Seven points out of the playoffs with 26 games to play, even the Detroit Red Wings seem to finally be facing up to the reality that their odds of making the playoffs for a 26th straight season are rapidly fading.
"It's definitely difficult," Wings defenseman Danny DeKeyser admitted. "It's a different year so far. It's been tough. A lot of things haven't been working for us this year. It's extremely frustrating.
"We're going out there every night and expecting different results, but still not being good enough. It's extremely tough."
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As they ready to play host to the St. Louis Blues on Wednesday, Detroit's struggles continue. The 22-24-10 Wings are coming off an 0-3 road trip and are 2-5-4 in their last 11 games.
The Wings have talked plenty about playing better but far too often execution of the gameplan is not something they've proven capable of accomplishing.
"We're in tough spot," Detroit forward Thomas Vanek said. "We've got to think that we've got to stop talking about going on a run and start taking it game by game here.
"I think we play good stretches of two or three games and then ... too many times we look back and say what could have been."
Vanek is expected back in the lineup Tuesday after missing Sunday's loss at Minnesota with an ankle injury he suffered Saturday at Columbus.
"I felt pretty good out there today," Vanek said. "We'll see how it reacts overnight and we'll make the assessment tomorrow."
But just as they get a player back, the Wings can expect to lose another. Forward Gus Nyquist has a Wednesday telephone hearing with NHL player safety and likely faces a suspension after striking Wild defenseman Jared Spurgeon square in the face with the blade of his stick in the first period of Sunday's game.
"This is obviously not how I am as a player," Nyquist said. "It's a different situation to be in and I'm just glad he's OK."
Detroit coach Jeff Blashill prepared for the worst, skating Tomas Tatar in Nyquist's spot alongside Henrik Zetterberg and Anthony Mantha on the Wings' top line at practice Monday, but was hopeful that Nyquist's track record of clean play would work in his favor.
"There is no chance it was an intentional play by him," Blashill said. "Anybody that's been around the league, anybody that's played with him, anybody that's coached him, they know that.
"I understand how the optics are and they're going to have to do their jobs, I get that, but without question ... you see the reaction as soon as it happened from Gus. Guys that are angry, that's not how they react."
The Blues have won four in a row and are 5-1 since Mike Yeo replaced Ken Hitchcock behind the bench.
"Mike has done a good job of changing little things around so it feels different around here, but when we go out there, we're asked to do the same things," Blues defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk told stltoday.com.
Blues goalie Jake Allen was named the NHL's second star of the week after posting a 3-0 record, a 1.00 goals-against average and a .967 save percentage.
St. Louis placed forward Paul Stastny on injured reserve Monday with a lower-body injury. Stastny has 15 goals and 35 points in 54 games this season.