Jeff Blashill now knows what is feels like to coach a rec hockey team. On game night, you get to the rink and wait to see which of your players show up to play. Then you can begin to gameplan.
Blashill is preparing for a game on Wednesday that he still can’t be 100% certain will be played. COVID-19 is assuring that the coach of the Detroit Red Wings doesn’t know who will be playing for his team.
At the same time, Blashill has no idea who will be in the lineup of the opposing New York Islanders if in fact the two teams do meet on Wednesday at UBS Arena.
Who’s on the power play? The penalty kill?
“That’s a hard one to know,” Blashill admitted.
The best-laid plans of any coach can quickly be scuttled by another brace of positive COVID-19 tests.
“From a game plan perspective, there’s multiple challenges,” Blashill said. “We don’t know exactly who’s going to be available for the Islanders but that’s probably secondary.”
Four Islanders players – forwards Anthony Beauvillier, Cal Clutterbuck, Oliver Wahlstrom and Zach Parise – tested positive for COVID-19 on Monday. The Red Wings were still listing eight players in COVID-19 protocol as of Tuesday morning. The team is hoping some of them will be cleared to return prior to Wednesday’s game.
Blashill Facing Uncertainty
Every Red Wings forward line and each defense pair save the tandem of Moritz Seider and Danny DeKeyser has been impacted by the team’s latest bout with COVID-19.
"It was good to get up and go to work." 💪 pic.twitter.com/poc9FlbjtF
— Detroit Red Wings (@DetroitRedWings) December 27, 2021
“The No. 1 thing in terms of our own game is who’s going to be available to us, what are the specialty teams going to look like and then how quickly can we get our structure back?” Blashill explained.
“During long periods where we haven’t been able to practice, you lose your structure and you’re playing kind of loose at that point, so our challenge over the next couple of days is to use practice to get guys going back up to full speed, get guys back to passing the puck crisp and also use it to get us back in a five-man unit.”
Another issue he’ll be facing is the uncertainty of how quickly players coming out of COVID-19 protocol will return to game shape. That factor tends to vary from player to player.
“Some of that is going to be game management once we’re in the game,” Blashill said. “Some games you can go in with the mindset you can ride certain players. Anytime you come off a long break you can’t do that, so we’re going to need all 12 forwards, all six D to be ready to roll and not worry as much about matchups and not necessarily try to get certain players extra ice time and have that ice time be a little more even.
“It’s not always easy to do this quickly. But we’re all in the same boat.”