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Red Wings coach says 'We're not going away'

by Dan Rosen

Detroit Red Wings coach Mike Babcock said he's a big believer his team is just going to get it done, that it will make the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the 22nd straight season.

Just don't call Babcock an optimist, because that's not what he's trying to be with nine games left in Detroit's regular season.

"I don't know if it's optimistic; I think it's realistic," Babcock told "Optimism, I think, is a totally different thing than a realistic approach of what we've got going on. I think we're a team that does a lot of good things. I'm a big believer that we're just going to get it done, but I think like that all the time."

The Red Wings have done enough to be eighth in the Western Conference with 43 points. They don't play again until Thursday at home against the San Jose Sharks.

"We're not going away," Babcock said.

But they do need to get better. The Red Wings have won two of their past six games -- both came against the last-place Colorado Avalanche.

The Red Wings have been outscored by a combined 14-3 in their four losses, including a 7-1 drubbing at the hands of the Chicago Blackhawks.

"I think we've been letting in too many easy goals," Red Wings defenseman Niklas Kronwall told "It feels like we're fighting, doing everything we can to score, and we let in easy goals. There have been too many of those. That's something we can correct."


"Are we a team that should have the amount of points that some of the other teams at the top have? No. Should we be in the mud puddle that we're in with everyone else? Absolutely. We earned the right to be in it. Now let's keep swimming and let's make sure we're in the little party at the end." -- Detroit Red Wings coach Mike Babcock on where his team is in the standings

"It looked good on paper, and then when we put it on the ice at the start it looked like two racecars to see who can go fastest down the ice. Now they support each other really well. Now one guy is coming on the rush and the other guy is backing it up, whereas at the start we had both guys up on the rush. It was a little bit of a track meet, but it's slowed down now." -- St. Louis Blues coach Ken Hitchcock on pairing recently acquired defenseman Jay Bouwmeester with Alex Pietrangelo

That goes back to the process Babcock preaches. It's a process he said they followed well even in a 1-0 loss to the St. Louis Blues on Sunday.

"At the start of the year when we dropped the puck with them [the Blues], they beat us 6-0 and everyone was talking in the first 10 or 12 games that they're going to win the Stanley Cup," Babcock said. "Since that time they've gone out and added [Jordan] Leopold and [Jay] Bouwmeester. You watched the game [Sunday], don't tell me there is much between these teams. That's the way I look at it.

"It's amazing what you can do if you keep focusing on the process."

That process, according to Babcock, will lead to the Red Wings extending their streak to 22 straight seasons in the playoffs.

He's sure of it.

"The great thing about our process is we're in control of it," Babcock said.

What's going on with the Olympics?

There won't be any announcement this week regarding potential participation by NHL players in the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, and NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly told in an email that the League does not have a set deadline for a resolution.

"I expect more progress this week," Daly said.

It's still possible for a resolution to be reached by the middle of this month, but Daly said that would just be a guess now.

The NHL has been engaged in ongoing dialogue with the National Hockey League Players' Association, the International Ice Hockey Federation and the International Olympic Committee.

Is Oates a Jack Adams candidate?

One month ago, the Washington Capitals were looking like a team targeting a lottery pick in the 2013 NHL Draft. Now they're the favorite to win the Southeast Division, having gone 18-9-1 in their past 28 games prior to playing Tuesday at the Montreal Canadiens.

Is it enough to make Capitals coach Adam Oates a Jack Adams candidate?

"That's not ridiculous at all," NHL Network and CBC analyst Kevin Weekes told "They were dead in the water and now they're back."

Alex Ovechkin's move to right wing -- Oates' idea, by the way -- has paid huge dividends as he's caught fire in the second half of the season to lead the Capitals' climb up the standings.

But it's so much more than that.

The Capitals' power play is clicking at a 26.6-percent pace since their 2-8-1 start. Their goals for are up from 2.27 per game in the first 11 games to 3.17 in the next 29. Their goals against are down from 3.72 in the first 11 games to 2.41 in the next 29.

"I'm really impressed," NHL Network analyst Craig Button told "Since Adam had no head coaching experience, I had, I wouldn't say concerns, but definitely some real questions about him being able to be successful. I'm quite impressed, quite impressed."

