Derek Lalonde: Why Detroit Red Wings are ‘better than’ 0-4-2 stretch would indicate

Detroit Free Press

Derek Lalonde was among those on the ice Tuesday, a bit unusual for a head coach when the practice is optional.

So was veteran Oskar Sundqvist, who chalked up his decision to feeling like he needed to move his legs.

It’s a been a bit of a bleak stretch for the Detroit Red Wings, who are 0-4-2 since they last celebrated a victory, which came Dec. 6 at the Tampa Bay Lightning. The Bolts are on the schedule again for Wednesday, and they suffered their first loss since that Wings defeat on Tuesday in Toronto.

“It’s always fun games against Tampa,” Sundqvist said. “Highly skilled team with a lot of speed. I feel like since i’ve been here, we’ve played very good hockey against them. We need to make sure to do the same.”

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Lalonde said Ville Husso will get the start. He has been excellent, continually giving his teammates a chance to win. The Wings could use an offensive boost, but Jakub Vrana’s return after two months in the players assistance program won’t happen Wednesday, Lalonde said; he and general manager Steve Yzerman are considering whether the forward could benefit from a conditioning stint in the minors.

“Is Grand Rapids an option? I don’t think it’s fair on anyone where he is at,” Lalonde said. “It’s tough to replicate game situations. He looks great, looks in great spirits, but when you don’t touch the ice for two-plus months — we just want to him in best situation to be successful.”

The Wings (13-11-7) had a late night Monday, flying home after losing in overtime, 4-3, at the Washington Capitals. Husso made 38 saves and the special teams were good (power play goal, three penalty kills) but still, the skid continued.

“We’ve done a good job evaluating ourselves on performance, and there have been some good stretches during his 0-4-2 stretch,” Lalonde said. “The Carolina game, our five-on-five play is excellent, we lose the special-teams battle. Ottawa, we played OK, win the five-on-five game, lose special teams. Washington, we win special teams, not a great five-on-five game.

“Could we be better than 0-4-2? Probably, but there are some stretches we are doing some good things, but it is not complete. Big picture, did we overachieve a little bit with that start? Maybe. But I think we’re underachieving a little bit with this 0-4-2 stretch. We’re better than that, and can be better than that.”

The Wings have not had a day off since Dec. 15, and will play or practice through Friday, when they are at the Ottawa Senators, before the three-day Christmas break. Hence why Tuesday had about a dozen players, mostly younger ones, and a full coaching staff.

“It’s a weird stretch right here,” Lalonde said. “We are technically going eight days in a row, but we get three days off for the Christmas break, so it just made sense.”

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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