Recent Red Wings losses show need to tighten up defensively

Detroit News

Buffalo, N.Y. — When the Red Wings are doing a good job defensively, keeping the puck out of their net, they’ve been a successful team.

When it’s looked eerily similar to the last several seasons, and the team has been poor defensively, then it’s looked like Monday’s 8-3 loss in Buffalo.

That’s actually three of the last four games, now, in which the Wings have allowed five or more goals. Not surprisingly, those three games were losses.

“Absolutely it’s concerning,” captain Dylan Larkin said in a quiet and dejected Wings’ locker room after Monday’s drubbing. “Eight goals. I mean, what are we going to do? There is opportunity here. The season is still young. We’ve showed we can be a good team. We have guy guys who are trying to fight for a spot in the lineup. We have guys coming back from injury.

“We need to show that we care more every night.”

The Wings have made improving team defense a priority this season, but thus far, the results have been a mixed bag.

There have been bright spots, like the opening night shutout over Montreal, and Saturday’s 2-1 victory over Minnesota was, arguably, the Wings’ best game of the season, coach Derek Lalonde said.

But the consistency has yet to be achieved.

The Wings entered the first day of November ranked 25th in goals-against average (3.56) and 24th with 32 goals allowed.

Lalonde alluded to Saturday’s hard-earned, tough-minded victory over Minnesota, and the fact the Wings have a good chance to win when they play that type of style.

“We have to get that’s how it’s going to have to look,” Lalonde said. “We have five of our top seven forwards out. We cannot play a soft and light game. We have no chance. If we buckle down and defend, that’s our chance.”

What troubled the Wings further in Monday’s loss, along with the untimely penalties and allowing Buffalo’s skilled players to dominate, was not enough bite in the Wings’ game.

“We lost every battle,” Larkin said. “We didn’t start on time. We didn’t really do anything. We skated all over the ice trying to pressure, and it felt like we were skating nowhere all night. When we got to pucks, we were playing on the ends of our sticks and lost every battle.”

Headed back on I-96

With forward Michael Rasmussen returning from a two-game suspension, Givani Smith was assigned to the minor-league affiliate Grand Rapids Griffins.

Smith played in two games, with three shots and four hits while averaging just under 10 minutes (9:57) per game.

In three games with the Griffins, Smith has one assist with four penalty minutes.

Lalonde said after Monday’s game forward Oskar Sundqvist (upper body) remains day-to-day and the Wings will have a better feel for Sundqvist’s availability after Wednesday’s practice. The Wings were off Tuesday.

Reunion time

The Wings announced there are more than 30 former players, coaches and staff members set to attend the 25th anniversary celebration of the 1997 Stanley Cup champions (Thursday against Washington), and the 1998 championship team (Saturday against the New York Islanders).

Fans also are encouraged to arrive and be in their seats early. The pregame ceremony honoring the 1997 team that won the club’s first Stanley Cup in 42 years will begin Thursday at about 6 p.m., and at noon Saturday ahead of the 1 p.m. game against the Islanders.

Red Wings alumni players, coaches, front-office members and support staff scheduled to attend the weekend’s festivities include (in alphabetical order):

Hakan Andersson (director of European scouting, head coach Scotty Bowman, Paul Boyer (equipment manager), Doug Brown, Mathieu Dandenault, Jim Devellano (general manager/senior vice-president), Kris Draper, Anders Eriksson, Brent Gilchrist, Kevin Hodson, Ken Holland (assistant general manager/general manager), Tomas Holmstrom, Mark Howe (pro scout), Mike Knuble, Joe Kocur, Vladimir Konstantinov, Mike Krushelnyski (assistant coach), Martin Lapointe, Igor Larionov, Dave Lewis (associate coach), Nicklas Lidstrom, Kirk Maltby, Darren McCarty, Larry Murphy, Chris Osgood, Jamie Pushor, Bob Rouse, Brendan Shanahan, Barry Smith (associate coach), Tim Taylor, Mike Vernon, Aaron Ward, John Wharton (athletic trainer), and Steve Yzerman.

Twitter: @tkulfan

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