For a team trying to prove itself, the Detroit Red Wings‘ baseline growth, early as it is in the season, is an encouraging sign.
They take a four-game point streak (3-0-1) into Thursday’s matchup against the New York Rangers, whom the Wings just rallied to defeat in overtime last weekend. That victory, and Tuesday’s 3-2 shootout loss to the Montreal Canadiens in which the Wings earned a point after trailing in the third period, showed signs of a resilience they have lacked in recent seasons.
“I think we’re improving as a team,” forward Adam Erne said. “We have a high standard for ourselves and we know what we are capable of. We believe in our systems and the way we are playing. Everyone likes it and when you have everyone on board, it just makes it that much easier.”
Dylan Larkin said after the Montreal game that the Wings’ “baseline,” is higher than it has been in previous seasons. Over the past week, against the Washington Capitals, New York Islanders, Rangers and Canadiens, the Wings (7-3-3) have kept playing the way they need to to be successful, even when the results haven’t been there.
“I think it’s a credit to our guys showing a little maturity already in sticking to the game, sticking to what we’re trying to do and what we’re trying to be, and not chasing it,” coach Derek Lalonde said. “These last two games were perfect examples. Both periods, first periods, we probably deserved a better fate. Both periods, we were down. And we just stuck with it.
“In this league, the percentages of even pointing going into the third trailing, are low. The fact we did that is a good sign. So yeah. But I still want to be cautious. It’s just a small sample size. We’re still going to go through bumps. I’d love to keep it at this level all year, but we’re going to be fighting for that consistency.”
David Perron didn’t practice Wednesday, but Lalonde said the veteran forward had a maintenance day and is expected to be available. Forward Oskar Sundqvist is cleared to return after missing two weeks with an upper-body injury — just in time, too, as forward Matt Luff is scheduled to undergo wrist surgery on Thursday and will be out 10-to-12 weeks after being injured on a hit from behind by Canadiens forward Juraj Slafkovsky.
Luff was called up to fill in for Sundqvist, as the Wings have dealt with a slew of injuries especially up front the first month of the season. Tyler Bertuzzi (broken hand) is projected to return next week, but Filip Zadina (lower body) and Robby Fabbri (knee) aren’t expected back before January and Jakub Vrana is out indefinitely while in the players assistance program.
It speaks to the Wings’ growth, and emphasis on team defense, that they’re doing as well as they are.
“I think the will is good, and I think that has gotten us through the injuries and some results early on,” Lalonde said. “With that said, we are going to have bumps in the road.”
Contact Helene St. James at firstname.lastname@example.org. 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.