After winning yet another moral victory in the process department that earned the Wings zero points in the standings on Wednesday night against the Blues, the Wings were back at practice on Thursday to prepare for the weekend's slate of games. Detroit will head to Buffalo for a Friday night tilt against the Sabres before coming back home to meet the Ducks on Saturday at the Joe.
With that in mind, here are the updates from the diggers at practice today:
#RedWings on ice for practice. Tatar is skating, after missing yesterday's game with the flu.— Ansar Khan (@AnsarKhanMLive) January 21, 2016
The #RedWings are practicing now at JLA before their flight to Buffalo later. Smith and Richards are not on the ice.— The Wheel Deal (@Bill_Roose) January 21, 2016
Richards went home for two days for grandfather's funeral. Will miss Friday's game at Buffalo and return for Saturday vs. Anaheim.— Ansar Khan (@AnsarKhanMLive) January 21, 2016
We also learned from the gathered diggers that Petr Mrazek looks like he will be Friday's starter, but nobody has confirmed that with the team just yet.
Without Richards in, we've got a peek at the possible line combinations for the Wings (as always, subject to change of course).
The #RedWings practicing w/ following lines: Abby-Zetterberg-Larkin Nyquist-Datsyuk-Helm Tatar-Sheahan-Jurco Andersson-Glendening-Pulkkinen— The Wheel Deal (@Bill_Roose) January 21, 2016
Interesting to see that the Larkin-Datsyuk-Tatar line we were pretty excited to see against St. Louis doesn't look like it will be back together thanks to Richards being out, but with both Nyquist and Datsyuk being a bit snakebitten lately (the former much more than the latter), the move to get them both going at the same time would make sense. Tatar taking third line duties both spreads things out and also potentially protects a not-yet-fully-healthy Tatar from tougher usage on the road against the Sabres.
For me, the curious thing there is using Jurco above Pulkkinen in these line combos. Jurco's size perhaps makes him the de facto "piano-mover" on the third line, but practically, Pulkkinen has looked better in his last two games back.
As for special teams?
Power-play units: Nyquist-Zetterberg-Datsyuk, Abdelkader (net), Green And Larkin-Tatar-Sheahan (net), Pulkkinen, DeKeyser— Ansar Khan (@AnsarKhanMLive) January 21, 2016
I'm guessing DeKeyser is a stand-in here for Smith, who we hope to know more about by the end of today. The power play has had pretty much the same personnel on it, but I'm hoping that Green's better puck-handling and willingness to collapse in from the point will help the top unit while Pulkkinen's cannon can be the main weapon of the second.
Detroit's power play hasn't been totally useless lately, but it's hard to argue the lack of results hasn't been costing them points. The trouble we have on both of these units is that one of them will try to pass the puck into the net while the other will have to make very quick decisions to deal with was has been a plan to attack the 2nd unit puck carrier much more-aggressively.
Hopefully hitting the damn net and puck retrieval were big focuses in practice today.
One final update of note:
Excellent. I love the reds on the road.
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We'll update you when we learn what's going on with Smith and if anything changes in the gameplan from what was shared today. If I had to guess, I'd say the flu is working its way around the Wings room. Fortunately, the All Star break is coming up soon, so this is as good a time as any for it to show up.
Smith expected to play tomorrow....soreness— Ted Kulfan (@tkulfan) January 21, 2016
And, yes, Mrazek will start in net tomorrow vs. Buffalo...Tatar (ill) practiced but not 100 percent he'll play. Still not feeling great— Ted Kulfan (@tkulfan) January 21, 2016
So yeah, Tatar being a bit more sheltered could very well be due to him not feeling great. Smith being sore could mean anything. I choose the definition of sore that means upset or irritated just because it's funnier to think of Smith missing practice because he's pissed off about something than it is to think about the realistic idea that he doesn't feel so great.