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Duhatschek: Zetterberg, in-progress Red Wings believe move East will help…eventually

Red Wings fans will tell you that the Wings' 9-4-and-2 record indicates some significant progress still needing to be made by both individuals and the team as a whole.

The Globe and Mail's Eric Duhatschek notes that thenow-Eastern-Conference-dwelling Wings have played half of their games against the Western Conference thus far (tonight's game will mark the 8th of 16).The Wings already made a road swing to Denver and Phoenix, and they're wrapping up their Western Canadian swing in Winnipeg tonight...

But the Wings make only one more Western swing during the regular season--going to Dallas, San Jose, Los Angeles, Anaheim, and then making a country-criss-crossing trip to tangle with the Rangers right after the Winter Classic.

While Wings fans will tell you that the team arguably has much more work to do in terms of learning how to defeat its new conference and Atlantic Division opponents on a regular basis, both the Wings and their currently bleary-eyed fans agree that the team's conference swap will pay dividends down the line, as Henrik Zetterberg told Duhatschek:

“It will benefit us in the long run,” he said. “Up to now, we’ve been travelling quite a bit, but it’s going to be nice, going down the stretch, after the Olympics [in February]. I think we have our last West Coast trip at the beginning of January, and after that, it’s mostly East Coast. That’s going to help us a lot – and we’re looking forward to it.”

The Red Wings were a team that started slowly last year, but got better in the second half and, in the end, gave the eventual Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks all they could handle in the second round, before losing the series in seven games. The Red Wings would never say they ran out of gas, but that’s what it looked like – and one of the things that they hope to avoid in their new conference.

Zetterberg is 33, Pavel Datsyuk is 35, and both are off to fast starts this season. People talk about how championship windows close and how the Red Wings was supposed to falter after Nicklas Lidstrom retired in 2012, but right now, you’d have to put them alongside the Boston Bruins and Pittsburgh Penguins as the three most likely teams to emerge from the East next spring.

In the post-Lidstrom era, the Red Wings integrated a handful of new faces into the lineup – and the same holds true again this season. Rookie defenceman Danny DeKeyser playing as a regular, centre Stephen Weiss still trying to find his place, and secondary scoring still an issue. Only Daniel Alfredsson, the former Ottawa Senators captain, has made a relatively seamless transition to his new digs.

“Last year, obviously, we made some big changes and got some young kids coming in and it took a while before we found out what kind of team we were and how we should play,” Zetterberg said. “The way we ended the year was really important for us – and for all the new guys that came in.

“It’s the same thing now. We made some big changes and it’s going to take a while. I think you’ve been seeing that in our game. Sometimes, it’s really good and sometimes, it’s really bad, so … we’ve just got to find a way to be more consistent.”

Continued, and it's good to hear Zetterberg acknowledge that the Wings' still-very-young blueline, youngsters up front in Joakim Andersson and Tomas Tatar and bigger-than-expected changes in swapping out Valtteri Filppula and Damien Brunner for Stephen Weiss and Daniel Alfredsson are still working themselves out, and will take more time to sort out.

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About The Malik Report

The Malik Report is a destination for all things Red Wings-related. I offer biased, perhaps unprofessional-at-times and verbose coverage of my favorite team, their prospects and developmental affiliates. I've joined the Kukla's Korner family with five years of blogging under my belt, and I hope you'll find almost everything you need to follow your Red Wings at a place where all opinions are created equal and we're all friends, talking about hockey and the team we love to follow.