DETROIT – Coach Mike Babcock plans to shuffle the Red Wings lineup for tonight’s game against the struggling Calgary Flames, who come to town sporting the league’s worst record with just one win in six games.
Points are crucial for the Wings who need to make hay this month with eight of the next 11 games at Joe Louis Arena, which is why Babcock is looking for a spark. In tonight will be a pair of rookies – defenseman Brian Lashoff and forward Tomas Tatar, while two veterans – defenseman Jakub Kindl and forward Patrick Eaves, will get the night off.
“I just want to win,” declared Babcock. “It’s just about trying to figure out what’s the best option that gives us the best chance that’s what you’re trying to do on a nightly basis.
“Lash did a real good job for us on the penalty kill. Specialty teams are huge for us. The Flames’ power is about eighth in the league, around 24 percent, we’re probably going to take a couple penalties, but we want to be disciplined so we want to kill them off and we feel Lash gives us the best opportunity to do that.”
Since getting blitzed in a 6-0 shutout on opening night in St. Louis, the Red Wings have improved immensely, garnering points in four of the last five games with a 3-1-1 record.
But there’s still room for improvement, Babcock said.
“We’re in the battle like everyone else,” he said. “We’ve played two really poor games then a whole bunch of games where we like our team. Our first game and our last game weren’t good enough with energy with excitement with the way we played. I really thought we got on our way the other night when we played St. Louis, but it just goes to show you a coach should never think like that. You should just be scared your whole life and things will turn out all right.”
The Wings also hope that Tatar can bring some secondary scoring when he skates with center Pavel Datsyuk and forward Valtteri Filppula. Detroit is still looking for someone to jump up and fill a scoring punch role vacated by the loss of Jiri Hudler, who signed with the Flames during the off-season.
“We’re hoping (Tatar) is a bit like Huds,” Babcock said. “We’re not generating much from our bottom six. Originally we were going to play him there, but we’re going to put him with Fil and Pavel and give him a chance. That gives me better depth on the third line. You look at their third group with (Curtis) Glencross, (Lee) Stempniak and (Mikael) Backlund that line’s got more goals than the top two lines so our third line has to be good tonight.”
The leadership of Henrik Zetterberg’s line has done more than their share of goal-scoring for the Wings, who are still seeking offensive production from their bottom-six forwards. Zetterberg has five goals and seven assists in the last seven games, while Damien Brunner (four goals, two assists) and Johan Franzen (two goals, five assists) are also riding six- and five-game point streaks, respectively.
“Listen, every team is looking for points,” Cleary said. “The same story line is going to happen between now and April, and it’s only going to get more intensified. Calgary is obviously looking to get going. We’re looking to get going. We’re on a home stand here with a lot of games at home. We actually had a great schedule to start the year and we need to take advantage of it.”
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