DETROIT – Following this week’s 6-1 drubbing at the hands of the Ottawa Senators, the Red Wings used Thursday’s off day to wipe the slate clean.
Detroit has managed just three goals in the last three games, so coach Mike Babcock has decided to re-shuffle the deck by separating Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg in hopes of simulating more offense throughout the lineup.
Splitting up Datsyuk and Zetterberg is a last resort, Babcock said, and something he didn’t want to do, but the lack of offense kind of dictated the move.
“It’s not going. I told them and you guys I wasn’t going to split them up and 11 games in I’m splitting them up,” Babcock said. “It wasn’t my plan and not necessarily what I wanted to do, but we need to.”
In Friday’s practice at Joe Louis Arena, Datsyuk worked with wingers Todd Bertuzzi and Daniel Alfredsson, while Zetterberg centered the second line between Johan Franzen and Tomas Tatar.
“We think we need more going. It’s too easy to shut down one or two guys. You need a team going,” Babcock said. “Right now we need Alfie, and we need Mule and a whole bunch of guys to score. We haven’t gotten that much with playing with those guys so maybe if we get them playing with those guys as well. Then we get four guys scoring and the other guys contributing more on a regular basis and then we become a better hockey team. That’s the plan.”
The Red Wings finish up a three-game homestand on Saturday before taking a journey to Western Canada next week. The New York Rangers conclude their nine-game road trip to start the season Saturday at Joe Louis Arena.
Detroit has managed just one goal – Bertuzzi’s power-play goal against the Senators – in the last eight periods, plus an overtime and a shootout.
“I think the last game we can hit the delete button because I don’t think we did a lot of good things,” captain Henrik Zetterberg said. “The game before that, San Jose, was a well-played game by both teams. That was two scoring teams that went at each other, but we played real good defense, didn’t give each other a lot of opportunity to score goals. Saying that, I think we have to find ways to spend more time in their end.”
The one constant this season has been that Dastyuk and Zetterberg have played together on the same line, first with Justin Abdelkader and more recently Bertuzzi. But the Euro Twins have also accounted for 44 percent (11-of-25) of the Red Wings’ goals, which isn’t an ideal methodology. By switching up the line combinations, the hope is that they can spread out the scoring to become more balanced and more difficult to slow down.
“I think Babs was pretty up front about it, we will be playing together until he needs to switch it up and now it’s time,” Zetterberg said. “I’m pretty sure we’ll play together here at some point in time, but when we’ve been losing games like we have, haven’t been scoring much, we have to try something different.’’
The third line should remain the same – with Stephen Weiss centering wingers Daniel Cleary and Abdelkader – though it wasn’t clear Friday who would skate in the fourth line with center Joakim Andersson and winger Drew Miller. Jordin Tootoo has played the last two games, but he, Mikael Samuelsson and Patrick Eaves took turns on the right wing in Friday’s practice.
EAVES UPDATE: Eaves (MCL, ankle sprain) was cleared this week to return to action, and while he’s eligible to come off of long-term injured reserve, Babcock said the veteran grinder will not be in Saturday’s lineup against the Rangers.
GETTING TO KNOW YOU: Wednesday was the first time for Niklas Kronwall and Brendan Smith to play any significant minutes together as defensive partners. While Smith is much more offensive-minded than Jonathan Ericsson – Kronwall’s usual D-partner – it will take some time getting use to.
“I thought there were things that worked and some things we need to work on a lot more,” Kronwall said. “That’s like that the first few times you play with each other. We haven’t played with each other for some time now. So it’s going to take some time to adjust to each other. The more you communicate out there the better it’s going to be. We just need to play with each other, get out there as much as possible so we can get a better read off each other.”
Ericsson is out for 2-3 weeks with a partial dislocation of his left shoulder joint.
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