DETROIT -- It’s a delicate balance the Detroit Red Wings are trying to strike right now, still trailing the San Jose Sharks 3-2 in a Western Conference Semifinal series.
On the one hand, despite riding two straight wins while facing elimination, they’re still down 3-2 in the series after dropping the first three. So they’re trying to say all the right things.
They’re approaching it one game at a time. They haven’t lost sight of the fact the Sharks can end their season and the series in Game 6 on Tuesday at Joe Louis Arena (8 p.m. Versus, TSN). Yet, on the other hand there’s also an air of confidence starting to creep into their comments -- such as those given on Monday afternoon after returning from San Jose.
Standing in front of the team plane, Red Wings coach Mike Babcock was asked how much he wanted to get back on it Wednesday for a return trip to San Jose to play a Game 7 at HP Pavilion.
"Oh, we're getting on it," Babcock said, matter-of-factly.
Detroit General Manager Ken Holland was only slightly less confident when asked the same.
"That's what's got us to this point,” Holland said. “When we were down 3-0, nobody wanted to go home. We plan to be flying back for Game 7."
Some may view those comments as ill-advised bravado, especially for a team that’s reported to have injuries limiting stars Pavel Datsyuk and Johan Franzen.
Datsyuk, despite assisting on three of Detroit’s four goals in Game 5 on Sunday night, didn’t take a single faceoff and has been said to be battling a wrist or hand injury. Franzen is dealing with a sore ankle that was hurt in the first round on a hit by Shane Doan, hasn’t been able to skate well and didn’t play in the third period of Game 5.
Datsyuk, who Babcock said is Detroit’s best faceoff winner, says he feels fine. He even tried to downplay not taking draws by stating, "I'm not good at faceoffs."
There’s no denying Franzen’s injury, however.
Babcock was asked on Sunday night about his availability for Game 6 and said it will be up to Franzen to decide whether he’s healthy enough. Holland sounded like it might be time to let 40-year old veteran Mike Modano get into the lineup for the first time in this series if Franzen can’t go -- which will be the plan if “The Mule” sits out.
Modano has only played one other playoff game this postseason -- Game 4 against the Phoenix Coyotes -- and the Westland, Mich., native is anxious to contribute more in his first postseason as a Red Wing.
"(Franzen) has to be better than he was yesterday because he wasn't able to finish the game,” Holland said. “Modano is chomping at the bit."
Interesting phrase to use, because the Sharks will be even more determined to chomp on the Red Wings and end this series before it even gets to a Game 7.
If Detroit were a team full of less experienced players, that might be a bigger concern.
Instead, this is where the Red Wings’ lineup featuring several older, highly-decorated veterans factors into the equation. Many teams would hit the panic button when down 3-0 in a series. Not the Red Wings.
It starts with the captain, 41-year old defenseman Nicklas Lidstrom, and extends to the likes of Tomas Holmstrom, Niklas Kronwall, Henrik Zetterberg, Datsyuk and Franzen.
“There’s a calmness,” second-year goalie Jimmy Howard said of Detroit’s mood when falling behind 3-0 in the series. “There’s a lot of experience in our dressing room and when your leaders have been through a lot, you just look to them. When you see (Lidstrom’s) face and see how calm he is, it just trickles down.”
That might be the inspiration behind the confident talk from Babcock and Holland, hoping it seeps down into the locker room. None of the Red Wings players were quite as brazen, but at least Datsyuk had a humorous spin on it.
When asked about getting back on the plane for a possible Game 7 in San Jose, Datsyuk looked at the plane, smiled and said: “Of course … I’m happy. Have good seats there.”