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Vets need to step it up down the stretch

Babcock challenges team leaders to play with greater sense of urgency

Friday, 03.28.2014 / 4:35 PM ET / News
By Bill Roose  - Managing Editor | DetroitRedWings.com
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Vets need to step it up down the stretch
Red Wings coach Mike Babcock told reporters Friday that he wants veterans like David Legwand and Daniel Alfredsson to play with more urgency as the team fights for its playoff lives. (Photo by Getty Images)

DETROIT – With nine games left it’s do or die time for the Red Wings.

While injuries are an easy scapegoat for the dire situation the Wings find themselves, the youngsters from Grand Rapids have certainly done their share in keeping the club above water as they try to reach the Stanley Cup playoffs for the 23rd straight season.

But now coach Mike Babcock wants to see more urgency and production from the older guys on the team.

Detroit has surrendered two-goal leads in the first period of the last two games. Both games resulted in losses – 3-2 at Columbus, and a 5-4 defeat to the Montreal Canadiens Thursday at Joe Louis Arena.

And Babcock points a finger at the veterans, while sharing some of the blame.

“Our starts have been fantastic basically all year, mostly here we’ve been really, really good,” Babcock said. “We weren’t as good, two games ago we took some penalties but I thought we played alright. I thought last game we couldn’t skate so is that because I didn’t practice them the day before? I gave them an optional. I don’t know the answer to that I just know it’s unacceptable to start like that.

“It’s a game we’re playing. We have to find a way to win games. Our guys understand that, they’re big boys, it’s right on the board there we talk about it every day, they’re fine.”

Veterans David Legwand, Daniel Alfredsson and Johan Franzen have struggled lately. Despite having the most NHL experience of any of the Wings’ forwards, the trio has been a combined minus-14 in the past three games, including a minus-7 against the Canadiens.

“Well they weren’t good,” Babcock said referring to the team’s veterans. “You just gotta play better, that’s all there is to it.”

Babcock plans to stick with the lines that he finished with Thursday, swapping centers Legwand and Darren Helm when the Wings face the Toronto Maple Leafs Saturday night at Air Canada Centre.

At Friday’s practice, Babcock demoted Legwand to the third line with Joakim Andersson and Alfredsson, while Helm was promoted to the top line, centering forwards Gustav Nyquist and Franzen.

Since coming over from Nashville at the NHL’s trade deadline, Legwand has undergone a bit of a learning curve, producing two goals, seven points and a minus-8 rating in 12 games.

“I talked to the coaches this morning and figured it out,” Legwand said. “They have a very open door policy and if you have questions you can go in there and ask. He’s going to tell you things he thinks too. It’s a good open door policy.”

Legwand said he needs to concentrate on being more responsible at the Wings’ end of the ice.

“The defensive zone is a little different for me, being a man-on-man system. Those types of things are a little different for me right now,” he said. “It’s a different system and a different group of players. It’s getting used to a few different things and things I have to adjust to, but you have to be a professional about it and do it the right way. It’s crunch time, there are nine games left and every point matters.”

Pavel Datsyuk
Center  - DET
Goals: 15 | Assists: 18 | Pts: 33
Shots: 113 | +/-: -2
DATSYUK SKATES AGAIN: For the first time in more than three weeks, Pavel Datsyuk participated in a Red Wings’ practice, taking part in many of the team’s drills.

While Babcock was glad to welcome the superstar back to the team’s daily routine, the coach remains unaware of a hard timetable for Datsyuk's return to the lineup.

“Well it’s nice to have him out there,” Babcock said. “I don’t know when he’s playing or I don’t know anything about it.”

Datsyuk skated on his own Monday and Tuesday, and skated with a handful of teammates at  Wednesday's optional.

TORONTO TEST: The Maple Leafs, losers of six straight games, return home to host the Red Wings Saturday night after playing in Philadelphia tonight.

Regardless of their recent implosion, Babcock is preparing for a desperate Leafs’ team, who are 1-4-0 on home ice this month, and fight to stay in the playoff hunt.

“I don’t know how they could be any more hungry than we are, that to me is an impossibility,” Babcock said. “You have two teams that are dying to get in the playoffs, I would think it’d be a heck of a game and a real battle and that’s what you want. We have to work hard and we have to play with good detail and we’ll give ourselves a chance.”

Follow Bill Roose on Twitter | @Bill_Roose

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EASTERN CONFERENCE
  TEAM GP W L OT GF GA PTS
1 p - NYR 82 53 22 7 248 187 113
2 y - MTL 82 50 22 10 214 184 110
3 x - TBL 82 50 24 8 259 206 108
4 x - WSH 82 45 26 11 237 199 101
5 x - NYI 82 47 28 7 245 224 101
6 x - DET 82 43 25 14 231 211 100
7 x - OTT 82 43 26 13 232 208 99
8 x - PIT 82 43 27 12 217 204 98
9 BOS 82 41 27 14 209 201 96
10 FLA 82 38 29 15 198 213 91
11 CBJ 82 42 35 5 227 248 89
12 PHI 82 33 31 18 212 223 84
13 NJD 82 32 36 14 176 209 78
14 CAR 82 30 41 11 183 219 71
15 TOR 82 30 44 8 206 257 68
16 BUF 82 23 51 8 153 269 54

STATS

2014-2015 REGULAR SEASON
SKATERS: GP G A +/- Pts
H. Zetterberg 77 17 49 -6 66
P. Datsyuk 63 26 39 12 65
T. Tatar 82 29 27 6 56
G. Nyquist 82 27 27 -11 54
J. Abdelkader 71 23 21 3 44
N. Kronwall 80 9 35 -4 44
R. Sheahan 79 13 23 -3 36
D. Helm 75 15 18 7 33
D. DeKeyser 80 2 29 11 31
S. Weiss 52 9 16 -2 25
 
GOALIES: W L OT Sv% GAA
J. Howard 23 13 11 .910 2.44
P. Mrazek 16 9 2 .918 2.38

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