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Notebook: Babcock wants more anxiety

by Michael Caples / Detroit Red Wings
DETROIT – It’s been well-documented: the Red Wings are in unfamiliar territory this season, and after four straight 50-win seasons, they are on the outside of the playoff picture looking in.

When Wings coach Mike Babcock was asked Thursday morning if he thought there was added tension on the players in the Detroit locker room, he said there actually wasn’t enough.

“No, I wouldn’t mind feeling more tension and anxiety in this room, actually,” Babcock said. “These guys think they’re in. If you talk to them, they believe they’re getting in. That’s great, I think that’s great, but the bottom line is, you and I both know, the way we’re getting in is if we start playing better.”

The Wings’ veteran leadership is in a new situation, but they are confident that they can get the job done. Captain Nicklas Lidstrom has never missed the playoffs in his illustrious NHL career, and he doesn’t expect it to happen anytime soon.

“I think the mood is still good in here,” he said. “We realize the situation that we’re in and what we have to do to get better and get into the playoffs. We know we have to play with a lot more desperation, that’s something we haven’t had as of late, we haven’t played a full 60-minutes with that desperation. We’ve talked about it, that’s something we have to do to improve and improve our situation.”

Forward Kris Draper said the players must continue to stay upbeat if they’ll have any shot of making the postseason.

“The way it’s going – we’re basically playing every other night – if you win you take the two points and move on, and if you lose you have to shake it off and get ready to go,” he said.

For Lidstrom, the thought of not making the playoffs hasn’t entered his mind.

“I haven’t thought about it,” Lidstrom said. “If we can get some wins here, we can move up and be in the top eight. … The bottom line is we have to play better to wins.”

Since the NHL adopted an 82-game schedule in 1995, the Wings haven’t dipped below 38 wins in a single season.  Since ’95, the Wings have won 50 or more games five times. Detroit has also captured eight straight Central Division titles, and 12 in the last 15.

With 16 games remaining, the Wings (31-23-12) have 74 points, which leaves them 19 behind division-leading Chicago, there’s the real possibility that the Wings could miss the playoffs for the first time in 18 years.

“We need to put a run together,” Babcock said. “Are we capable of it? Sure, but the intensity level and how hard we have to play has to pick up for sure. We met about that yesterday again. Eventually you can’t just meet about it, you have to do something about it. There’s an opportunity tonight to bounce back, and like I said, we have to win four out of five games, we did it the previous five, and now we have to do it this five, which means we have to run the table. And it starts by playing well (Thursday).”

However, it is important to point out that the last time the Wings won fewer than 40 games – 38 victories in 1996-97 – they managed to put an end to a 42-year Stanley Cup championship drought.

GOALIE TALK: Following Wednesday’s practice at Joe Louis Arena, Babcock indicated that Chris Osgood would get a chance in goal before the playoffs.

Babcock reiterated his decision after Thursday’s morning skate.

“I talked to Ozzie yesterday, and I just said you’re going to get an opportunity coming up, make sure you’re ready for it,” Babcock said.

LINE-UP SHAKEUPS: On Wednesday, Valtteri Filppula skated with Henrik Zetterberg and Dan Cleary on the second line. Babcock said he hopes to give a spark to Zetterberg with Filppula’s play-making abilities.

Zetterberg has five points in his last five games, but was held scoreless against Calgary in Tuesday’s 4-2 loss.

Drew Miller moves from the wing to center the third line between wingers Todd Bertuzzi and Jason Williams.

“Wherever you want to put me, I’ll put forth my best effort and try to help the team any way possible,” Miller said.

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