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Streak is a problem for Wings

by Bill Roose / Detroit Red Wings
DETROIT – They’re not playing bad. But for the Red Wings, who have qualified for the Stanley Cup playoffs in each of the past 20 seasons, this five-game losing streak in the first month is really becoming a nuisance.

Following Tuesday’s heartbreaking 2-1 overtime loss to Minnesota, the Wings are in third-place in the Central Division with 5-4-1 record. Worse yet is the Wings’ inability to find the back of the net, scoring just five goals in the last five games.

“We got lots of scoring chances last night, too, we got to put them in the net,” Wings coach Mike Babcock said. “We talked about it today, confidence, how do you get it? You got to earn it. I can't give it to you. You're wife, girlfriend, parents can't give it to you. You got to earn it.”

Getting pucks to the net hasn’t been the Wings problem. They lead the league with 35.8 shots per game.

“It’s not like we don’t have the chances,” said forward Henrik Zetterberg, who has two goals and two assists. “Suddenly we can’t get the puck by the goalie. It is frustrating, but you just have to keep going; doing the right things and working hard. It will turn around. You just have to believe.”

The Wings have scored just 23 times and only one player – Johan Franzen – has a multi-goal game through the first 10 games of the season. To this point last season, the Wings had compiled 32 goals with four different players – Franzen, Zetterberg, Valtteri Filppula and Pavel Datsyuk – having already scored a multi-goal game.

Goal-scoring hasn’t been this difficult for the Wings since the waning days of Doug Barkley’s short coaching career. Under Barkley, the Wings began the 1975-76 season with a 0-7-3 record while scoring just 18 goals. That’s the franchise’s lowest goals-for total in the first 10 games of a season – until now.

“6-4 in your first 10 games, if you multiply that by eight, that's 48 (wins),” said Babcock, with an eye on the postseason. “But also eight times 11 points is 88 points; 48 wins gets you in, 88 points doesn't get you in.”

As a way to generate more scoring, Babcock plans to mix-up the lines before Thursday's home game against Calgary, splitting the Euro-Twins for the first time since early in the second game of the season at Colorado. During Wednesday’s practice, Datsyuk worked with wingers Jiri Hudler and Danny Cleary, while Zetterberg centered a line with Todd Bertuzzi and Franzen.

“I just played Pav and Z together nine straight games and through that time we haven't done anything, so I'm not playing them together,” Babcock said. “We need more people going. Maybe they can help them get going. They got to help themselves as well. You know what the definition of insanity is, so we got to change some things up and see if we can't do a better job.''

So far, the Wings’ two main offensive threats, Datsyuk and Zetterberg, have scored just two goals each.

“We have tough time scoring last five games. We can't score,” Datsyuk said. “This is why we're having real big problem winning. We have moments, but we can't score. That's a big problem. … Of course, when you score one, two, maybe three you're more confident. It's easy.”

Minor penalties are also killing any offensive momentum that the Wings have built in recent games, Tuesday especially, when they gave the Wild eight power-play chances. And all it took was one power-play goal, which gave Minnesota the win in overtime.

“We addressed every penalty today,” Babcock said. “We took a lot of bad penalties. We're responsible. You don't blame referees, you don't blame anyone else, it's us.”

Follow Bill Roose on Twitter | @RooseBill
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