Loss leaves Wings with issues to address
It's hard to call them problems because it's still way too early in the season, but after Friday's 4-3 loss to St. Louis here at the Ericsson Globe, the Red Wings enter Saturday's game asking themselves:
How long it will take Henrik Zetterberg's line to round into shape? What to do about a power play that looked disjointed in the season opener? Will Chris Osgood play? Is hulking Swedish defenseman Jonathan Ericsson healthy?
Let's start with Zetterberg, who missed all eight of the Red Wings' preseason games in North America with a sore groin. He played Wednesday in Karlstad against Farjestads BK, but said even after that game that he needed to be better and that will come with time.
He, Todd Bertuzzi and Dan Cleary, who also battled a groin problem during training camp, were relatively anonymous Friday night, contributing just one assist while they combined for seven shots and a minus-6 rating.
"I thought (Valtteri) Filppula's line, (Justin) Abdelkader's line and (Pavel) Datsyuk's line were fine for us," Wings coach Mike Babcock said. "But we didn't get much out of the group that hadn't played with us."
Zetterberg said during his postgame press conference that his body feels good, but he just has to play better.
"We had a few chances, especially in the second period, we just had a tough time getting the puck in deep," Zetterberg added.
The power play was a bone of contention for Babcock, who even asked rhetorically, "Did we score on the power play?"
Detroit did, when Ville Leino snapped home a shot 7:17 into the second period with Alex Steen in the box serving the last 10 seconds of a double-minor for high sticking.
However, the Red Wings failed to score on a 5-on-3 for 1:36 late in the first period. They managed only two shots -- one by Nicklas Lidstrom and another by Jason Williams -- during the two-man advantage.
Overall, the Wings were 1-for-5 with eight shots in 8:15 of power-play time.
"The power play wasn't working the way we want it to," Detroit defenseman Niklas Kronwall said. "We have to do a better job of taking it to the net. Any time we have a chance to shoot the puck we have to take that shot. Today felt like we hesitated a little bit and we took some shots at bad angles. I think we could do a better job of taking the puck from the corner, get in there and get traffic and be strong in front of their net."
As for Osgood, Babcock was non-committal. It wouldn't be totally surprising if he uses backup Jimmy Howard, who played well in the final two preseason games, because it's the second night of a back-to-back and Osgood had a two-day virus earlier in the week.
"I haven't thought about it that much," Babcock said. "We're going to talk about it as a group and go from there."
There may not be much to talk about when it comes to Ericsson. He took a shot off the unprotected part of his ankle, above the boot, after scoring his goal in the first period Friday and could go for only 1:03 in the second period before leaving the game for good.
If Ericsson can't go, Derek Meech will jump in and play with Brett Lebda on the Wings' third pair.
"We're going to wait and see," Babcock said. "Ericsson is a real important player for us and a real important penalty killer. Nick (Lidstrom) doesn't have to penalty kill near as much if he's out there, so it puts more stress on your D."
Stress is the last thing the Red Wings need now. A win would at least salvage the trip and maybe even answer some of their pressing questions.