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Red Wings ready to face Penguins after weeklong break

Dec 21, 2022; Detroit, Michigan, USA; Detroit Red Wings defenseman Filip Hronek (17) handles the puck during the third period at Little Caesars Arena. Mandatory Credit: Brian Bradshaw Sevald-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: Brian Bradshaw Sevald-USA TODAY Sports

Maybe the Pittsburgh Penguins enjoyed some holiday sweets during the NHL’s mandated break, but they are in a sour mood going into their Wednesday game against the visiting Detroit Red Wings.

That’s because the Penguins came out of the break with a 5-1 road loss against the New York Islanders on Tuesday.

“We didn’t have our best effort,” Pittsburgh center Jeff Carter said. “The compete level could have been a lot higher from everybody.

“It’s just a mentality. We’ve got to be ready to go. … That’s it. You’ve just got to be ready to go from the puck drop.”

Pittsburgh is 1-2-1 since a seven-game winning streak.

Against the Islanders, Pittsburgh’s streak of 10 straight games with at least one power-play goal ended. The Penguins got outshot 42-21. They gave up a goal at 1:03 in the first period and 50 seconds in the second. The result matched their largest margin of defeat this season, as they fell to Vancouver by the same score on Oct. 28.

Pittsburgh coach Mike Sullivan resorted to shuffling line combinations during the second half of the game.

“It might have been our worst game of the year,” Sullivan said. When asked why his players performed at that level, he snapped, “I have no answer for you.”

The Penguins can look for some answers in a quick turnaround.

The Red Wings, meanwhile, might have to tap into their memory banks to recall their most recent game — even though it would be a pleasant memory.

Detroit was just beginning practice Thursday when word came that a game scheduled for Friday at Ottawa had been postponed because of nasty weather.

That means the Red Wings had their Christmas break extended, and they will have had a week off from games when they take the ice in Pittsburgh.

Not that they are complaining.

“Since training camp, it’s been pretty much a sprint for the past three or four months,” Detroit forward Andrew Copp said. “These built-in breaks, you need to be able to get away and reset the body.”

Unlike Pittsburgh, the Red Wings come into Wednesday’s game off a win, even if it was a week earlier.

Last Wednesday, Detroit downed the Tampa Bay Lightning 7-4. That ended a six-game slide (0-4-2), a losing streak that might not have been as demoralizing as it could have been, partly because of the absences of forwards Jakub Vrana, Robby Fabbri and Tyler Bertuzzi and partly because of the players’ demeanor.

“We went through a stretch where we were probably undermanned. Maybe we weren’t even fielding a roster technically good enough to win,” Red Wings coach Derek Lalonde said after the skid ended. “There are times we had holes in our game that were self-inflicted, and there are times we’ve had complete games.

“One thing I will say about our group — they’ve worked. They’ve had good will. They haven’t stepped off at all. For the most part, that’s the most enthusiastic, high-morale 0-4-2 stretch team I’ve ever experienced, and I think that’s a credit to the guys.”

The Wednesday game will be the first of three meetings between the clubs this season.

–Field Level Media