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Notes: Wings seek offensive consistency

by Bill Roose / Detroit Red Wings

Tomas Tatar and Justin Abdelkader react to Tatar's first-period goal that gave the Red Wings a 1-0 lead in Columbus Tuesday night. (Photo by Getty Images)

DETROIT – Lately, the Red Wings’ offense has been like a roller coaster – up and down.

This month, Detroit has scored 23 goals in eight games, which is slightly higher than their average in October. However, the players and coaches would like to see more stability when it comes to production in the offensive zone.

Certainly, the power play has given the team a gigantic booster shot with eight goals in the past six games. During that span, Detroit’s power play is on a 9-for-27 clip – which is a 33.3 percent success rate. Seven different players have scored on the power play in the past two weeks, including Johan Franzen and Jakub Kindl who each scored twice on the man advantage.

“When you look at two of our last three games we’ve been good but it’s that consistency you’re looking for,” coach Mike Babcock said.

Prior to their recent hot streak, the Wings’ power play lacked pizzazz and production, struggling to score five goals in 46 chances (10.9 percent) in the first dozen games of the season.

But the Wings have too much offensive fire power to be kept at bay.

“You knew they were going to get going eventually, they have just great players on the power play,” fourth-line center Luke Glendening said. “Both units are full of skilled guys and guys who work hard. So sooner or later their stuff was going to start going in and it was just a matter of time.”

In recent wins over Chicago and at Columbus, the Red Wings played perhaps their best two games of the season. They were dominant against the Blackhawks last Friday and the Blue Jackets on Tuesday. But in between, they suffered through a lackluster performance against Montreal on Sunday.

Defenseman Jonathan Ericsson went so far as the say the loss to the Canadiens was embarrassing.

“We can’t keep doing this one win, one loss thing,” Glendening said. “We have to get back on the right track and pick up a few wins here.”

Against Columbus, the Red Wings had a season-high 11 players, including four defensemen, on the score sheet in a 5-0 win.

Brendan Smith, Riley Sheahan, Tomas Tatar and Tomas Jurco each had two points against the Jackets. Justin Abdelkader, Gustav Nyquist, Daniel Cleary, Darren Helm, Danny DeKeyser, Johan Franzen and Ericsson all had one point.

“When all lines are scoring that’s a good thing,” Glendening said. “Our line didn’t have a goal last night but it’s great to get a win like that and 11 guys were on the score sheet, that’s huge.”

The way Tatar sees it, special teams will continue to be a factor for the Red Wings.

“Everybody’s good five on five so we have to be real good on special teams,” he said. “Our PK has been outstanding for us so we need little better help from PP and right now it seems like it can go. We start scoring some goals on the power play and it’s way easier for us.”

Brendan Smith
Defense  - DET
Goals: 2 | Assists: 4 | Pts: 6
Shots: 14 | +/-: 3
INJURY UPDATE: Smith is the latest player to join the injured list. The Wings’ defenseman was put on short-term seven-day IR for an infected hand that resulted from his fight with Columbus forward Nick Foligno on Tuesday.

Ericsson also missed Wednesday’s practice at The Joe, though Babcock said his was a maintenance day.

“Smith, they're keeping him back, hand infection from the fight,” Babcock said. “I don't know what happened but that's what's going on.”

Smith was not on the team flight to Winnipeg. Babcock was unsure if Smith would be joining the Wings once they arrive in Toronto Friday afternoon.

The Red Wings did make a roster move Wednesday, recalling AHL Grand Rapids defenseman Xavier Ouellet. The 21-year-old rookie will join the Wings in Winnipeg, and it's expected that he will be available for Thursday's game against the Jets. Ouellet is tied for the first among Griffins' defensemen with five points.

Pavel Datsyuk, who has missed three of the past five games with a sore groin, did make the trip to Manitoba. The star center did not practice Wednesday, and his status for Thursday’s game against the Jets is unknown.

Darren Helm
Center  - DET
Goals: 2 | Assists: 5 | Pts: 7
Shots: 27 | +/-: -6
COMING HOME: Helm isn’t sure how many family and friends will be at MTS Centre when the Jets host the Wings Thursday, but it likely will be plenty.

“I haven’t gotten the final numbers. It was looking around 20 a couple days ago so we’ll see what the final total is in the next couple hours,” Helm said following Wednesday’s practice in Detroit.

Helm grew up about 30 minutes northeast of downtown Winnipeg. He hopes Thursday’s game – which will be just the second time he’s played an NHL game in his hometown – has a better outcome than his first game.

For Helm, the Jets game last November was his second game back in the lineup from a long absence caused by a herniated disk. So for this season, Helm has played in all 18 games, producing two goals and seven points.

“It didn’t go too well,” said Helm, of the Wings’ 4-2 loss last November. “Feeling a lot better than I did going into Winnipeg last year. Looking forward to it and hoping I can have a better showing.”

Helm has picked up the production lately, garnering three points in the past five games, and certainly his third-period goal Tuesday can give him some steam heading home.

“I played a lot better, so that’ll give me some energy,” Helm said. “The goal itself, hopefully I can feed off of it a little bit (but) it’s not what I look at when I’m playing good hockey.”

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