Detroit Red Wings hone approach as another offensive juggernaut awaits
The Red Wings continue a stretch of playing NHL powerhouses. Filmed Dec. 5, 2018 in Detroit.
Helene St. James, Detroit Free Press
The Detroit Red Wings are onto their third straight offensive juggernaut.
They take on the Maple Leafs Thursday in Toronto (7 p.m., Fox Sports Detroit), facing an opponent with one of the most capable offenses in the NHL. The Leafs average 3.64 goals per game, tied for second in the league with Colorado, and trailing only Tampa Bay’s 3.86 average.
The Wings are coming off a shootout loss to the Lightning and a regulation loss to Colorado. That prompted an emphasis during Wednesday’s practice on limiting space for opponents.
“Toronto has a heck of a north game,” coach Jeff Blashill said. “The biggest thing is we better do a good job pressuring them. If you don’t pressure, you give too much time up, so we have to make sure we do a good job pressuring without getting on the wrong side of people. That’s a tricky thing sometimes, but we have to be real good at it, and then we have to make them defend as much as we can.
“We hurt ourselves the last couple games at times with not getting the puck out of our end. We have to get out. And if we turn one puck over, you can’t turn two pucks over. Everybody is turning pucks over because of how hard everybody pressures, but you have to make sure that it does not become a prolonged d-zone.”
The Wings will be without Danny DeKeyser, who Blashill estimates is out four-to-six weeks after getting hit in the left hand by a puck Tuesday. Defenseman Trevor Daley (lower body) is also out at least another week. The Wings are down to the bare minimum of six healthy defensemen and 12 forwards, but Tyler Bertuzzi will return from suspension Saturday.
The Wings will decide after Wednesday’s Grand Rapids Griffins game whether to call up a defenseman. Blashill sounded like it won’t be prospect Filip Hronek who gets a call because he hasn’t been playing great in Grand Rapids, and the Wings need a penalty killer.
“We’ll anticipate playing the players we have available to us, but certainly want to make sure we have enough bodies, or have an extra body in case something were to happen,” Blashill said.
The Wings will have their hands full trying to contain the Leafs. At the center spot, Auston Matthews has five goals and seven points his last three games, John Tavares has 17 goals and 31 points, and Nazem Kadri has eight goals and 16 points. Winger Mitchell Marner leads the team with 39 points. At least the Wings aren’t likely to face William Nylander, who just ended a contract holdout last Saturday and isn’t expected to play before the weekend.
Still, the lineup is loaded with guys who can dazzle with the puck.
“They have a lot of dangerous guys,” Gustav Nyquist said. “You have to gap up, give them no space – but those guys are good even in tight spaces, so it’s something we have to be aware of. Staying out of the box will be a big key. They have a really dangerous power play. So play like we did in the first against Tampa.”
The Wings built a 2-0 lead on Tampa in the first period, and a 5-3 lead in the third, but couldn’t hold off the Lightning’s powerful offense.
Contact Helene St. James: email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @helenestjames.