Wings' youngsters can't keep up with Penguins

BY foxsports • September 25, 2013

DETROIT -- When the Red Wings face the Pittsburgh Penguins, you expect a good game.

But in the preseason, that isn't always the case, and it definitely wasn't in the Penguins' 5-1 victory over the Wings (2-4-0) Wednesday night at Joe Louis Arena.

The Penguins (3-2-1) were playing their final exhibition game. The Wings still have a couple of them left this weekend against the Toronto Maple Leafs, so the Penguins had their big guns and the Wings did not.

"They came in here with an NHL-looking team and we didn’t have one," Red Wings coach Mike Babcock said. "We still have to play so many games, we have to spread our lineup out and we have so many guys hurt.

"We weren’t deep enough, we didn’t have the puck enough, so that’s what I took from it."

Although it's tough to take much out of a preseason game that didn't have captain Henrik Zetterberg, Pavel Datsyuk, Niklas Kronwall, Daniel Alfredsson and Jimmy Howard playing, it was an opportunity for some of the young players to go up against top-level competition.

The Penguins' top line accounted for three goals and five assists. Sidney Crosby had two assists, Evgeni Malkin had two assists, and Chris Kunitz had two goals and an assist.

"They’re a couple of the best players in the world, so to get ice time against them in a game like that is huge for young guys," Stephen Weiss said. "It gives them a little bit of an idea of what to expect at this level.

"When you have slight little breakdowns, they are going to make you pay, and that’s what they did to us."

Brendan Smith, who played 19 minutes and 37 seconds, second only to Kyle Quincey, has gone through experiences like the even younger Wings went through Wednesday.

"The top guys in the AHL are trying to make the third and fourth spots of the NHL," Smith said. "When they get a chance to play against the top two lines, they get a chance to see that much more difference, that much more world-class skill.

"That’s something they can take away and understand that ‘Hey, I can get better gaps by playing against these guys; I’ve got to work on stuff like my speed to create that.’

"Whatever it is that they need to work on, that’s something they can look into. There’s a little bit extra skill and competitive nature, and that’s what they have to strive for."

Danny DeKeyser will be with the Wings this season.

But Xavier Oullet and Adam Almquist won't. Neither will Petr Mrazek after backup goalie Jonas Gustavsson recovers from his groin injury.

They can go back and look at the video of this game and see where they can get better.

"It’s pretty clear, a few of the things we thought might work aren’t going to work for us because they’re not good enough players yet," Babcock said. "They need more time. That’s just the way it is."

Mrazek had to face 37 shots and his teammates were not a lot of help.

"He got lots of opportunities to make saves, that’s for sure," Babcock said. "You don’t like to give up goals as a goaltender, but we gave up point-blank chances. I thought he made some good saves."

Mrazek will get another opportunity and will remember this game, even if it didn't count in the standings.

"Of course, it's a little bit different," Mrazek said. "They're smarter, they know what to do with the puck.

"I like more of these. They're more fun, but I have to stop more next game."


Justin Abdelkader, who fought Pittsburgh's Robert Bortuzzo, cut his left hand in the fight and was expected to get stitches. There was no other update on his condition.

"I haven’t been back to the medical room to see how many casualties we have," Babcock said. "It seems like every game we’re losing someone so we’ve got to get healthy."

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