The Free Press’s Helene St. James reports that Red Wings coach Jeff Blashill still believes that his team can use their extended break between playing hockey games to improve their team as they battle through a COVID outbreak:
Steve Yzerman called with the news just before practice, and by the time he took the ice, Jeff Blashill had his message ready for the Detroit Red Wings: They would not be facing the Islanders because Wednesday’s game was the latest casualty of COVID-19, but the work focus remained the same.
“I just said, we weren’t going to play and we weren’t going to travel, but we need to get better,” Blashill said Tuesday afternoon. “And as we sit here today, we are playing on Friday, so we have to make use of this time and make sure we are getting better in practice. The guys went out and had a good practice.”
The Wings, who were so hard hit by the virus they shut down Dec. 19-25, gained two more players as goaltender Alex Nedeljkovic and forward Filip Zadina were removed from quarantine, joining a list that since Sunday includes Blashill, Pius Suter, Robby Fabbri and Michael Rasmussen.
Forward Lucas Raymond and defenseman Nick Leddy are among those still in protocol, and Blashill does not expect either to be available for the New Year’s Eve game against the Washington Capitals.
The NHL opted out of sending its players to the 2022 Beijing Olympics just before Christmas because the league needs the allotted break in February to fit in a full season. The Wings have only had one game at Little Caesars Arena postponed.
“It does give us that time period, but there’s challenges with that — it’s not like the buildings are sitting empty,” Blashill said. “Some of us are going to end up with games that are on top of each other, that you would like to avoid, and that was part of the reason I would have liked to play. I don’t want to, two weeks from now, to play every other day for three straight weeks and never practice. But it is out of our control.”