SAN JOSE, Calif.
|Coach Mike Babcock is hopeful that the return of Pavel Datsyuk will help jump-start the Red Wings' offense. (Photo by Getty Images) |
– Fighting for its playoff lives in the Western Conference, the San Jose Sharks won’t find any sympathy from the Red Wings, who, with 11 games remaining, are trying to hold onto the No. 4 seed in the standings.
“We’ve talked about these teams that are desperate teams,” Wings coach Mike Babcock said. “You know it’s interesting, from where I sit as a coach, I don’t know who could be more desperate than us. I don’t even begin to understand that. If you’re playing well and everything is going good, maybe they could be more desperate. But if you’re a group like we are right now and you’re trying to get your game back, to me, there’s no one who should be more desperate than us.”
There’s no need to look beyond the current health situation to understand the Wings’ desperation. Since Feb. 20, when Pavel Datsyuk
underwent knee surgery, nine of his teammates have missed time with injury or illness. The latest is forward Johan Franzen
(back spasms), who may miss sidelined for Saturday’s game against the Sharks at HP Pavilion.
While Datsyuk’s return is good news, losing Franzen is more adversity that the Wings don’t need as they try to tune-up for a long playoff run this spring. Without Datsyuk, the Wings have posted a 3-7-1 record and the power play has suffered mightily, garnering three goals in the last 44 attempts.
Because injuries have forced the Wings to juggle lines, thus messing with continuity and chemistry, Babcock would like to see his team get back to the basics.
“I went to the (Sharks) game last night and Nashville scored a power-play goal on a simple down and in, threw it in,” he said. “San Jose shot the puck, had a man in the middle and tipped and came right to a guy and they shot it right into the net. No different than a lot of the things we’re doing, but the puck’s not going into the net for us, so that’s usually confidence, and we just have to keep plugging away and working. Obviously, Pavel back would really help.”
The Sharks, like the other two teams on this California trip, are on the outside looking in at the playoffs. But if the Wings learned anything in back-to-back losses at Los Angeles and Anaheim this week – by a combined 9-2 score – it’s that they can’t look past the Sharks.
“They’re like every team,” Babcock said, of the Sharks. “Right now, in their last three games they’ve worked real hard, they’ve limited the other team’s opportunity, they’ve gotten the pucks to the net, their power play is relentless on retrieval, they get the puck back. They’ve got a good team.
“It should be a heck of a hockey game. They’ve got points in three straight with five (points) out of a possible six points.”
Follow Bill Roose on Twitter | @RooseBill