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Notes: Practice makes perfect for Wings

by Bill Roose / Detroit Red Wings
Gustav Nyquist celebrates a power-play goal Saturday against the Islanders. It was Nyquist's 12th PPG of the season, which is third best in the league behind Alex Ovechkin (14) and Joe Pavelski (13). (Photo by Dave Reginek/Detroit Red Wings)

DETROIT – Long breaks between games is rare in the NHL, but the Red Wings, who are in the midst of four straight off days, plan to keep busy this week.

“I think we will get some time to work on different stuff,” captain Henrik Zetterberg said. “When we have a lot of games, it’s tough to get some practice time in. Now we have some time to go over the power play and the PK and you don’t have to rush.”

It’s not as if the special teams need any tweaking. Both the power play and penalty kill have been in the league’s top 10 practically all season. The power play remains at the top in percentage (25.6) and total goals scored (46). Meanwhile, the penalty kill has struggled some lately – Detroit’s PK has allowed goals in seven straight games – though it remains among the top third units in the league, currently ranked No. 10 with an 82.7 kill percentage.

“We need to improve everything,” coach Mike Babcock said. “Actually I think our penalty kill … we gave up a goal (Saturday), one of us hesitated and we gave up a goal in that situation. It looked like we were going in the right direction for the first time in a while. Sometimes it’s going, you’re not scoring, but it’s going way better than the way it is. That hasn’t been the case, we’ve been just bad. I liked our penalty kill last game. So that’s positive we turned the corner.”

The success of the power play has made a world of difference all season for the Red Wings. But the specialty team took a big step in January, scoring 12 times on 36 opportunities for a 33.3 percent success rate, its best month of the season.

“Obviously it’s a good thing to take advantage when you have that opportunity,” Zetterberg said. “I think we’ve been up and down. We didn’t start great, but I think we’ve found a way to score some goals and it helps to win games.”

February is another road-weary month for the Wings. Just two of the team’s 11 games this month will be played at home. The Wings, who are in the middle of playing 17-of-23 games away from Joe Louis Arena, have done some good things on the road last month while posting a 9-3-0 record in January.

“For us I think we feel pretty confident on the road,” defenseman Niklas Kronwall said. “I think we’ve played some pretty good hockey. Just got to do it night in and night out. It’s pretty much that simple.”

At their current pace, the Red Wings, who remain tied with Montreal for second place in the Eastern Conference, would end up with 110 points in the standings, which is a 17-point improvement from last season when they squeaked into the playoffs.

TRADE DEADLINE: The NHL trade deadline is a month away and many are wondering what kind of splash the Red Wings will make on March 2.

Babcock met with general manager Ken Holland on Monday – as he does most days – and discussed what he feels are the team’s needs heading down the stretch.

“There’s no surprises, he knows what I want,” Babcock said. “Now in the end can you do what a guy wants? Is it possible or is the cost too great, short term, long term, all those things. Those are all things Ken and I deal with. In the end, Ken has the final decision on all this, just like our roster. … During the game I decide who goes on the ice, but he gives a ton of feedback in that area too, but we talk after each game too. That’s how we work together.”

Last season, injuries up the middle forced the Wings to acquire a veteran center in David Legwand. But this season, other than a few wants, the Wings really don’t have any burning needs.

“Everyone knows when the deadline is and there will be some moves,” Zetterberg said. “But if you look back in our history, it’s not often that something happens. Last year, we had a lot of injuries and we made a deal to get Legwand. This year, we’re healthy so I don’t expect us to do much, but if something happens it will happen.”

Babcock has a wish list, but he wasn’t prepared to elaborate on Monday.

“I’m not getting into that part,” he said. “Sometimes it’s reasonable and sometimes it’s not reasonable. That’s the general manager’s job and the pro scouts to sort that out.”

Pavel Datsyuk
Center  - DET
Goals: 15 | Assists: 22 | Pts: 37
Shots: 102 | +/-: 5
ASSIST CLUB: With his first-period helper – No. 554 of his career – in Saturday’s 4-1 win over the New York Islanders, Pavel Datsyuk tied Sergei Fedorov for fifth all time on the Red Wings’ assists list.

“It doesn’t surprise me that he’s up there,” Zetterberg said. “He’s played here for a long time, producing a lot of points every year and also as a playmaker, setting up the other players, he’s one of the best in the league. I don’t know who’s next on that list, if he has time to reach No. 4, but obviously it’s a big milestone for him, especially considering Fedorov is the guy he tied.”

Steve Yzerman tops the list at 1,063 assists, followed by fellow legends Gordie Howe (1,023), Nicklas Lidstrom (878) and Alex Delvecchio (824).

Jimmy Howard
Goalie  - DET
Record: 16-7-7
GAA: 2.11 | Sv%: .920
INJURY UPDATES: Monday afternoon, Holland confirmed that Jonas Gustavsson (shoulder) will make his second straight rehabilitation start for AHL Grand Rapids this Wednesday in Toronto.

The backup goalie will then travel to Denver to join the team in time for Thursday’s game against the Colorado Avalanche.

Holland wasn’t as sure about the status of goalie Jimmy Howard (groin) and forward Johan Franzen (concussion). The Wings’ GM thinks Howard is still a week or two away from a possibly return, while Franzen’s condition is more obscure.

“I don’t think he’s doing great but I don’t really know,” Holland said. “Until he gets to the point where they’re telling me he’s starting to work out, he’s starting to train, we run the team like they’re not on the team.”

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