DETROIT – Looking at the standings, it seems like the Detroit Red Wings are off to the kind of start they were looking for at 3-1-1 in the first five games.
Looking at their faces and listening to their words following Thursday's morning skate prior to tonight's home game against Calgary was a different story. The Wings will take their seven points, but they are far from happy about the way they've gotten it done.
This is a team loaded with talent, experienced veterans and a starting goalie in Jimmy Howard who's got a dazzling 1.59 goals-against average and .941 save percentage in three games. They're supposed to put the pressure on opposing defenses and know they're probably going to win every time they come to play a game.
So far, though, it's not happening that way.
"When you've been around the game for awhile, you understand what wave after wave is, and going after people and what winning every night is," Detroit coach Mike Babcock said. "When it becomes automatic that you come to the rink and know you're going to win is the stage you want to get to, but we're not at that stage."
What will it take to get there? In a word -- work.
"We need to get everyone going working-wise," Babcock said. "Then the rest looks after itself. The work comes before the rest of it. Once you get a little structure and a little work ethic, then the skill comes out."
Everybody's still waiting for that skill to come out this season – including the Wings. Going into tonight's game, three of Detroit's top scoring threats haven't scored a goal and Tomas Holmstrom hasn't recorded a single point in any of the five games. Henrik Zetterberg also has no goals to go with his 4 assists and Jiri Hudler hasn't scored either. Free agent acquisition Mike Modano, who centers the Wings' third line along with Hudler and Dan Cleary, has just 1 goal and 1 point.
Modano, Hudler and Holmstrom each have minus-2 ratings, as well. None of them is too concerned, but they are all aware of their slow starts.
"Over time, you just keep doing good things and the chances will be there," the 40-year old Modano told NHL.com. "Once you break through, you kind of get on a roll. You just can't get too caught up in it. The tide will turn eventually and we'll start getting more chances. The puck will find its way in eventually."
Especially on the power play, which was ranked 12th in the League overall and 16th on home ice before tonight's game. Babcock toyed with the power-play units this week in practice, putting Johan Franzen with Pavel Datsyuk and Holmstrom and putting Zetterberg with Todd Bertuzzi and either Jiri Hudler or Valtteri Filppula.
Babcock said earlier this week that if the power play doesn't improve from its current 4-for-24 rate of success, more permanent changes may need to happen. Overall, though, the Wings have zeroed in on the word "work" this week as the best way to fulfill their potential.
"At the end of the day we've got to put more pucks in the net," said Hudler, who rejoined the team this season after playing last season in the Kontinental Hockey League in Russia. "We've got to score goals and get our chances. You've got to work."
Morrison happy with Flames: After being released by Vancouver at the end of training camp, veteran forward Brendan Morrison was curious how long it would take to find a place to play this season.
It didn't take long, though. Calgary offered him a roster spot on Oct. 4, which Morrison is making the most of through the Flames' first five games. He leads Calgary in scoring with 1 goal and 5 points while playing right wing on the second line.
"I'm thankful they gave me a chance to come here and try and help out at the beginning of the year," the 35-year old Morrison told NHL.com. "To be honest, I was pretty surprised things didn't work out in Vancouver, but you turn the page and you move on. The guys here have been great since Day One. I like this team. We've got some injuries right now, but when we get healthy we're going to be even tougher to deal with."
Todd Bertuzzi, a friend and former teammate, is also happy things appear to have worked out for Morrison.
"As a buddy, it was tough to see him take awhile to find an opportunity," Bertuzzi said. "Calgary's a good city for him. He'll fit in well. He's got a lot in him and he's a good skater."
Flames hot in Detroit: Calgary has a three-game win streak going against the Wings at Joe Louis Arena, dating to March 12, 2009.
They're looking to make it four straight tonight, which would tie the organization's all-time win streak against Detroit. One reason the Flames play so well in the Motor City might be the Wings' star-studded roster.
"I love coming to this barn," forward Rene Bourque told NHL.com. "There's a lot of history in this building. The Red Wings have been good forever. I've been in the League for (six) years now, and it's even fun watching them pre-game skate. They're such a great team. They're always in the hunt for the Stanley Cup. It's one team that you always want to play well against. It's such a great measuring stick."
Injury update: Detroit's Johan Franzen will play after missing a game because of a concussion he got as the result of a hard hit by Dallas defenseman Mark Fistric. Kris Draper will be out four to six weeks for the Wings because of surgery to repair a sports hernia.
Wings think pink: Detroit will honor Breast Cancer Awareness Month by wearing pink ribbon stickers on the backs of their helmets and taping their sticks with black tape covered in pink ribbon logos. Wings coaches will also wear pinkish-purple ties that will then be autographed after the game and auctioned off for charity.