Detroit Red Wings Special Teams Suffering

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DETROIT, MI - JANUARY 23: Frans Nielsen #51 of the Detroit Red Wings celebrate his third period goal with teammates while playing the Philadelphia Flyers at Little Caesars Arena on January 23, 2018 in Detroit, Michigan. Flyers won the game 3-2 in overtime. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
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The Detroit Red Wings power play has not been generating much offense the last dozen or more games. The Wings are 3-of-37 in the last 12 games and are 20th in the league this season. Detroit currently has an 18.6 percent success rate on the power play. One of the bigger low-lights was a 1-for-7 performance in a 4-1 loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins on Jan. 13.

Detroit Red Wings Special Teams Struggling

Things haven’t been much better on the penalty kill as the Wings are in the 21st place as of Friday with a 79.2 PK percentage. A recent run of allowing 12 goals in 33 chances over 13 games has caused the Wings penalty kill numbers to sink.

The penalty kill problems reared their ugly head again as the Carolina Hurricanes converted 2-of-3 extra-man chances in Saturday’s 3-1 victory over Detroit.

Power Play is Powerless

Detroit spent most last week’s practices working on special teams. Coach Jeff Blashill decided to swap out personnel on the two power-play units. Henrik Zetterberg’s unit with Anthony Mantha and Niklas Kronwall had Andreas Athanasiou and Martin Frk. Dylan Larkin and Mike Green’s group had Tyler Bertuzzi, Gustav Nyquist, and Tomas Tatar.

The moves were made to try to help with zone entries. Athanasiou is steady when carrying the puck into the offensive zone. He told the media last week he’s glad to get a shot at fixing the ailing power play unit.

“Anytime you change things up it can spark something,” Athanasiou said. “When things aren’t going so well, it’s never a bad thing to change it up and see how it works.”

Zetterberg’s unit had a great run earlier in the season. The Wings operated at 22.6 percent through Dec. 20. The unit’s success was a reason that Detroit was hanging around in the playoff conversation for the first couple of months.

Unforced errors and a lack of cohesiveness have also torpedoed the Wings’ extra-man units. Blashill is willing to mix and match other players like Frans Nielsen into the power play. Nielsen is a specialist at shootouts and at both ends of special teams. However, he’s struggled with only 15 points through 45 games this season.

Injuries Piling Up on Penalty Kill

The Detroit penalty kill resembles a walking infirmary as injuries have hit the team hard. Most of these injuries have affected the man-down units.

Darren Helm was put on injured reserve on Jan. 20 after suffering a lower-body injury. His speed is vital to pester opposing forwards in the Detroit zone.

The Wings are also missing Justin Abdelkader and Trevor Daley, who are both imports on the PK unit. Daley will be out for Thursday’s game against the Chicago Blackhawks. Abdelkader is eyeing a return against their old rivals and that would be a big boost for a wounded penalty killing unit.

There is some good news on the penalty killing front as Luke Glendening has returned from his hand injury. He was a key cog in the Detroit penalty kill and averaged 2:40 per game in man-down situations before being hurt on Dec. 20.

Glendening’s return comes at a good time as these three injuries have really put the Wings into a bind with their postseason hopes fading.

What It Means for the Detroit Red Wings

Detroit currently sits nine points from the two wild-card spots as of Wednesday. Time is quickly running out for the Wings if they want to sneak into the postseason.

If Detroit does fall out of contention, it will be an opportunity for some of the younger players to get a shot on special teams. Players like Bertuzzi are already getting a look at the power play. This will be a glimpse into the future.

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