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Derek Lalonde praises the will, the commitment of Red Wings; is it sustainable?

Derek Lalonde praises the will, the commitment of Red Wings; is it sustainable?

DETROIT – The Detroit Red Wings could wake up on Thanksgiving Day in postseason position.

Nobody prints playoff tickets with more than three-quarters of the season left. But for years NHL folks have used Turkey Day as a gauge to determine whether their team is postseason material.

Red Wings coach Derek Lalonde isn’t one of them, even with his team holding the top wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference after returning from a 2-1-1 road trip.

“I did it with a couple of my Tampa teams because I knew how talented they were, and that was probably real,” Lalonde said. “Not with this team. We have a long way to go. Now we are there with will and commitment. It’s a big credit to our guys, but there’s some truth to those underlying numbers as well. We’re ready to get where we are right now. How sustainable is this? We’ll find out with this group.”

It’s often been said that the rankings don’t change much after Thanksgiving. Last season, seven of the eight Eastern Conference teams that clinched a playoff spot during that holiday made the postseason. There was a 16-point difference between the final playoff team and the club with the next best record.

But this season there is more parity, possibly leading to a tighter race and more changes in the standings. Division leaders Boston and New Jersey have been two of the most surprising teams in the league. Florida, Pittsburgh and Washington, the 2022 playoff qualifiers, are off to a slow start.

“We’re (10th) in points in the league, but we’re not so much because of the underlying numbers,” Lalonde said. “I think we all know that. But it’s a little bit skewed because we’ve had three or four games where we’ve given up 18-20 goals and that’s going to make those (defensive) numbers.

“But this is who we are. We had those (bad) moments. It’s not an accident. But for the most part, it’s not just our team defense that feels much improved, it’s our commitment to defense that’s gotten us off to a good start so far.”

The Red Wings begin a five-game homestand, the longest of the season, on Wednesday against Nashville (7 p.m., Bally Sports Detroit).

“We want to continue to build our game, especially after a successful road trip,” Dominik Kubalik said. “I feel we played well, we finished strong. So we’re hoping to take that into the first game on Wednesday.”

Soderblom needs more time

Elmer Soderblom has missed five games with a lower-body injury and did not practice Monday. Gustav Lindstrom (lower body injury) returned to practice after missing three games.

“We were hoping to see (Soderblom) today and the fact that he wasn’t able to get back to practice, we’re still taking it day by day, but he’s been out for a couple of weeks now, so it’s probably going to take a little bit of time,” Lalonde said. “Lindy is a real day-to-day, he might not be available on Wednesday, but if not, I’m sure he’d be available soon after.”

Lalonde takes Bills game

Lalonde, a big Buffalo Bills fan, was at Ford Field Sunday for the game against the Browns that was moved due to the snowstorm in Buffalo. The Thanksgiving game against the Lions will be the third Bills game he’s seen this season (he attended the Packers game on Oct. 30, the night before the Red Wings played the Sabres).

When was the last time he attended three Bills games in a season?

“Maybe my freshman year in college (Cortland State at New York State),” Lalonde said. “One of my teammates’ dads was (former coach) Marv Levy’s game-day security guard. We’d play Saturday night, and we’d all get in the car Sunday morning and go to the game.

“But it was great (Sunday). I was able to bring the staff and we had a little bit of fun.”

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