TAYLOR, Mich. – The look on Henrik Zetterberg’s face says he’s searching for an answer to the question he was asked concerning his team’s second-period success this season.
Detroit leads the league with a plus-20 goal differential in the middle frame with 61 goals for, which is 10th best in the league, and 41 goals against. Only Montreal (40) has allowed fewer goals in the second period this season.
“I don’t know,” Zetterberg said. “I think last year the second period was the worse period for us. I think we try to get our demon off (our back). Maybe we focus a little more about not turning the puck over. I have no idea. It’s been a good period and hopefully it’ll stay that way.”
Since January, the Wings have a 1-5-1 record when allowing an equal number or more goals in the second period. But they are 11-0-0 in the same stretch when outscoring the opposition in the second period.
Asked the same question as his captain, Red Wings defenseman Niklas Kronwall was more critical in his answer.
“Maybe we’ve had too many bad starts and have to pick it up in the second,” he said. “I’m not sure. I wish I had an answer for you. For whatever reason that’s how it’s gone.”
The Red Wings have been susceptible to slow starts all season. Recently, slow starts contributed to loses in Tampa Bay and Pittsburgh. Thankfully, Jimmy Howard’s stonewall performance Wednesday in Chicago – stopping all 17 first-period shots – prevented another near first-period catastrophe.
“Or course, the first period wasn’t good, everybody knows it,” said Kronwall, of the Wings’ 3-2 shootout win against the Blackhawks. “It’s a matter of going out there and doing it. We can talk about it all we want, but it’s going out there and doing it in game mode.”
With just 26 games remaining in the regular season, the Red Wings know they can’t afford to rely on second-period comebacks following lethargic starts.
“If there’s something when we haven’t played well in games that’s been the reason, we’ve been slow out of the gates,” Zetterberg said. “Some nights we find a way to dig ourselves out of the hole, but when you’re playing good teams like we are now we can’t do that. We need to be good from the start. That doesn’t mean we have to have 15 shots in the first period, but you have to play structured and play a good road game. You have to be in the game after the first period and then you have a better chance at winning.”
Detroit’s 42 first-period goals for and 53 third period goals for, is ranked No. 21 and No. 20, respectively, in the league.
Defense - DET
Goals: 2 | Assists: 7 | Pts: 9
Shots: 36 | +/-: -1
Jakab Kindl will return to the Red Wings’ lineup sooner than expected. His early return from AHL Grand Rapids was necessitated by an undisclosed leg injury to defenseman Kyle Quincey
“He’s just got a chronic thing so we’ll see what happens,” coach Mike Babcock said of Quincey’s status.
Quincey left practice early Friday at the Taylor Sports Plex. His status for Saturday’s game in Dallas will be re-evaluated after the team’s morning skate at American Airlines Arena.
Kindl has two goals and nine points with a minus-1 rating in 28 games with the Red Wings this season. He has a goal with a plus-2 rating in two games with the Griffins.
“We expected him to play two more games (in Grand Rapids) and we expect him to come up on a high,” Babcock said. “He’s had two real good games down there. It just makes it easier when you’ve sat out for a long time, you come back and you haven’t played and it’s hard. This way you can come back and get going.
“He’s just got to go back and execute with the puck,” Babcock said. “He’s real good when he’s got the puck looking up ice. He’s gotta go back and execute with the puck. If he does that, we’re happy.”
FIVE GAMES, ONE PRACTICE: As it stands now, the Red Wings will practice just once on their current eight-day road trip that takes them to Dallas, Anaheim, Los Angeles, San Jose and Nashville.
The Wings will practice Sunday afternoon at Honda Center in Anaheim. Thursday is an off day in San Jose, and Friday is a travel day to Nashville.
Babcock would like the practice time, but said, “they’re tired of practicing anyways so let’s get at ‘er. Let’s just play. We’re ready. Let’s get at it and find out. That’s what we do. We dig in and we find out. We’ve got to dig in for one another.”