assistant — don’t be surprised when you see it in a team meeting — take it constructively.

Perron was in Raymond’s spot on Larkin’s line at practice. Larkin was enthusiastic about gaining such an experienced scorer, and sounded confident the Wings can figure things out.

“He’s someone I look to when things get hard in a game, he simplifies it,” Larkin said. “He’s a very skilled player but he loves chasing pucks and working his butt off to go get pucks and make plays for his linemates. He’s definitely an energy guy, more so than I thought he was before I played with him. He does little things to win pucks and little things throughout a game that winning players do.

“We have more talent, we have more players that have been in situations like this and know the right response. We had a great practice — it was intense. We’re going into a tough building and we have players in here that know that.”

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 latest book, “On the Clock: Behind the Scenes with the Detroit Red Wings at the NHL Draft,” is available from  Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Triumph Books. Personalized copies available via her e-mail.

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