DETROIT – Puck recovery and second-chance opportunities are must-haves for any successful power play unit.
Unfortunately for the Red Wings, those vital components have been missing from their special teams group through the first five games of a compressed 48-game season. Detroit hasn’t had much punch on their power play, which is currently in the bottom third of the league. The Wings have two power-play goals with only 30 shots on goal during 26 chances.
There’s certainly plenty of fire-power on the first unit – with forwards Henrik Zetterberg, Pavel Datsyuk and Johan Franzen, and Niklas Kronwall and Damien Brunner manning the point – however, the Red Wings would like to get more pucks to the net.
“We feel that we have great personnel out there,” said forward Daniel Cleary, who plays on the second PP unit. “I feel we have to have a little more work ethic out there. Get the loose pucks back after shots. That’s what we were trying to emphasis on out there today. But retrieves are important. … I think we have to shoot a little bit more from the outside.”
While the last three Stanley Cup champions, Los Angeles, Boston, and Chicago, had middle of the road power play units in seasons leading up to their title runs, the Wings feel that their power play must be more of an offensive weapon.
The Red Wings spent a huge chunk of time devoted to working on the power play Monday afternoon at Joe Louis Arena, where they will host the Dallas Stars for the second time in a week on Tuesday.
“When we have our opportunities to work on it, we got to put more time on it because it's so important this year,” Zetterberg said. “We think we have the right personnel. We just got to keep working, keep practicing on it and execute better when we get the chance.”
The Wings must also find a way to get better on the penalty kill, where they’ve allowed eight goals on 25 chances. The PK is currently ranked No. 29.
“With the shortened season the margin of error is small, almost non-existent,” Cleary said. “We’re going to have to be a hard working team. We have to play good defense. We have to be good on the penalty kill, and we have to capitalize on the power play. That will determine our success.”
FIRST-PERIOD DROUGHT: Over the last two seasons, the Red Wings finished among the top four teams in first-period scoring, netting 81 goals last season, and 75 goals in the previous campaign.
However, this season has started must slower for the Red Wings, who, along with the Carolina Hurricanes, are the only teams who haven’t produce a goal in the first period this season.
“You always want to get that first goal and grab hold of the momentum,” forward Drew Miller said. “I think we’re getting opportunities. I think if we work a little bit harder, maybe a little smarter, we’re going to get those chances and they’ll go in for us.”
Coach Mike Babcock didn’t think the Red Wings started off that great against Chicago on Sunday, even though Detroit launched more than 36 percent of its 30 total shots on goal in the opening period.
“I think we put our toe in the water to see what temperature it was,” he said. “Let’s just get out there and jump on it. That’s what we have to try and do here tomorrow at home. I don’t think we’ve been particularly good or particularly bad. I don’t think there are a whole lot of patterns to look for yet. It’s five games in, but in saying all that you’d like to start great every night and you’d like to have the lead, but the other team is trying too so sometimes it doesn’t happen.”
BOTTOM-SIX ENERGY: Even without Darren Helm (sore back), one of the league’s top third-line centers, the Red Wings’ bottom-six forwards played another intense up-tempo style Sunday at the United Center.
“I think every game the third- and fourth-lines have been getting better at creating that energy and getting in on the forecheck and hitting,” said Miller, who skated on the fourth-line Sunday with center Cory Emmerton and winger Jordin Tootoo. “First couple of games we didn't establish that, play that the way we know we're able to. Games since then we've been a lot better, getting in there taking the body, getting on the cycle. Last night was probably one of our better games at doing that. I think we're making progress.”
Against the Blackhawks, the bottom six forwards were credited with nine of the Red Wings’ 19 hits, including five by center Justin Abdelkader.
Helm went for an MRI on his back, and tests showed no structural damage. However, the Wings’ center will miss Tuesday’s home game against Dallas, and is more than likely questionable for Friday (vs. St. Louis) and Saturday (at Columbus).
“Today was the first day I took shots during practice so that was a step forward. We’ll see,” he said. “Maybe I’ll need a few more good practices out there before I’m 100 percent, but I feel it’s going in the right direction.”
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