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Talent level, history suggests Wings turn it around

by Brian Hedger
DETROIT -- In case anybody is subscribing to the theory that opposing defenses and goaltending are the biggest problems for the Detroit Red Wings’ sputtering offense, allow Ken Holland to crumple that notion up and chuck it into the nearest trash can for you.

Detroit's general manager is willing to give credit where it's due for his team's meager six-goal output during its current six-game winless skid (0-5-1), but only to a certain extent. When presented with a version of the "good goalies" theory after Thursday's 4-1 loss to Calgary at Joe Louis Arena, Holland quickly shot it down.

"Yeah, but every goalie's good," he said. "You've got to get some traffic and second chances. (We've) just got to stick with it."

"You have to think positive and believe in yourself and tell yourselves you are good players. You know, because we are good players. We just got to go out and score some goals." -- Henrik Zetterberg

That was the theme of the night for the Red Wings, who are trying to remain positive, and believe that with their track record, things will turn around.

"You have to think positive and believe in yourself and tell yourselves you are good players," star center Henrik Zetterberg said during a first-intermission interview Thursday. "You know, because we are good players. We just got to go out and score some goals."

Holland didn't sound much different when questioned about the winless streak, the scoring slump and the general poor play of his team before leaving the arena Thursday night. One of the most mind-boggling aspects to all of this is that Detroit's biggest offensive stars -- Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk -- find themselves at the heart of what's going wrong.

Between them, they have combined for just 4 goals, 12 points and an eye-popping minus-11 rating. That has to turn around at some point, because both of their resumes show they're among the best two-way forwards in the game.

"Obviously that's the belief," Holland said of having faith in the Wings' talent. "We've just got to stick to what we believe in. (Against Calgary), I thought we did lots of good things, but when we make a mistake, it's a big mistake. I think we're trying hard … maybe too hard."

One of those glaring miscues Thursday was a failed clearing attempt in the third that wound up in the back of the Red Wings' net courtesy of Jarome Iginla's second one-time blast. That made it 3-1 Flames with 11:21 left to play and virtually iced the game for Detroit's suddenly anemic offense.


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The Red Wings might not be pushing the panic button just yet, but they are squeezing the life out of their sticks -- and ratcheting up the pressure on themselves with every scoreless shift.

"I think that's normal when you've lost five in a row," Holland said. "In the first period it was a bit of a check-fest. We wanted to win. They wanted to win. The second period we started to get it opened up, but it's a hard game when you can't score. Right now we can't score."

The Wings' problem started after a 5-0-0 start. They lost 7-1 in Washington on Oct. 22, and their slide started in earnest three nights later, when they lost in Columbus.

The Red Wings feel the Blue Jackets loss was their worst overall performance, but that might be the most frustrating thing about this skid. The Wings actually haven't played too bad overall -- save for the nine penalties they took in a 2-1 overtime loss at home to Minnesota on Tuesday.

Jimmy Howard has been solid in goal and Detroit's defense generally has been pretty good in front of him. The special-teams units, which are middling statistically, aren't the biggest problem, either. It's what is happening at even strength that is particularly frustrating.

If you consider that captain Nicklas Lidstrom's goal against the Wild on Tuesday missed being a power-play score by only a couple seconds, the Red Wings basically haven't scored at even strength in the last three games.

Still, it's early and the Wings have had such a run of success over the last 20 years that their natural inclination is to just take a deep breath and re-affirm their belief in themselves.

"All I can tell you is we've got to keep doing what we're doing," Holland said. "(Sometimes) you can say, 'We've got five regulars out and stuff,' … no, we're healthy. I don't have an answer for you. We've got to stick with it. We're not the only team that's been through it and we've got to find a way to get a win."

Their next opportunity comes Saturday against the Anaheim Ducks, who have some star scorers of their own, plus another good goalie in Jonas Hiller. The way the Wings see it, it's time to get more "dirty" goals by creating traffic around the net, and get back to playing Red Wings hockey.

"You can't let it snowball on you and be mentally soft and feel bad about yourself," Wings coach Mike Babcock said after Thursday's loss. "No one else is going look after you. You've got to look after yourself, dig in and put a stop to it. We've scored six goals in our last six and that's just not enough, especially for a team with the names we have on the team. We've got to be better."
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