The Free Press’s Helene St. James and MLive’s Ansar Khan filed early-morning articles in which both columnists discuss the Red Wings’ belief that their Sunday effort against the Florida Panthers was something to build upon–in no small part because the team’s COVID protocol players will return shortly.
St. James weaves good news into her game recap…
“We played better hockey over the course of these two games than we did the second night in Dallas and the second night in Chicago, but at some point we have to find ways to win.,” coach Jeff Blashill said. “We have to find a way to win these close games. These are the games I’ve talked about that we have to be in in order to be successful. We are not going to win games 5-1, so we have to find ways to win these close games.”
That effort will get a boost as five players are expected to exit from COVID-19 protocol in the coming days. Blashill said Robby Fabbri and Adam Erne, who have not played since the first two games of the season, should be available to practice Tuesday. (Monday is a day off.) Sam Gagner and Jon Merrill may also be available for Wednesday’s game against defending Stanley Cup champion Tampa Bay. Filip Zadina is expected to be available for Friday’s game.
The Wings came into the season feeling good about having two scoring lines, but that took a hit when second-liners Fabbri and Zadina became unavailable.
The Wings were in good shape after Sunday’s first period thanks to an energetic, physical start and a goal from Dylan Larkin. For a team that had gone 0-for-11 on power plays the previous two games, to see the units even create scoring chances on two advantages was a stark difference.
“The power play looked good,” Blashill said. “If you can have those power plays consistently, you are going to score. Our zone entries were really good. We had opportunities to score. That’s what you want.”
And Khan offers this from Blashill, again, weaving good news into his recap:
“All we can do on Tuesday is look at the film, learn from the film, have some meetings and then get better and try to win a game (Wednesday) against the defending Stanley Cup champions. We sat around for 11 months. We want these challenges. The record isn’t good enough, but we got a chance to change it on Wednesday, so let’s go out and change it.”
On the bright side, several players not available during this 0-4-2 slide due to COVID protocol will return this week. Blashill said Robby Fabbri, Adam Erne, Sam Gagner and Jon Merrill should be available for Wednesday’s game and Filip Zadina for Friday’s contest.
These players were in the lineup when the Red Wings started 2-2 and were optimistic that their solid play up until that point was repeatable.
The Red Wings played well enough to win both games against the Panthers, outplaying them five-on-five. But they lost the special teams battle, going 0 for 7 on the power play while yielding four power-play goals to Florida.
“We out-chanced them and didn’t win. That’s disappointing,” Blashill said. “I thought given the circumstances, back-to-back and (Tyler Bertuzzi, day-to-day with an upper-body injury) out and not everybody 100 percent, we played really hard. We played good enough to win but we have to find a way to win these close games.”