Red Wings Practice Updates, Power Play Combinations

With four games on the NHL schedule for tonight’s opening night, we’ll at least get some real hockey tonight, even if it’s not the Red Wings. Just because we’re patiently waiting for the puck to drop tomorrow in Tampa doesn’t mean the Wings are sitting around doing nothing. We’ve got real live practice updates!

First up, the lines/pairings, as tweeted out by Ansar Khan

Tomas Tatar - Frans Nielsen - Henrik Zetterberg
Justin Abdelkader - Dylan Larkin -Riley Sheahan
Gustav Nyquist - Darren Helm - Thomas Vanek
Steve Ott - Luke Glendening - Drew Miller

Danny DeKeyser - Alexey Marchenko
Brendan Smith - Mike Green
Jonathan Ericsson - Xavier Ouellet
(Kronwall: not skating)

Athanasiou sitting is what it is at this point. Blashill spoke about AA making the team, talking about how his versatility and speed gave him the edge, but kind of offered something between ownership and excuse for AA not being in the lineup (as reported by Chuck Pleiness at the Macomb Daily)

“I’m going to make decisions to try and win every night and (general manager) Ken (Holland) has got to monitor,” Blashill said. “If we go stretches where AA’s not playing, then I’m sure we’ll get him down to the minors and playing.”

So AA not playing is a choice Blashill is making for tomorrow to try and win, which is what a coach should be doing (regardless of whether I agree on the specific plan), but Holland is apparently going to have to snatch AA from him if he can’t find ways to make AA part of the plan to win every night consistently enough.

On the defensive side, the only thing I don’t like about the pairings is the obvious Jonathan Ericsson, but at least he’s on the third pairing.  I know a lot of people think that Smith and Green are basically the same defender who gambles too much and that DK-Marchenko also run into the redundant skills department for doing more work in the defensive zone, but I think they’re more versatile than they’re being given credit for and I also think that the handedness matchups work better this way.

Ryan Sproul will just have to wait his turn, I guess. With how Green was held back a number of preseason games and Smith didn’t practice yesterday, I’m betting it won’t be long.

Power Play Units

To start with the appetizer, we’ve got an indication on how the Wings’ power play plans to be different this year for you (not to mention the whole article about being more shot-focused and less-focused on creating “perfect” chances)

Movement and rotation, the perfect storm.

Working on the assumption that the same generalized 1-3-1 power play setup is the plan, these setups make me go back up to the sources talking about movement, rotation, and aggression for comfort. I think they generally work with that plan, but we have to see it in action.  All I can see right now is last year’s plan of over-reliance on puck movement instead of shooting.

On the first unit, a lot of people are concerned about Vanek playing net-front, but this has been something that has been known for a while (from Dana Wakiji at

"Just talking to them before I signed about getting back to the net front, getting back to the things that I think I'm one of the best at, that's getting into those dirty areas in front of the net and getting those ugly goals," Vanek said.

I know a lot of people were expecting more of a rush sniper or perhaps Kucherov-esque snapshots from the circles, but Vanek is a big guy with hands that work extremely well in-close.

The question here will be concerns about shot rates from the middle three forwards in that setup. Green can and will bring it from the point at every chance, but if he becomes the only option to do that regularly, teams are going to find ways to limit Vanek’s effectiveness. Personally, I’d like to see more Nielsen and Tatar shots, but I have a feeling a lot of the setup will be Zetterberg bringing it from the right circle and Tatar crashing the back door.

On the second unit, I’d honestly prefer Riley Sheahan on the net-front because I think he has better hands in-close to go along with comparable size. Not that I want Justin Abdelkader playing the center pivot or either wall, but they didn’t give him that raise to not put him somewhere on the man advantage. Basically as long as Dylan Larkin spends the entire time circling the zone with or without the puck, they’ll be fine. That’s two big bodies on that unit to get to loose pucks.

Final Tidbit

Darren Dreger is back talking about Trouba, but none of us want to dedicate an entire story to an update which is basically a rehash of everything Dreger has already said with the only added tidbits of info being that Dreger thinks Trouba would really like to play for Detroit and would potentially take less money to do so.

The problem is that Trouba’s level of interest in playing for Detroit and his willingness to take a good deal doesn’t have much effect on the Jets’ willingness to trade him to Detroit. If anything, it should increase the price ever-so-slightly because a good contract discount is worth more. Tim Cheveldayoff still holds all of the leverage in this situation. Recent history with trade requests suggests the kid is more likely to get over his demands than the organization is to do everybody but themselves favors in moving him.