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Puck possession is key vs. Sharks

by Bill Roose / Detroit Red Wings
DETROIT – Fewer penalties taken and more face-off wins.

These are some of the things that Red Wings coach Mike Babcock would like to see from his team as the Round 2 series with the San Jose Sharks changes locations with Games 3 and 4 at Joe Louis Arena later this week.

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The Sharks hold a 2-0 series lead over the Wings, who find themselves in this unenviable hole for the 10th time in team history following a playoff opening sweep.

“We have to lick our wounds … have the day off and get freshened up, and we’ll practice on Tuesday, and get ready to win the next game at home,” Babcock said.

After arriving back in Detroit in the early morning hours after Sunday’s 2-1 loss in Game 2, Monday was an off-day for the Wings with only a few players reporting to The Joe for treatment. The team will practice Tuesday in preparation for Wednesday’s pivotal Game 3.

Like Phoenix in the last series, the Sharks have put their power-play unit to good use, scoring two of their four goals in the first two games with the man-advantage. The Coyotes scored six power-play goals, something that definitely had Babcock concerned heading into this series.

But just as he did in the Coyotes series, Babcock is reluctant to blame the referees for the imbalance of penalties called during the two games in San Jose.

“That’s the way it is,” Babcock said. “We just have to find a way to keep battling to get involved and be as disciplined as we can. The penalties that I don’t like that we take are when we take the high-sticking ones and the sticks on the hands. To me those are freebies that you giveaway and you can’t take any of those.”

Another area of concern for the Wings is puck possession. The team that has the puck most often stays out of the penalty box, which is why winning face-off battles is paramount. The Sharks lead all playoff teams with a 54.7 face-off winning percentage.

“We have to be harder on pucks,” Babcock said. “We win D-zone face-offs, we have to execute on them and be harder on the puck in their zone. And the more of those 50-50 pucks you win the more you’re going to have the puck; both teams want the puck.”

Being down 0-2 to the Sharks is disappointing. It’s not an ideal position to be in – especially after sweeping the Coyotes in four straight games. But the Wings understand that they must win the next two games at home before thinking about taking a game at HP Pavilion, something the Wings have done once in the last seven trips to the Bay Area.

“We still have to steal a game (in San Jose) and we understand that,” Babcock said. “Being frustrated is a waste of time. At times you’re frustrated, but that’s a waste of energy. Just get on with it.”

Some think that the Sharks, who defeated Detroit in a five-game series last spring, have gotten into the Wings’ collective psyche.

“I don’t know about getting into your head,” Babcock said. “When they beat you, they beat you. I think our belief in ourself and our plan and our execution we have, I don’t question it what’s so ever. But the bottom line is, we came into their building and they won two games, 2-1.

“Now we’re going home. We’ll have our crowd. Now we have to do something.”

HISTORY BOOK: In their history, the Red Wings have come back to win a playoff round five times when faced with a 0-2 series deficit. The most recent occurred in 2002 when the Wings rebounded with four straight victories in a Western Conference quarterfinals series win over the Vancouver Canucks.

The Wings are 5-21 in all-time playoff rounds when they've lost the first two games of a series.

Here are the five series wins with the number of games it took to decide the outcome of each (in parentheses):

1945 – Stanley Cup semifinals vs. Boston (7)
1963 – Stanley Cup semifinals vs. Chicago (6)
1987 – Norris Division finals vs. Toronto (7)
1992 – Norris Division semifinals vs. Minnesota North Stars (7)
2002 – Western Conference quarterfinals vs. Vancouver (6)

HOLMER BOUND: Sunday’s Game 2 in San Jose was career playoff game No. 170 for forward Tomas Holmstrom. He surpassed former Wing Kirk Maltby for fourth-place on the Wings’ all-time postseason list.

Holmstrom, who has scored 44 goals and 49 assists with a +31-rating in 14 playoff seasons, trails only Nicklas Lidstrom (253), Kris Draper (218), and Steve Yzerman (196) for most playoff games played in franchise history.

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