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Babcock bitter after 'Sleep test'

by Bill Roose / Detroit Red Wings
DETROIT – Occasionally, a loss like the 7-1 drubbing last Saturday in Washington is going to happen in the NHL. But back-to-back stinkers – not to mention being outscored 11-2 in the process – are concerns, Red Wings coach Mike Babcock said.

“I did the sleep test,” said Babcock, following the team’s practice Wednesday at Joe Louis Arena. “I went to sleep, I was bitter. And I woke up and I was still bitter. Normally, the sun gets up and I’m having a good day. I bounce back real quick. … It took me a little longer today.”

That’s because Tuesday’s 4-1 loss at Columbus was dominated from the start by the Blue Jackets, who were hungrier than the Wings, and looking for their first win of the season.

The Jackets scored 21-seconds into the game and never really relinquished momentum, even though the Wings tied the score a few minutes later, the Jackets were the more dominant team.

“We're not scoring. That's been the problem these last two games,” forward Henrik Zetterberg said. “We haven't been able to score goals. We've been in games, creating chances, but we can't put the puck behind him.”

Babcock certainly wasn't thrilled that the last two opposing goalies were named First Stars of the Game: Washington’s Tomas Vokoun, who made 32 stops, and Columbus’s Steve Mason, who had 30 saves.

“When you stand on the outside and shoot the puck from the outside – you see this every time at playoff time – and you say, ‘Oh geez, we had all of these shots,’ ” Babcock said. “So what? How many second chances did we get? How many times were we sitting on his pads? How many rebound chances are we getting? I mean, that’s hockey.

“I said this to you guys a million times, it’s a real, honest fair game. You stand on the right side of the puck, the puck comes to you, you cheat. You never get any offense, it doesn’t work. You don’t work hard. You don’t win. You have to give them credit. I thought they worked hard. I thought they played good.”

Something else that’s not clicking right now for the Wings is their top scoring line of Zetterberg, Pavel Datsyuk and Danny Cleary, who combined have scored three goals with six assists through the first seven games.

Trying to jumpstart the offense Tuesday, the Wings weren't even through the first period when Babcock began juggling the forward lines against the Jackets.In all, the Wings used six different line combinations in the 4-1 loss at Columbus, Babcock said.

“When I looked at my sheet after the game, I had six sets, so that’s a problem,” the Wings’ coach said. “That means nothing is going right. So we have to figure it out. I had (Zetterberg-Datsyuk-Cleary) together in practice today, but it really doesn’t matter much. So I’ll think about that tonight and decide what I’m doing for tomorrow.”

Last week, the Wings were at the top of the league’s goal-differential list with a +11. But five days later, they find themselves struggling at +2.

While some line combinations will change before the Wings next game – they host San Jose Friday at JLA – one player hopes that Babcock shows enough confidence in the top group that he won’t tinker with it.

“We take a lot of pride in being a good line, every game, every shift,” Cleary said. “With the work ethic and skill it's going to come through. We just need to stay. It's going to happen, it has to happen.

“I hope he believes in our line. He believes in every player on this team, I think he's trying to find the best fit for each line. We need to get back to going really basic and really simple. Once it starts to come around, you get some puck luck and get a crappy goal then you start gaining confidence and you begin to be more Pav and Z creative.”

Follow Bill Roose on Twitter | @RooseBill

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