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Conklin looks for strong bounce back

by Bill Roose / Detroit Red Wings
COLUMBUS, Ohio – Even though the Blue Jackets are winless through their first eight games of the season, the Red Wings know not to expect a defeated team Tuesday night at Nationwide Arena.

Just a desperate one, which often times is the most dangerous kind.

“You would think that any team that hasn’t won, and they’re at home, (they) are going to be really, really fired up,” Wings forward Danny Cleary said. “So it’s going to be a good game for us, maybe the kind of game that we need. We had a tough loss in Washington, so this is going to be a good test for us if we come out and match their intensity.”

Coming off a 7-1 loss Saturday to the Capitals – their first of the season – the Wings are anxious to get back on track. However, none more so than backup goalie Ty Conklin, who might be hungrier after surrendering seven goals on 18 shots.

“It's going to be nice to get a chance to bounce back after a tough outing Saturday,” Conklin said. “It's a lot nicer sitting out a good game than a bad game.”

Conklin won’t have to think too long about Saturday’s game. The veteran gets his second straight start Tuesday – and a shot of redemption – because Jimmy Howard’s wife, Rachel, gave birth to the couple’s first child Sunday, James Russell Howard IV. Howard did not make the trip to Columbus with the team Monday afternoon.

The Blue Jackets (0-7-1) are the league’s last remaining winless team, allowing 29 goals, the most in the Western Conference. And their special teams haven’t fared much better, especially the penalty kill unit, which has stopped opponents just 64 percent (18-of-28) of the time.

The Wings know that Conklin’s performance Saturday was an anomaly; still, coach Mike Babcock would rather see something closer to the 2-0 shutout that Conklin pitched in Colorado on the second night of the season.

“He's got to be better. He knows that, we know that,” Babcock said. “He's always been good for us. He got a shutout the game before. The tough thing, when you're the starter and things go like that the Coach pulls you and puts the other guy in. When you're the guy giving the other guy a day off, guess what happens, he just leaves you there.”

While the Jackets have struggled, the Wings’ power-play has begun to show a strong pulse. After it started the season 0-for-18, the Wings are on a 5-for-10 clip heading into Tuesday’s game. And one way for the Wings to help Conklin is by continuing to score on the man-advantage.

“You can always work on (special teams) and when you get those opportunities you want to score goals and you want to shut down the other team’s power play,” forward Henrik Zetterberg said. “We have another chance tomorrow and we’re going to do the best we can.”

While the Wings are sixth in conference in goals-scored, the top forward line of Zetterberg, Cleary and Pavel Datsyuk has yet to fully click like it’s capable. But nobody’s reaching for the panic button.

“The one thing that you can’t do is get frustrated and get upset,” said Cleary, who has two assists in six games. “You just have to keep your nose to the grindstone, stay positive, good things will happen. Those two guys (Zetterberg and Datsyuk) are too good for them not to go in. It’s not a big deal.”

Eventually, the top line will begin to score. Fortunately, the line combination of Johan Franzen, Jiri Hudler and Valtteri Filppula is off to a fast start, accounting for eight of the team’s 19 goals already.

“They have been putting points on the board,” Zetterberg said. “We haven't really done that, of course we want to produce more, I think we're creating chances but it's not good enough, we got to score; me, Pav and Clears had a bunch of good chances (Saturday) but we can't put the puck in the net.”

Follow Bill Roose on Twitter | @RooseBill

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