Red Wings head coach Mike Babcock isn’t worried about the lack of production from players like Pavel Datsyuk this season. Instead, Babcock attributes the lack of production from key players, that also includes Nicklas Lidstrom, Brian Rafalski and Henrik Zetterberg, to a shift in team mentality from a puck-possession style of play to a more defensive-minded effort while riddled with injuries. With many players coming back from injuries in recent games, Babcock expects that production will improve and that everything will work out.
“People have talked about the (decline in) scoring from Nick (Lidstrom) and Rafi (Brian Rafalski) this year, and then Pavel for that matter,” Babcock said. “It’s amazing when all you do is check, check, check. The reason they are like that is because they don’t have the puck near as much as (they) used to. Suddenly, now we got the puck all the time. Guys will start scoring.”
Datsyuk understands that he needs to pick up the offense, and now that players are coming back from injuries the team can begin to control the puck and play a style of game more similar to what the players are used to.
“At the beginning of the season, we lost so many guys we (focused) more on defense. Now, the defense is playing better, so we go back to (focusing on) offense,” Datsyuk said. “We get more players back, we play together, now we come back to our style. But we need more scoring.”
Jonathan Ericsson and Dan Cleary both recently returned from injuries. Reports indicate that Niklas Kronwall and Tomas Holmstrom both may be about as week away from returning to action with Johan Franzen and Jason Williams expected to return after the Olympic break.
Captain Nicklas Lidstrom has come alive recently with two goals and three assists in his last five games. Lidstrom is also a plus-4 over that time period and has 25 points on the season. Brian Rafalski has three points, including two goals, over his last five games as well. Datsyuk currently sits at 36 points and only has two assists in his last five.
“It’s not frustrating,” Datsyuk said. “You always want to score more, but the first priority is to help team.”
Before tonight’s game against the Wild, Detroit sits in 9th place overall in the Western Conference with 56 points – one point behind the 8th place Los Angeles Kings. While it’s better to get at least one point in a shootout loss than receive nothing for your efforts, the Wings need to start getting two points from lesser opponents and need to steal some points from conference and division rivals.