The Detroit Red Wings recognize that the time to get started is long overdue, so their first order of business must be to start on time.
Slow starts to games have proven problematic for the Red Wings all season long, such as Tuesday’s 4-3 loss to the New Jersey Devils in which Detroit fall behind 2-0 by the 6:21 mark of the first period.
Detroit looks to rectify that problem Friday as it hosts the New York Islanders at Joe Louis Arena.
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“Everyone has to be prepared. I think we’ve had good starts this year but we haven’t been consistent,” Red Wings forward Justin Abdelkader said. “We’ve put ourselves behind one or two goals and that’s tough in this league.
“You’ve really got to fight for that first goal, fight for the momentum, especially at home.”
Detroit has surrendered the first goal in 30 of 50 games and is 11-15-4 in those games. The Red Wings also are 6-12-2 when trailing after one period.
“Does it anger me as a coach?” Detroit coach Jeff Blashill said. “Yeah, and then we’ve got to make sure we do something about it. I’m responsible for having these guys ready and I’ll take responsibility for that.
“We’ve got to make sure we’re way better here at the start of games the rest of the way.”
The Red Wings (20-21-9) are 0-2-3 in their last five games, matching the season-long winless skid and sit at the bottom of the Eastern Conference with a .490 winning percentage.
Along with the slow starts, it would help if the team could sort out its bumbling power play, last in the NHL at 11.4 percent. Detroit is in a 2-for-23 skid with the man advantage and surrendered two shorthanded goals in the loss to the Devils.
Blashill shook up his power-play unit at practice Thursday, dropping forwards Gus Nyquist and Anthony Mantha. Both Nyquist (five games) and Mantha (10 games) are enduring goalless droughts.
“I just have to work hard and it’s up to Coach,” Nyquist said. “He puts the guys that he wants on the ice. I just have to work hard and be ready when I get called again.”
While the Red Wings flounder, the Islanders (22-17-9) are on a roll with five wins in their last six games under new coach Doug Weight, including victories over three of NHL’s top teams — the Columbus Blue Jackets, Montreal Canadiens and Washington Capitals — in their last three games.
“We’re playing poised and confident and we’re getting results,” Islanders forward Brock Nelson told Newsday.
This run of success has moved the Isles to within striking distance of the Philadelphia Flyers for the final Eastern Conference playoff spot.
“We’re in the conversation now,” Weight said. “Still a long way to go. We’re doing our battling late in games, getting the saves, getting some smart play from all four lines.”
Islanders captain John Tavares will be sorry to see January go. He produced eight goals and 14 points in 12 games last month. In 96 career January games, Tavares has 46 goals and 106 points, making it the most productive month of his NHL career.