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Wings look to stop road woes

by Bill Roose / Detroit Red Wings
EL SEGUNDO, Calif. – As disheartening as the first half of this current four-game road trip has been, the Red Wings were back at work with a resilient attitude at the Toyota Sports Center Friday afternoon as they prepared for Saturday’s matinee against the Los Angeles Kings at Staples Center.

The Wings’ 5-2 loss at San Jose Thursday was their fifth straight on the road, but coach Mike Babcock doesn’t believe it’s as bad as it seems.

“We did lots of good things last night,” he said. “But we found a way to make enough mistakes that it cost us the game. And we're not scoring. When you're not scoring you’ve got to be good defensively and you’ve got to stay resilient.”

Under Babcock, the Wings haven’t experienced losses like this on the road, which is befuddling since they’ve not had a four-game road pointless streak in six previous seasons.

“We usually enjoy playing on the road, going into other teams' buildings and stealing two points from them,” goalie Jimmy Howard said. “We just got to stay with the task at hand, continue to play hard, continue to work hard and eventually we'll turn thing around.”

The losses are not for a lack of effort.  The Wings average a league-best 35.4 shots per game, and are second in fewest shots allowed at 26.7 per game. Against the Sharks, the Wings were credited with 42 shots – their second-highest total of the season. They actually doubled that total number when considered that the Sharks blocked 24 attempts and another 18 shots missed the mark.

“It's amazing to me because we get unbelievable opportunity, so we just got to stay with it,” Babcock said. “We had the puck a ton. You can say, ‘they're all from the outside.' No, they're not, we had a whole bunch of guys at the net and banging around, so we're not as fluid offensively as a team that's scoring all the time. When you're scoring all the time you see things quicker, do things quicker. Work your way through it. Be positive with yourself and keep playing. You do good things and good things happen every time.”

The low level of offense is disconcerting, especially on the road where the Wings have just five goals in the last five games. They’ve averaged an uncharacteristic 1.57 goals in seven road games, which is a far cry from the 3.4 goals that they’re averaging at Joe Louis Arena. Detroit led the league in road scoring last season, averaging 3.12 goals.

“Goal-scoring has been the big problem for us in the games we've lost,” captain Nicklas Lidstrom said. “We haven't been able to get goals, whether it's on the power play or even strength; just had problems scoring goals.

“We’ve got to get more traffic, we've talked about that a lot, but it shows if you're shooting the puck a lot but you don't have traffic it's hard to score. You got to get to those second chances rebounds. We have been taking a lot of shots but some of them the goalies are seeing from the outside. We haven't had the traffic you need to score.”

As frustrating as it is, Babcock continues to reminder his players to stay positive, stay focused. And they’ll have to be against the Pacific Division-leading Kings, who like the Sharks, are a strong second-period team.

“You can do what you want with words, but I'm a big believer that you make a decision and you move on with it,” Babcock said. “We just got to be more resilient. We got to play a good LA Kings team tomorrow. It should be fun.”

Still, even though they are 17 games into the schedule, some players believe that this is a desperate time, and that Saturday’s game is a must-win.

“This is a big game for us, we're approaching it as a huge game for us,” forward Danny Cleary said. “We want to nip it in the bud right away.”

The Wings are closing in on the 20-game litmus test. With 19-points in the standings, they need three straight victories just to keep pace with Babcock’s first six seasons.

“Whether it's now or late in the season, every game matters. Points matter,” Lidstrom said. “Looking at the standings teams are winning. You have to grab the points when you have a chance, even though it's a long season. You have to keep getting the points to stay up where you want to be.”

Follow Bill Roose on Twitter | @RooseBill

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