Red Wings get back to basics, try to fix special teams with ‘better habits’

Detroit News

Detroit — The Detroit Red Wings are going back to basics.

After Saturday’s 6-3 home loss to the Ottawa Senators that saw the Red Wings (13-11-6) give up five goals on special teams — two short-handed and three power-play goals — head coach Derek Lalonde said the team’s focus at practice Sunday was to develop “better habits” on both units.

“A lot of it starts with battles off the faceoff, recovering pucks on the power play,” Lalonde said. “(That was) a point of emphasis with video today, and we tried to execute that today. So, it’s a little frustrating — both special teams, obviously, there is some execution issues there, but a little of it is power play, losing some battles, losing some 50-50s and they get it cleared.”

The Red Wings have given up power-play goals in four straight games, all of them losses. They have given up a total of six power-play goals in that span and have a kill rate of just 60%. In that same stretch, they’ve scored just one power-play goal in 15 opportunities. Lalonde is hoping that working in Sunday’s practice can help buck the trend(s).

“The detail (can benefit) — perfect example, obviously we had a poor special-teams game yesterday, a huge part of the outcome. And some times throughout the season, you’re not gonna get an opportunity to work on it,” Lalonde said. “The fact that we did have a practice opportunity today, we were able to tackle it and work on our special teams, so hopefully it’ll translate for (Monday).”

Part of the solution is to get some new guys in the mix. Lalonde plans to use both Joe Veleno, who opened the scoring for Detroit on Saturday, and Michael Rasmussen in power-play roles as the Red Wings travel to Washington (16-13-4) on Monday.

“We will give (Veleno) a look there tomorrow. It’s a perfect opportunity with where our power play has been to give some different looks,” Lalonde said. As it pertains to Rasmussen, Lalonde explained, “I just think maybe trying to simplify our power play — at least through these moments where, now, we’re gonna give (Rasmussen) an opportunity just to be harder in the blue-paint area, harder on the opposing goalie.

“There’s been many holes within our power play, but I think one is that we got a little bit away from that identity,” Lalonde said. “We get good movement, we get a shot we want, and our net-front guy is off to the corner, or he’s — within a set play, he’s peeled to the yellow instead of being in his positioning.”

Forgot about Robby

Center Dylan Larkin, who played Saturday as a game-time decision, was not at practice Sunday. Lalonde said it was a maintenance day for the Wings captain, who’s nursing a hand injury suffered Tuesday against Carolina. The next man up on this particular day: Robby Fabbri, who hasn’t played since March 10 of last season, when he suffered a torn ACL.

Lalonde said Fabbri is “on target” for an early January return and has shown great flashes since taking off the non-contact practice jersey last week.

“He basically filled in for Larks today with him taking the maintenance day and he looked really good,” Lalonde said. “… People forget, that’s a big loss for us too. So I think we’re on target for early January and I think he’ll give us a nice spark to our group.”

Jakub Vrana, who practiced for the first time Friday since being released from the NHL/NHLPA Players’ Assistance Program, shed the non-contact jersey he wore in his return practice. Lalonde said he won’t be available for the game against Washington, his former team, but said becoming a full participant in practice is indeed a sign of a step forward.

“Yeah, absolutely. I think pushing him more … we increased his battle load, too. The plan all along was day-to-day. He won’t be available for us tomorrow, and then we’ll reevaluate from that and go from there.”

Stopping history

The Red Wings have two goals for Monday night’s game against Washington: Snap a five-game skid and make sure Alexander Ovechkin doesn’t tie Wings legend Gordie Howe for second on the all-time goals list. At 800 goals, Ovechkin is just one away from tying Howe (801) and starting the real race against Wayne Gretzky‘s 894.

On Ovechkin, Lalonde said it’s “an honor to be competing against him in this league” but hopes his group makes makes it a point to make sure he doesn’t pass Howe against Detroit.

“I don’t think as an organization we want to see him finish second overall, so hopefully our guys will take that a little personal and the fact of what Gordie Howe is and means to this organization,” Lalonde said.

Red Wings at Capitals

 Faceoff: 7 p.m. Monday, Capital One Arena, Washington, D.C.

 TV/radio: Bally Sports Detroit/97.1 FM

 Outlook: The Red Wings (13-11-6) look to snap a five-game losing streak and get their special teams in order. The Capitals (16-13-4) , meanwhile, have won six of their last seven and have outscored opponents 29-13 in that stretch.

Twitter: @nolanbianchi

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