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Punchless Wings must find way to score goals

by Brian Hedger
DETROIT -- Before the season, the Detroit Red Wings installed more environment-friendly LED bulbs in the goal lights at each end of the rink at Joe Louis Arena.

The thought was to save a little energy while also making the lights a little flashier with LED technology. Based on the past five games, it's starting to look like Red Wings players are doing the same thing by merely lighting the lamps a lot less than normal.

In fact, with just five goals scored in a five-game winless streak, the usually-flashy Wings look like their bulbs are either burned out or short-circuited. They're searching for answers to explain it as much as those outside the locker room and talking about keeping their confidence up.

Even Red Wings legend and Hall of Famer Ted Lindsay was walking around the locker room after practice on Wednesday, giving out words of encouragement and advice.

"We're disappointed with not having scored more goals," Wings captain Nicklas Lidstrom said after Wednesday's practice. "We have been taking a lot of shots, but we haven't been there for rebounds. (You get) the ugly goals when you're on a roll and playing well. When it's not going well, we've been squeezing our sticks and pressing a little bit too much. I think that's been showing here as of late."

"We're disappointed with not having scored more goals. We have been taking a lot of shots, but we haven't been there for rebounds. (You get) the ugly goals when you're on a roll and playing well. When it's not going well, we've been squeezing our sticks and pressing a little bit too much. I think that's been showing here as of late." -- Red Wings captain Nicklas Lidstrom

Also noticeable has been a lack of red uniforms buzzing around the net, looking for rebounds and loose pucks. Lidstrom is aware, and even did his part to fix it with Detroit's lone goal in Tuesday's 2-1 overtime loss at home to the Minnesota Wild. Instead of hanging around the point, he skated to the net through the slot and redirected the puck past Wild goalie Josh Harding.

Detroit forwards need to do more of the same, according to Lidstrom -- whose 3 goals thus far make him the team's second-leading goal scorer after 10 games.

"I don't think we've been as hard on the opponents' net as we have to be to get those rebounds and goals," he said. "That's where we have to drive hard to the net and get the rebounds and second chances."

Star center Henrik Zetterberg agrees, though he's also at a loss to explain why the talent-laden Wings aren't denting the net much anymore.

"We should definitely score more goals than we've done," Zetterberg said. "It's not like we don't have the chances, but somehow we can't get the puck behind the goalie. It is frustrating. You've just got to keep going and doing the right things."

They can also try some new forward combinations, especially at the top -- where Zetterberg has just 3 points (1 goal, 2 assists) and Danny Cleary only has a pair of assists in Detroit's 10 games.


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Zetterberg and Cleary have been the wingers on the top line with star center Pavel Datsyuk in the nine games following a season-opening 5-3 win against the Ottawa Senators. That's about to change, according to Red Wings coach Mike Babcock, who had Jiri Hudler with Datsyuk and Cleary and Zetterberg centering Johan Franzen and Todd Bertuzzi.

"The bottom line is, I just played Pav and 'Z' together for nine straight games and through that time we haven't done enough," Babcock said. "So, I'm not playing them together. We need more people going and maybe they can help them get going. They've got to help themselves as well."

Tuesday's game was a perfect example. Despite putting 37 shots on goal against Wild backup goalie Josh Harding -- who also shut Detroit out this past weekend -- the Wings didn't capitalize on a number of good scoring chances.

That was especially true in the first period, when Detroit held the puck in the Minnesota zone and peppered Harding with shots. After getting just Lidstrom's goal out of it, things got progressively worse offensively -- aided mostly by nine penalties that led to eight Wild power plays.

The missed scoring chances, however, bothered the Wings almost as much as the needless infractions.

"We got lots of scoring chances (Tuesday), but you've got to put them in the net," Babcock said. "Pav had two clear-cut chances. One he fanned on and one he shot wide. (Zetterberg) was home free in the slot wide open. (Lidstrom was) right there. (Justin Abdelkader) … home free. Those are Grade A quality chances, where if we give 'em up you say, 'Oh, you gave up a 3-on-2.' Those were unbelievable chances, so you've got to bury some of them."

They didn't and then started taking the penalties, including the goalie interference call against Franzen in overtime that led to Devin Setoguchi's game-winner.

"I don't know how many penalties we took last night, but a lot of them were the right call and it's tough to create offense when we're one man short," Zetterberg said. "We can talk and find reasons and say we should do this and that, but we have to score goals. We have chances. We've just got to score and put pucks in the net. When we do that, we'll be tougher to play against and win more games."

Pavel Datsyuk
Center - DET
GOALS: 2 | ASST: 6 | PTS: 8
SOG: 38 | +/-: -5
They'd better start winning soon, because the rival Chicago Blackhawks are off to a great 7-2-2 start and the Western Conference is already shaping up to be another dogfight for the last couple playoff spots. Babcock was asked on Wednesday about the current five-game winless streak digging the Wings a "little bit of a hole" early in the season and the coach quickly adjusted the phrasing of the question.

"Not a little bit," he said. "Huge."

If Detroit had won on Tuesday, the Wings would've had six wins in their first 10 games, which is a benchmark that, if extrapolated over the course of the regular season, would likely net 48 wins. Babcock said that's probably good enough to make the playoffs.

Instead, they're sitting 5-4-1 with 11 points in the first 10 games -- which works out to 88 points over eight 10-game segments. That's probably not enough.

No wonder there's so much urgency being placed on Thursday's home game against the Calgary Flames, who are 4-5-1 and two spots beneath Detroit at the bottom of the Western Conference.

"Usually we don't go through (a long losing streak) in the first 10 games," Zetterberg said. "It will happen over the course of the year, but hopefully we won't go through another one. We have to turn this around now. We've got to win a game tomorrow and go from there."
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