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Fast start, fewer penalties are keys

by Bill Roose / Detroit Red Wings

TAMPA, Fla. – The Red Wings know they must play better today if they’re to return home with a 2-0 lead over the favored Tampa Bay Lightning in their Eastern Conference playoff series.

“It’s the first to four and we got the first one,” captain Henrik Zetterberg said. “The first game is over and now we focus on the second game. We can improve in a lot of things and we’re looking forward to doing that (today).”

The first things the Wings can do today are jump out to a fast start and cut way down on the number of penalties from Thursday’s Game 1 win. Detroit took seven minor penalties, but fortunately, their penalty kill was up to the task, killing off 10:13 worth of time that the Lightning had on the man advantage.

“We were nervous early and for whatever reason, tentative early and they got on their toes more and more,” coach Mike Babcock said. “You see it every night. It’s momentum. The other thing is we took seven minor penalties. Anytime you’re getting their skilled people on the ice over and over again on the man advantage they’re going to build momentum off that. So we can’t do that. We got to stay out of the box.”

The Red Wings have a great opportunity to put the Lightning in a 0-2 hole in a series when it shifts to Detroit for Game 3 on Tuesday.

Babcock promised that the penalty situation, especially the stick infractions and bench penalties have been addressed in the locker room and hopefully will be rectified in today’s Game 2 at Amalie Arena.

“I have no problem calling the penalties you see,” Babcock said. “I don’t like those kind of calls. Like the second call on Dan DeKeyser or the first call on Dan DeKeyser for interference that’s ridiculous. Just call the things that are out there. We’re responsible for our penalties. We have to be better. We can’t take them.”

The too-many-men calls, like the one the Wings took in the second period Thursday, are mental miscues that must be fixed as well, Babcock said. The Wings had the same infractions in three straight games toward the end of the regular season.

“I don’t think the three D that were on the ice together thought that was attention to detail, I think they thought they were pretty focused and dialed in, but it happened so we talked about it,” Babcock said. “The next time we have a power play and changed power play groups and couldn’t get anyone on the ice because no one wanted to go out for the wrong guy. It’s one of those things, it happens sometimes. I think the one year in Detroit – and I won’t name names – but we had the one D that it happened to 13 times or something that year. It was a tough year for that. It’s been a tough run here the last little bit. (Thursday) we had three D on the ice, I didn’t even notice it, I couldn’t see (Kyle) Quincey over along the boards, so I didn’t notice it myself.”

This is the sixth straight playoff series, dating back to the 2011 Western Conference semifinals that the Wings have started on the road. Despite being outshot 46-14, the Wings managed to steal the first game. It’s the fifth consecutive time Detroit has at least split the first two games of a series.

Teams that have gone up 2-0 in a best-of-seven playoff series hold an all-time series record of 293-48 – that’s an 85.9 percent success rate. The Red Wings are 31-5 (86.1 percent), including a 4-1 series mark when winning the first two games on the road.

Babcock said there aren’t any lineup changes for Game 2, which means forward Justin Abdelkader will miss another game with a hand injury. He could be available when the series shifts to Detroit on Tuesday.

The Wings are seeking their third straight win, which would be there first such winning streak in more than five weeks – spanning 19 games – when they beat San Jose (Feb. 26), Nashville (Feb. 28) and the New York Rangers (March 4).

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