Not everyone is convinced.

NBC's Jeremy Roenick told his top three candidates for the Jack Adams are Toronto's Randy Carlyle, Montreal's Michel Therrien and Ottawa's Paul MacLean. Oates isn't close.

However, Roenick did praise Oates for one aspect of the job he's done.

"He's the best coach to get [Ovechkin] going," Roenick said.

Porter lands his spot in St. Louis

St. Louis Blues forward Chris Porter has impressed coach Ken Hitchcock enough in the past month to earn a full-time role in the NHL for the first time in his career.

With Andy McDonald out Sunday in Detroit, Hitchcock moved Porter up in the lineup to play with Patrik Berglund and Chris Stewart. He answered with the lone goal in a 1-0 win.

Hitchcock moved him back to the fourth line Tuesday, but feels confident playing Porter just about anywhere in the lineup nowadays.

Chris Porter
Left Wing - STL
GOALS: 2 | ASST: 3 | PTS: 5
SOG: 29 | +/-: 4
"Chris is starting to show skill," Hitchcock told "With his work ethic and determination you have confidence already, but now you can play him in a top-nine forward role. There was an opportunity with the injury to [T.J.] Oshie and McDonald and he's taken advantage of it. He looks like a guy that is here to stay in that top-nine role."

Porter has been an offensive threat in the American Hockey League, good enough to average 10 goals and 20 assists in his first three full seasons with the Peoria Rivermen. However, Hitchcock said every time he came up to St. Louis he would take on a checking role and simply accept it.

"What's happened in the last month or so with Chris is the game he's had in the American League is starting to transpire in the National League," Hitchcock said. "He has more confidence with the puck. He makes plays now rather than chip it in. His confidence level is growing, and he's kept up with the same fabric of being a hard forechecking and backchecking player."

Zajac frustrated but focused

New Jersey Devils center Travis Zajac was the first player to take advantage of the new Collective Bargaining Agreement by signing a maximum eight-year contract extension to stay with his team.

His production so far shows he's struggling to live up to the terms of that deal, including the $46 million he's being paid over the life of it.

Travis Zajac
Center - NJD
GOALS: 5 | ASST: 9 | PTS: 14
SOG: 64 | +/-: -5
Zajac has five goals and nine assists for 14 points in 39 games this season. He has  one assist and is a minus-5 in the Devils'  seven-game winless streak (0-3-4).

Asked if he's frustrated, Zajac told, "I have been at different points. But I'm kind of looking at the big picture."

By that Zajac means he's looking at his overall game, not his production, which is obviously lacking.

"I feel like I'm engaged in games," Zajac said. "I feel like I'm competing hard. I'm doing a lot of the things I have done in the past and I actually feel as the season has gone on I have felt better. I just gotta keep at it. I know it's eventually going to come."

It better soon, because the Devils need Zajac to pick it up if they're going to snap out of their funk and get into the playoffs. He's still their No. 1 center.

"We're still in this," he said. "We still have as good a chance as ever to make the playoffs. The worst thing for us is to be looking for excuses and getting down on ourselves. I think we just have to stay focused. We've played good hockey. That's what you have to look at more than the results."

Odds and ends

*Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and James Neal have been in the lineup together 42 times in the 142 regular-season games the Pittsburgh Penguins have played since Neal was acquired Feb. 21, 2011. Neal missed his first game of the season Tuesday with a concussion. Crosby has sat out the past four games with a broken jaw. Malkin is healthy now, but he missed 13 games this season.

*Hitchcock said he doesn't expect to know anything about the status of goaltender Jaroslav Halak for at least another two to three weeks. Halak went out with a groin injury April 1 and he has not resumed skating.

*Boston Bruins coach Claude Julien talked about trying to stabilize four new lines prior to playing the Carolina Hurricanes on Monday. It worked; the Bruins got goals from three of their four lines, including two from Brad Marchand. The Bruins scored twice in their previous two games and had eight goals over their previous five.

*The Toronto Maple Leafs have been outshot 28 times this season, yet they're 17-7-4 in those games. The Maple Leafs have outshot their opponent 11 times, and are 5-6-0 in those games. They have been outshot in 10 of their past 11 games, yet are 6-1-3 in those 10 games.


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