The Red Wings are losing ground, with a playoff streak on the line

AP
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They don’t want to panic, but the Detroit Red Wings better pull it together. Otherwise, it’s going to happen — they’re going to miss the playoffs for the first time since 1990.

Last night’s “embarrassing” loss to Arizona kept the Wings four points back of third place in the Atlantic Division. And they can forget about a wild-card spot, unless one of the five juggernauts in the Metropolitan falls apart.

“The sense of urgency is going to continue to be real high,” coach Jeff Blashill told reporters. “Is it frustrating? Sure. But we better put the frustration behind us because it doesn’t do anybody any good.”

There is still legitimate hope for a comeback, if only because of their division. The Montreal Canadiens have built a comfortable lead atop the Atlantic, but the Ottawa Senators appear vulnerable and the Boston Bruins are one Tuukka Rask or Zdeno Chara injury away from trouble.

That being said, the Wings will be battling with the Lightning and Panthers, two teams who entered the season with high hopes and have the potential to put a string of wins together. Even the Maple Leafs and Sabres could still be a factor.

In the end, missing the playoffs may be for the best. The Red Wings have been so successful these last few decades, the last time they drafted in the top 10 was all the way back in 1991.

To put that in perspective, Connor McDavid was born in 1997.

The Wings were able to stay competitive because they found Nicklas Lidstrom, Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg in later rounds. However, two of those Big Three are gone now, leaving only Zetterberg, who turned 36 in October.

Yes, there is some young talent in the organization, but no more than the average NHL team, and considerably less than others.

Heading into the season, the veteran-laden Wings desperately needed to stay healthy, and that just hasn’t happened. Darren Helm, Justin Abdelkader, and Jonathan Ericsson are currently out injured. Niklas Kronwall and Thomas Vanek have missed time. So has Andreas Athanasiou.

Given the Wings’ poor possession numbers, if not for Jimmy Howard and his .937 save percentage, things could very well be worse.

Detroit’s next game is Thursday at home to the Los Angeles Kings, who have their own issues these days.

“We all know we’re a better team than this,” Kronwall said, per MLive. “It’s one thing to lose if you’ve been playing well. It’s another thing to lose when you really haven’t been giving your best effort for 60 minutes.”

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