Wings not willing to sacrifice defense to generate more offense

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The Detroit Red Wings play a lot of close games.

Fortunately for them, they win a lot of close games, too.

In fact, no team has played more one-goal games than the Wings have this season (30), and no team has won more (18).

The Wings have even gained points in a bunch of one-goal losses; eight times they’ve lost in overtime and the shootout. That means, of their 30 one-goal games, they’ve only lost four of them in regulation.

This, by the way, is how a team with a negative goal differential (minus-6) can find itself in a playoff position. Detroit is 5-11 in games decided by two or more goals.

Knowing how slim the margin of error has been for the Wings in most of their victories, it’s understandable that their head coach, Jeff Blashill, has been somewhat loath to give his players more offensive freedom — despite an offense that ranks 22nd in the league.

“We’ve talked lots about trying to add reward without added risk,” Blashill told MLive. “Certainly we could create a situation where we probably could generate some more, but we’d give up a lot more and it’s almost impossible to win in this league that way.”

What Blashill was willing to do after Wednesday’s 2-1 loss to the Blues was shuffle his lines. Tonight in Buffalo, Dylan Larkin is expected to skate with Henrik Zetterberg and Justin Abdelkader on one top line, while Pavel Datsyuk, Darren Helm and Gustav Nyquist will be a trio on the other.

“Pav likes playing with Helmer; Helmer does a lot of the work in terms of getting the puck,” Blashill told reporters. “Larkin, Z and Abby had great success through lots of the year.”

The Wings have scored just 12 goals in their last seven games. Yet thanks in large part to goalie Petr Mrazek, they’ve managed to go 4-2-1 over that stretch.

All four wins were by one goal.

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