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Back to basics for Wings' Zetterberg

by Bill Roose / Detroit Red Wings
Since scoring in a 5-4 win at Florida on Jan. 27, Red Wings captain Henrik Zetterberg has produced just one goal in his past 27 games. (Photo by Getty Images)

DETROIT – Like any good leader, Henrik Zetterberg is the first to look in the mirror when things aren’t going right.

Tuesday morning, the Red Wings’ captain said he doesn’t like what he sees in the reflection.

“I think I create chances, but some games I’m not,” Zetterberg said following the team’s morning skate Tuesday at Joe Louis Arena.

Despite being the team leader with 62 points, Zetterberg is mired in perhaps the worst goal-scoring slump of his 12-season career with the Wings. He’s produced just one goal in his last 27 games, which currently is the second longest such drought among Wings’ forwards.

“It’s kind of a new (area) for me, going this long, this time of the year is not common,” Zetterberg said. “You start to think too much. When you’re supposed to pass you shoot and vice versa. It’s going back to the basics and believing in yourself.”

But Zetterberg isn’t the only player not producing offensively for the Wings who have scored six goals in regulation over the last four games. Teemu Pulkkinen (no goals, 11 games), Joakim Andersson (one goal, 33 games), Stephen Weiss (one goal, 19 games), Darren Helm (one goal, 16 games), Drew Miller (two goals, 30 games), Pavel Datsyuk (two goals, 12 games), Tomas Tatar (three goals, 18 games), and Riley Sheahan (four goals, 23 games) have all struggled in the goal-scoring department.

“You just try and go back to the basics,” Zetterberg said. “Not squeeze you’re stick too much and try and lead in different ways. It’s not just scoring points, but right now that’s what we miss. (Gustav) Nyquist is doing it. Tuna is doing it. Pav is doing it. I’m not doing it. It’s something I have to change.”

Previously, Zetterberg had been nearly a point-per-game player, collecting 15 goals and 30 assists with a plus-6 rating in the first 48 games of the season. Since then he has a goal and 16 assists with a minus-8 rating.

Zetterberg's last goal came in a 5-1 win at Pittsburgh on March 15. Before then he scored in a 5-4 win at Florida on Jan . 27.

“This time of year I’m supposed to be there, score goals, put up points for my team,” Zetterberg said. “I haven’t done that lately. That’s something I’m not happy about. Hopefully I can change that tonight.”

The Red Wings host Carolina with a chance to clinch a playoff berth against the Hurricanes in the last home game of the 2014-15 regular season at The Joe. Detroit will clinch a 24th consecutive playoff berth if they defeat the Hurricanes in any fashion, and Ottawa loses to Pittsburgh in regulation tonight.

As the regular season winds to an end this week, the Red Wings definitely need to have Zetterberg at his finest heading into the playoffs, where he ranks third all-time in club history with 56 postseason goals. Only Steve Yzerman (70) and Gordie Howe (67) have scored more.

“If I was Z I wouldn’t carry the weight of the world around my back,” coach Mike Babcock said. “I’d just get out there and be loose and driving and play real well tonight.”

Babcock hopes that by reuniting Zetterberg with Datsyuk against the Hurricanes it gives the Wings a potential 1-2 scoring punch.

“I’m going to move him to the wall with Pav tonight and give him an opportunity to free him up a little bit,” Babcock said. “Lots of nights we had no way to move Z around or do anything. He’s had some heavy lifting with Pav not being available. … Those things happen, but you get on with it, and we just need him to play well tonight.”

Health is always a concern this late in the season, but Zetterberg, who missed most of the 2013-14 campaign after undergoing back surgery last February, said he’s fine. Though he suffered a concussion, and missed four games, after Dallas captain Jamie Benn punched him in the head on Feb. 21.

Since his return in March, Zetterberg has netted a goal and 12 points in 18 contests.

“I’m not blaming it on injuries,” he said. “This time of year you’re very seldom 100 percent, but you should be able to do more than I’ve done. … There are some games where I think I’m playing close to my standard, but too many games here lately I haven’t.”

Zetterberg wasn’t interested in playoff scenarios either.

“We just have to focus on what we do here,” he said. “We have three games left beginning tonight. Every point is important. We need to come out better than we did last game.”

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