Detroit — The Red Wings spent time during Monday’s practice working on three-on-three situations, for overtime.
It’s no surprise, really, considering Saturday’s 3-2 loss to Dallas in overtime, and the Wings’ 1-4 record in overtimes this season (1-2 in the shootout, 2-6 overall).
Those are valuable points left on the table for the Wings, which would really hurt if they continue to be in the playoff hunt later this season.
“We have to start winning some games in overtime,” captain Dylan Larkin said.
The feel of three-on-three overtimes have changed in the NHL since it was put in place in 2015. When it was originally ushered in, the extra time seemed to have a lot of speed and offensive chances, with skill players showing their talent.
But as is often the case, coaching staffs have put their fingerprints all over the three-on-three format. Now, it’s possession of the puck that is most important, while limiting opportunities for the opposing teams.
“Make it slow and make sure they don’t get any chances,” said Larkin, of the not just the Wings’ philosophy, but much of the league. “Coming into the league, it was wide open; (now) teams are starting to change on three-on-three. It’s a little bit different.”
Coach Derek Lalonde hasn’t been disappointed with the way the Wings have attacked overtime, but has been disappointed with the outcomes.
Monday was a good opportunity to work on-ice on the three-on-three format.
“It’s one of those things you want to work on, but don’t get a lot of time to work on it,” Lalonde said. “It’s been frustrating for us because even looking at the underlying numbers, three-on-three, we’ve out-chanced our opponent in three-on-three time, we’ve had 60% possession in our three-on-three play, we’ve only given up seven chances against, and four of them have ended up in the back of the net. And all have been eerily similar.
“It’s not managing our game, egregrious turnovers, and ended up in the back of our net. It’s almost an extension of our five-on-five play. We’ve asked guys to manage their game five-on-five and this is the same thing.
“For me, it’s not a structure issue when the underlying numbers are what they are; it’s a managing your game issue.”
Lalonde feels teams are better at defending three-on-three these days.
“People are having a smarter approach,” said Lalonde, noting Dallas basically touched the puck for the first time in overtime on its only scoring chances several minutes into period.
Some analysts wouldn’t mind erasing the overtime formats and simply going back to ties after regulation. But Lalonde doesn’t feel that’s the way to go.
“I like it; it’s good for the fans,” said Lalonde, noting the potential for high-end excitement and dazzling offense. “Maybe it’ll get to that point (of people losing interest), but it’s been great. Maybe it’s lost a little of its wow and pow but because of people just learning how to defend it, but I have no problem with it.”
Goaltender Magnus Hellberg rejoined the Wings on Monday after completing a four-game conditioning stint with Grand Rapids.
Hellberg played well for the Griffins, going 2-2-0, with a 2.50 goals-against average and .932 save percentage. Hellberg gives the Wings an option
“It’s a lot different from just practicing,” said Hellberg, who the Wings claimed off waivers last month. “It’s more mental and that’s why you play the game, to compete and win as many games as you can. It was fun getting some game action.
“I was able to play some games down there and we’ll see what happens. I prepared to be in a game. I have to have that mindset, to be ready if I’m called upon. I feel good.”
Lalonde said Ville Husso will get the start in net Tuesday against Carolina, but who gets the start Wednesday in Minnesota is unclear. Husso could get the back-to-back starts, given his success with such a scenario recently, or it could be Hellberg or Alex Nedeljkovic.
The Wings, for the time being, have options.
“He did what we asked of him, got some games (in Grand Rapids), now we’re game to game with our three goalies,” Lalonde said. “He performed well. I just like he did what we asked of him. He didn’t have to agree on the conditioning stint and he did and went down there and played four games and played well, so good on him.”
Defenseman Olli Maatta didn’t practice Monday after having missed the last two games of the road with a non-COVID illness. At this point, Lalonde isn’t sure Maatta can be ready to play against Carolina.
“He felt a little better, but it’s just a day-to-day illness thing,” Lalonde said. “I’m guessing it’ll be a lot to ask him to play (Tuesday) but he’s inching closer.”
… Robby Fabbri (knee surgery) has yet to play this season, but is now in a full contact jersey and getting closer to returning. Lalonde said Jan. 1 remains the target date.
“We’re sticking to that Jan. 1 date and being cautious with his history, with his lower-body injuries,” said Lalonde, excited about the prospect of adding a top-six, offensive forward. “It’ll be a nice little spark for us, the way he plays the game.”
Fabbri is getting antsy to play.
“We’re still going day by day and everything has been going well,” Fabbri said. “That’s all I can ask for. It’s getting exciting. We’re getting close and the boys are doing so well, so it’s fun.”
Hurricanes at Red Wings
▶ Faceoff: 7 p.m. Tuesday, Little Caesars Arena, Detroit
▶ TV/radio: BSD/97.1 FM
▶ Outlook: The Hurricanes (15-6-6) have earned points in seven consecutive games (5-0-2) and are coming off an impressive 3-0 shutout victory Saturday over the New York Islanders. … RW Andrei Svechnikov (15 goals), C Martin Necas (28 points) and D Brent Burns (20 points) lead a balanced offensive attack.