DETROIT – The Red Wings got an unexpected day off following Tuesday’s late night return from Montreal.
Players didn’t get home until sometime around 3 a.m. as they first had to clear U.S. Customs after their disappointing 2-1 overtime loss to the Canadiens at Bell Centre.
“We didn’t get home till late, late, late,” coach Mike Babcock said. “I just thought I want energy (Thursday). I didn’t know what was right for sure. We wanted to clear a lot up in our game so we had a meeting here today. We dealt with our power play a little bit and we felt we can score a lot better by being harder, we haven’t been. We’re just trying to evolve our game so we did that.”
Instead of practicing on the ice Wednesday afternoon, the guys played a form of volleyball and tossed a football around the hallway outside of the team’s locker room at Joe Louis Arena.
“It was more the fact that we got home pretty late with the game going to overtime,” defenseman Niklas Kronwall said. “We didn’t get out of there as early as we should have or would have otherwise. Everyone was probably home a little after 2:30 or something like that with the customs and everything. I think it was good. Come down here, have some meetings and have some activity with the team.”
While the Red Wings have done plenty of good this season – they only have one regulation loss in their first six games – scoring has been a conundrum. Detroit’s two goals per game are among the league’s worst. Only Winnipeg (1.83), Colorado (1.71), Florida (1.50) and Buffalo (1.17) have produced fewer goals per game.
Babcock hopes the extra rest will give the Red Wings some jump in their next game – Thursday against Pittsburgh at The Joe.
“I think we can get on the inside more,” Babcock said. “It has to be a focus for us for sure. So much of it is speed and spending time in the offensive zone, then you end up being harder at their net so we have to do a better job in those areas so those things happen.”
The Penguins, who host the Philadelphia Flyers tonight, own the league’s top-ranked power play, producing eight goals on 17 opportunities. It should provide a very good test for the Red Wings who will enter Thursday’s game with the league’s top penalty kill. Detroit hasn’t allowed a power-play goal this season.
“We just looked at their power-play goals a second ago and they’re leading the league in power-play percentage,” Babcock said of the Penguins. “We’ll watch them tonight. It’s good of them to be playing Philly tonight.”
The Red Wings’ penalty kill has benefited from the team’s new focus on limiting infractions, especially the stick variety kind. Only Johan Franzen (four) and Henrik Zetterberg (three) have earned more than two minor penalties through the first six games of the season.
Meanwhile, the Wings held player meetings today to discuss the anemic power play that is 2-for-24 this season.
“You want to do good out there,” Kronwall said. “Of course sometimes I think maybe you overanalyze things and you want to do the right thing and that ends up with you thinking too much. Just go back to basics and keep it simple out there usually works.”
DATSYUK’S RECOVERY: Pavel Datsyuk
Center - DET
Goals: 0 | Assists: 1 | Pts: 1
Shots: 0 | +/-: E
picked up an assist and logged 18:05 of ice time in his season debut Tuesday in Montreal. While everyone is glad to have the Russian star back in the lineup, Babcock said it will take some time for Datsyuk’s conditioning to return to game speed.
“It’s going to take him a bit,” Babcock said. “He’s an elite player, but when you miss training camp it takes you some time. I don’t care how good a player you are, the NHL is flying out there. (When) you come back and you’re not up to pace it shows.”
Defense - DET
Goals: 0 | Assists: 3 | Pts: 3
Shots: 5 | +/-: -1
Injuries early in his career left Kronwall’s long-term status in the league in peril. A broken leg, torn ACL and a fractured sacrum limited his time along a Red Wings’ blue line that featured Hall of Fame defensemen Chris Chelios
and Nicklas Lidstrom
Kronwall has managed to overcome those early-career speed bumps to create longevity with the franchise. He played in his 600th career game in a Red Wings uniform Tuesday night at the Bell Centre.
“I'm grateful that I've been given the chance to stay here with the Red Wings,” Kronwall said. “That's something that I'm proud of and I'm happy to be a part of this organization. They've been giving me a chance to stick around and I'm happy and excited for that opportunity.”
Only five other defensemen have played in more games than Kronwall in franchise history. They are Gary Bergman (706), Reed Larson (708), Red Kelly (846), Marcel Pronovost (983) and Lidstrom (1,564).
CREASE CALLS: Datsyuk’s disallowed game was still a topic of conversation in the Red Wings’ locker room Wednesday. The center’s third-period goal – which would have given Detroit a two-goal lead – was immediately waved off by referee Greg Kimmerly, who indicated that Justin Abdelkader initiated contact with Canadiens goalie Carey Price.
“Pricer does a good job last night. He sold it pretty well, pushing off,” Babcock said. “I would like Abby to go to the net all the time. It’ll all work out over time so I’m not as concerned.
“Look at all four goals last night and the goalies were bumped on all four. One was called back. Abby drove on the first one and P.K. (Subban) bumped his goalie. (David) Desharnais went to the net and bumped Kronner into our goalie. So that’s two of them. (Alex) Galchenyuk bumped (Kyle) Quincey into our goalie. There might be something to it.”
EXTRA JUICE FOR PENS: The thought of facing off against the Penguins and their super two forwards – Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin – is always motivation enough for the Red Wings.
“They're talented players out there but just the drive and determination,” Kronwall said. “Rarely do they quit on a play, they just want more and to be better and better each day. I think that's something that really stands out about them.”
Crosby already sits atop the league in power-play scoring with three goals and six points in four games.
“That's it? He's so good,” Kronwall said. “And it's not just one player that's going to match up against him. We need everybody that's on the ice out there to be aware and try to take the space away from him as much as possible.”