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Wings seek contributions from third line

by Bill Roose / Detroit Red Wings

Henrik Zetterberg's first-period goal was the lone highlight of the Red Wings' 4-1 loss at Boston on Saturday. (Photo by Getty Images)

DETROIT – Through three games, the Red Wings’ third line isn’t where they’d like to be.

Without a single point between them, Todd Bertuzzi, Joakim Andersson and Daniel Cleary have a combined minus-8 as the team’s only forwards with negative ratings.

“None of us are really happy with how we played last game and maybe not the game before,” said Anderson, who is minus-3 with three shots on goal. “We know we can do a lot better. We need to play strong on the puck and play more down low in their end and get there more often. I’m not happy that we’ve been on the ice when the other team has scored.”

Coach Mike Babcock would like to see positive results from the third line, though he is pleased with their consistent effort.

“I thought they were OK in Boston,” Babcock said. “I just think do good things and good things tend to happen. I’m a big believer in that. Every year we get excited about Pav never scoring in this game and look at the record book at the end of the year and he has 80 points every year. Let things evolve here and it’ll work out. I think they’ve played pretty hard.”

The problem for the line mates is that they are also the second unit on the Wings’ power play, which is 0-for-8 to start the season.

“I don’t know. It’s been OK,” Cleary said. “Obviously, you want to be good at both ends, but it’s three games in; not that concerned.”

Last season and into the playoffs, Andersson centered a successful third line with Gustav Nyquist and Damien Brunner. With Nyquist in Grand Rapids and Brunner playing with the New Jersey Devils, Babcock assigned Bertuzzi and Cleary to Andersson’s line, which showed promise during the exhibition season.

“Bert and Clears are good players and both are strong on the puck,” Andersson said. “We should be able to create some scoring chances.

“If we get down low and in their end more often we’re going to get more chances to shoot the puck so we have to start getting in their end more. It feels like when we’ve been out there the last two games it’s been kind of like ping pong, back and forth too much. That’s not the kind of game our line wants to play too much.”

BACKING THE TIGERS: It’s not unusual to see players in the Red Wings’ locker room wearing ball caps with the Old English D of the Detroit Tigers on them. After all, both professional franchises are owned by the Ilitch family.

With the Tigers playing in the American League Division Series, and hosting Game 3 against the Oakland Athletics on Monday afternoon, some players were expected to attend the pivotal game at Comerica Park.

Jimmy Howard and Justin Abdelkader might be the biggest baseball fans on the Red Wings’ roster, which, as Americans, makes since among a team mainly comprised of Europeans, like forward Tomas Tatar, who’s never played the game.

“I cheer for the Tigers. I know what they’re doing, but I don’t know much about other teams,” said Tatar, who has been to a few Tigers’ games in the past. “It was something new for me when I came over to the states, same with football.”

Wearing a Tigers’ cap after Monday’s practice at Joe Louis Arena, forward Daniel Alfredsson is trying to become a baseball fan.

“I haven’t followed baseball up in Ottawa but I do watch playoffs in any sport, but obviously following Tigers now,” he said. “I’d love to catch a game. I visited a friend in Boston, saw one game there, half a game in Pittsburgh. That’s as much baseball as I’ve gotten in. … It would be fun to watch a playoff game, for sure.”

Howard hosted teammates in a Comerica Park suite for a playoff game two years ago, but Tuesday’s Game 4 will be a night with his wife.

“I’m taking Rachel with me,” he said, “so it’ll be a fun date night to the Tigers game.’’

FOUR-DAY BREAK: The Red Wings have four days off before they return to action on Thursday against the Phoenix Coyotes at The Joe.

With the break the Wings began working on getting back to basics, which were missing on their 4-1 loss at Boston on Saturday.

“There’s some structural things – you could tell against Boston – that we weren’t doing right, it doesn’t look very good,” defenseman Niklas Kronwall said. “There’s going to be nights where you don’t have your energy on top but you can fall back on your structure. It’s a lot easier. That’s something we have to keep working on as we move forward. That’s something you can never work too much on.”

The power play, which is 0-for-8, is another area that needs work.

“It can get better. We need to depend on it,” Alfredsson said. “We’ve done some good things, but we haven’t put the puck in the net and that’s what it’s all about.

“It’s not big changes, it’s small adjustments. It’s one of those things where I believe it’s a new look and all we need is a couple to go in and we’ll feel great. Last game against Boston we didn’t do a good job of getting zone time and then it’s tough to score.”

The Red Wings are still 2-1-0, but getting the offense on track sooner than later is key.

“It’s critical we keep taking steps,” Babcock said. “We made lots of mistakes, mental mistakes in Game 3 that you shouldn’t make. Was it because we were mentally fatigued, or was it that Boston was on us, who knows the answer to that question. I just know you can’t make them.”

BIG (E) WHEEL: Jonathan Ericsson left the ice early on Monday, choosing to sit out sprints at the end of practice as a “precaution” for his sore groin.

“Everything is good,” the defenseman said. “My groin was a little sore after the game. Didn’t feel worse by skating, but when we did those sprints at the end, just wanted to be careful.”

Follow Bill Roose on Twitter | @Bill_Roose

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