The Detroit Red Wings haven’t played an NHL regular-season game since March when their season was put on pause thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic. Already having been well outside of the playoff picture at that point, they and seven other teams would soon be officially shut down for the remainder of the year.
Training camp for the upcoming 2020-21 campaign begins on December 31, and there are plenty of new faces that head coach Jeff Blashill will be working with. Additionally, gone are the likes of veterans such as Justin Abdelkader, Jonathan Ericsson, and Trevor Daley.
For Blashill, it will be a matter of the new players getting acclimated with their new teammates and surroundings that will aid in preparations.
“We have a whole bunch of fresh faces, so we have to make sure we value practices,” Blashill said. “We’re going to have internal scrimmages and we’re going to place great valuation on those in order to make decisions on who’s earning power-play time, PK time, five-on-five ice time, who’s earning spots on the team. And we also have to make sure our group is ready.”
While some players have already begun skating at the team practice facility, several more are already in game-shape. The likes of Filip Zadina, Michael Rasmussen, Mathias Brome, Filip Hronek and Gustav Lindstrom have all been playing overseas on loan from Detroit.
“The group of guys that have skated together here in Detroit feel like they’re in great shape (but) you can’t replicate actual games,” Blashill said. “Then there’s the guys who have been playing in Europe. If I’m those players, I’m confident that hopefully it’s given me an advantage coming into camp.
“All I can do is judge what I see in camp, what I know from history — what they’ve done for us and in other places. You take the information and make the best decision you can.”
Line combinations as well as PP and PK units will soon be worked out in coming weeks. Blashill is hopeful that he and his coaching staff will come up with the right combinations in order to produce not only more offense, but a better record than that of last season.
“There’s opportunities to grab ice time on any of those lines besides (Dylan) Larkin’s line (finished last season with Anthony Mantha and Tyler Bertuzzi) because we need more.
“We will try to get lines that seem to make sense and stick with them the best we can. We’d love if the lines in the first scrimmage stay together and we have great success with each line. I think chemistry on lines matters a lot, so the more time they can get together, the better. … We cannot be a one-line team, which we were too many times last year. I think the additions give us a chance to add more scoring punch.”
The Red Wings will begin the regular season against Carolina on January 14.
– – Quotes via Ansar Khan of MLive Link – –