DETROIT – Jordin Tootoo became a victim to a numbers game when the Red Wings placed the veteran agitator on waivers Wednesday afternoon.
“We have too many right wingers. We’re not giving him a fair opportunity,” Wings coach Mike Babcock said. “He’s done nothing wrong. He’s played hard. He’s been a good teammate. He’s done all those things right. We’ll see what happens.”
NHL clubs have until noon Thursday to make a claim on Tootoo, who is under contract with the Red Wings through the 2014-15 season.
“If Toot’s can get himself a place to play where he gets to play every night that’s fantastic, good for him,” Babcock said, “if not, we’ll talk to him tomorrow and we’ll figure out what we’re doing here tomorrow.”
If Tootoo clears, and he’s reassigned to Grand Rapids of the American Hockey League, the Wings will receive $925,000 in cap space relief. Wednesday’s move leaves the Red Wings with 14 forwards, which doesn’t include Gustav Nyquist, who is tied for third in AHL scoring with seven goals and eight assists in 11 games with the Griffins.
This season, Tootoo has no points and is a minus-4 with one penalty – a five-minute major for his fight with Winnipeg’s Chris Thorburn on Monday.
Tootoo began his NHL career in 2003 in Nashville, where he still holds the Predators’ all-time mark for penalty-minutes with 725. He signed a three-year free agent contract with the Red Wings in July 2012.
Babcock also said that Johan Franzen will not return to the Red Wings’ lineup in time for Thursday’s home game against the Dallas Stars. Franzen missed two games after he left early in Friday’s 4-3 win at Calgary with an undisclosed illness.
“I don’t know what the schedule is on Mule,” Babcock said, “I just know he’s not feeling good.”
HOME COOKING: The Red Wings return home after they collected six of a possible eight points on a four-game swing through western Canada.
Goalie Jimmy Howard hopes there’s some carryover from the road.
“We’re going to have to find a way to get on a roll here because we got to make this a tough place to play,” Howard said. “This is a great place to play, especially in front of our fans, how passionate they are. We just got to come out and be focused tomorrow night.”
So far this season, the Wings are 3-2-2 at Joe Louis Arena, and their 6-3-0 record on the road is the best among Eastern Conference teams.
Typically, the Red Wings have struggled in their first home game following a long road trip. But after Monday’s 4-2 disappointment in Winnipeg – where the Wings were badly outshot by the Jets, 47-28 – Babcock expects a strong showing against the Stars.
“We struggled the last game of the trip to make sure that wasn’t going to happen (Thursday),” Babcock said. “We know we’ve got eight of the next 10 at home. We all know how important playing at home is and we know when we turn the puck over we’re no good.”
The Red Wings have managed to simplify their game on the road, but at home it’s a far different story where they have averaged 11.1 giveaways per game. Detroit has protected the puck much better on the road, allowing 7.2 giveaways per game.
“That’s one of those questions that if it was that easy we’d be doing it,” forward Drew Miller said. “I don’t think anyone in this locker room’s worried about how we’re playing at home, all I know is that we have to correct it. We’re not panicking about it.
“We’re hoping this road trip, even though we had a tough game there in Winnipeg, we can take all those positives from the road and we’re going to try and take that back home. We’re home here for a lot of games. … We’ve got a chance to turn it around. That’s the approach we have to have. You have to win your games at home.”
PK STRENGTH: The Red Wings have killed off a season-long 18 straight penalties and now rank No. 9 in the league, having killed 52-of-61 chances. The last power-play goal that Detroit allowed was Benoit Pouliot’s second-period tally in the New York Rangers’ 3-2 overtime win on Oct. 26.
Even without defenseman Jonathan Ericsson, who is still out with a slightly separated shoulder, the Wings’ PK is among the league leaders. Ericsson is averaging a team-high 2:59 of PK ice-time.
“We got in lanes. We were able to block shots,” Babcock said. “I don’t think our scheme was very good in Winnipeg, they had too much coming at us. When we lost E we got in trouble, but we’ve found a way to sort it out here for a little bit, but it’ll be nice to have E back here in that area.”
Though Vancouver, Edmonton, Calgary and Winnipeg all own struggling power plays, which are in the bottom third of the league, shutting them down was still a huge thing for the Wings, defenseman Kyle Quincey said
“If we win the specialty teams battle nine times out of 10 we’re going to win the game, so we’ve put a huge emphasis on the penalty kill,” Quincey said. “You see in practice we worked on that for a good 10-15 minutes. On this team it seems like we have our power-play guys and our PK guys, and the penalty kill for us, really, is our power play. So we take a lot of pride in it.”
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