DETROIT – Mike Babcock has a pretty good idea of the state of mind Daniel Cleary might be in, but the Red Wings’ coach doesn’t care about feelings.
“My job each and every day is to put the best 20 guys in the lineup that I think can help us win today,” said Babcock, who made the decision to scratch Cleary from tonight’s lineup against the Winnipeg Jets at Joe Louis Arena.
“I’ve been with Clears for nine years, I know him well,” Babcock said. “There’s no one who’s a bigger fan of Dan Cleary than Mike Babcock. I imagine he’s very pissed off today and I don’t know what you want me to do about it.”
Cleary has struggled this season, compiling one goal with two assists in 18 games. He has one assist and an even plus/minus rating in the last 12 games.
“Hockey is a game of confidence, you have to have a lot of confidence and you have to be good defensively,” Cleary said. “Bring different things to the table so you just have to continue doing that you’ve been doing.”
The Red Wings are on a five-game home skid, and while they’ve played well defensively, the offense is another story. With the exception of Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk, Detroit has had difficulty scoring goals, especially at home.
“We need to score more as a team,” Cleary said. “Defensively we’re pretty good. I’m good defensively. We need to help out Pav and Z a little more.”
The Red Wings have 19 goals in nine home games. Only Florida (18) and Buffalo (14) have scored fewer goals in the same number of home contests. Detroit has been held to two or fewer goals in seven home games, including a 1-0 loss to San Jose on Oct. 21.
Since blitzing Edmonton 5-0 on Nov. 2, the Wings have spiraled to a 0-2-1 mark with losses at Winnipeg and to Dallas and Tampa Bay.
“We were rolling right along until we got to the mighty Jets there and they stomped us and then we haven’t recovered,” Babcock said. “I thought we played fairly good game against Dallas and deserved better. I thought we were fortunate to get a point against Tampa. Our game looks like we’re a real team and know how to play and then there’s 30-seconds where we give up three chances in the second and then 30-seconds where we give up two two-on-ones in the third. In the end, you can’t play like that. You got to play with patience and take what’s given.”
MULE RETURNS: Johan Franzen
LEFT WING - DET
Goals: 2 | Assists: 3 | Pts: 5
Shots: 26 | +/-: -2
will be back in the Red Wings’ lineup tonight, skating on the second line with center Darren Helm
and forward Daniel Alfredsson
Franzen has missed five of the last six games with an undisclosed injury. Though he’s missed nearly two weeks, he thinks he’ll be fine tonight.
“The first game is usually a bit easier than the second back because you have more adrenaline going,” Franzen said. “But still you have to keep your shifts short and really try and be smart out there and not try and do too much.”
Franzen has been versatile this season, spending time at center and forward. But playing the wing should be more adventitious in his first game back after a lengthy layoff, he said.
“You can hide a little bit on the wing,” Franzen said, laughing. “It’s not as obvious as bad a shape you’re in there. It’s easier on wing.”
Franzen has produced two goals, three assists and a minus-2 rating in 13 games.
“He’s had a good mental break,” Babcock said. “He should be fresh, he should be jumping, should be lighting the red lamp, life’s good.”
HELM ON THE PP:
Center - DET
Goals: 1 | Assists: 0 | Pts: 1
Shots: 4 | +/-: -2
Without Cleary in the line, Helm will get a rare look on the power play tonight. He’ll play a net-front role on the second unit, Babcock said.
“I’ve never really played net front,” Helm said. “I’ve gotten a few tips from the guys in the room that have played (there). Get knocked around a little bit, maybe tip a few pucks.”
Helm said it’s been a few seasons since he last played a regular role on the power play.
“Our power play’s not going. It’s not scoring any goals,” Babcock said. “Winnipeg’s a good penalty kill team so we’re going to be under some pressure in those areas. Ideally we’re going to work hard enough to draw some power plays and we can execute a little better, but Helm is going to play net-front to start with on the second group, but we like his speed through the neutral zone bringing the puck.”
In four games since returning from a degenerative disc, Helm has a goal, 11 hits and won 50 percent (27-of-54) of his face-offs.
Defense - DET
Goals: 0 | Assists: 1 | Pts: 1
Shots: 11 | +/-: -7
Defenseman Brendan Smith
(shoulder) said he’s healthy enough to return to the lineup this weekend, while center Stephen Weiss
is probably a week away.
“It’s just up to the coaches if they’re going to put me in,” said Smith, who was injured during a fight with Edmonton’s Will Acton. “I’m going to have to take everything in from here on in and see how it goes. I don’t know when I’m actually off IR. I’m not sure what the date it. Hopefully I can get going right away and get back in the lineup.”
Smith was placed on short-term injured reserve on Nov. 4. He’s eligible now but needs to be cleared by team doctors. Defenseman Jonathan Ericsson (shoulder) has been on long-term IR since Oct. 21. He still needs to be cleared and can return to the lineup Friday when the Wings host the Washington Capitals.
Weiss hasn’t skated since experiencing a sore groin early in the Dallas game last Thursday. And he doesn’t expect to skate before next week.
“I’ve had some groin issues (in the past)” Weiss said. “This one was a little bit different. Something happened that I couldn’t tell you what it was. I don’t remember what it was. I just know it wasn’t there before the game and it was there pretty early in the first period. It’s one of those things that’s bad luck and just trying to get rid of it before we come back for good.”
Since joining the Wings as a free agent, Weiss has struggled, producing just two goals and one assists in 17 games. His hope is that the time off will help him refocus.
“When you get some time off it gives you a chance to regroup mentally and physically,” he said, “and hopefully come back even better.”
Follow Bill Roose on Twitter | @Bill_Roose