Lidstrom, Howard each get an A+ in Wings’ first-quarter grades

DETROIT – The Wings want to get off this rollercoaster-of-a-ride that has been the first quarter of the 2011-12 season.

After opening the year with five straight wins, the Wings went winless in their next six, losing five of those games. They went on to put another four-game winning streak before dropping their next two, which made it five straight losses on the road.

Detroit ended its four-game road trip with two straight wins, which has grown to five straight after a convincing three wins in four nights highlighted by a shootout win over the defending Stanley Cup champs.

“I’d rather not think about that one because after that we all know what happened,” said Henrik Zetterberg, when asked about what happened the last time the Wings won five straight this season. “We’ll live in the moment. We are happy with how we’re playing now.”

“It has been a rollercoaster if you look at the five-game segments,” Nicklas Lidstrom. “We won five, we lost five, then we were 5-1 or 4-1 or something, so we’ve been kind of up and down.”

Despite that the Wings sit just two points behind Chicago for the top spot in the Western Conference. However, the eighth, ninth and 10th seeds – St. Louis, Edmonton and Los Angeles – are just three points behind Detroit in the standings.

“It has been weird, definitely,” Niklas Kronwall said. “Not the way we want to be, obviously. Winning and losing every once in a while, that’s not what we do in here. We always have more consistency than we’ve had. I don’t think we’ve played that many really bad games. All in all we’ve been OK, but not good enough to win on some nights.”

The Wings rank eighth in goals scored and fifth in goals against. The power play is seventh, but the penalty kill as struggled sitting at 19th in the league.

Here are individual grades at the first quarter of the season.

Forwards

Justin Abdelkader (C+): 2 goals, 3 assists, +1 – As interchangeable of a forward the Wings have; can play in the top six, grind things out and throws his body around.

Todd Bertuzzi (C): 1 goal, 4 assists, +4 – If his line of Franzen and Datsyuk remains intact his offensive numbers will improve as will his time on the power play.

Fabian Brunnstrom (Inc.): 0 goals, 1 assist, -2 – Wings coach Mike Babcock said he sees him as a top six forward one day.

Danny Cleary (C-): 4 goals, 3 assists, -3 – After a career-high 26 goals last season the start to this year has been quite disappointing as far as offensive numbers go.

Pavel Datsyuk (B): 6 goals, 13 assists, +1 – After a slow start to the year he seems to heating up with four goals and five assists in his last six games.

Patrick Eaves (C): 0 goals, 1 assist, 0 – Could not find his way back in the lineup after missing some time with a bad back; fractured his jaw on Saturday.

Cory Emmerton (C-): 1 goal, 1 assist, +4 – Has been held pointless after a goal and an assist in the season opener, but has been a reliable center on the fourth line.

Johan Franzen (B+): 10 goals, 12 assists, +10 – In 12 of the Wings’ 14 wins he has 22 points. In the eight other games (0-7-1) he’s been held pointless.

Valtteri Filppula (A-): 7 goals, 12 assists, +8 – He’s nearly halfway to his career high in points (40) for a season and we’re just a quarter of the way through.

Darren Helm (B): 2 goals, 2 assists, +1 – Continues to show signs that the Wings have another Kris Draper type player on their hands.

Tomas Holmstrom (B): 3 goals, 6 assists, 0 – He continues to dazzle us with how he’s the best in the league when it comes to net-front-presence. All three of his goals have come on the power play.

Jiri Hudler (B-): 2 goals, 10 assists, +4 – After a fast start he cooled down, got benched and know he’s chipping in every now and then, which is already ahead of last year’s numbers.

Drew Miller (C+): 2 goals, 4 assists, +7 – No longer in a rotation to get playing time on the fourth line.

Gustav Nyquist (Inc.): 0 goals, 0 assists, 0 – Showed signs he’s for real in the preseason.

Henrik Zetterberg (B): 5 goals, 8 assists, +1 – Just like his one-time linemate, it’s been a slow start to the season, but he’s got two goals and four assists in his last four games.

Defensemen

Mike Commodore (Inc.): 0 goals, 0 assists, 0 – A sprained MCL didn’t help his bid at winning a job on the blue line; he’s played in just three games.

Jonathan Ericsson (C): 0 goals, 2 assists, +2 – Hasn’t been an offensive threat like the Wings had hoped so therefore hasn’t seen much if any power-play time.

Jakub Kindl (B-): 0 goals, 4 assists, +2 – As been as solid as any sixth man on the blue-line’s depth chart could be and has shown a nice physical upside.

Niklas Kronwall (B): 6 goals, 4 assists, 0 – The Wings were smart locking him up with a long-term deal early in the season and making him an alternate captain.

Nicklas Lidstrom (A+): 6 goals, 10 assists, +8 – He’s playing like he’s got another year in him.

Brendan Smith (Inc.): 0 goals, 2 assists, -1 – In his brief time in Detroit showed he’s an NHL defenseman; Wings want him to play minutes so that’s why he’s in Grand Rapids.

Brad Stuart (B-): 3 goals, 1 assist, +4 – Already a goal behind trying is season high output with the Wings; had a career-high 10 goals his rookie season in San Jose.

Ian White (B): 4 goals, 7 assists, +11 – Has been everything the Wings were looking for when they needed to replace Brian Rafalski, he’s already matched his goal output from a year ago.

Goalies

Jimmy Howard (A+): 13-5-1, 1.87 GAA, .930 SV% – Has been the Wings’ best player night after night with 19 starts in 22 games; he leads the league in wins and shutouts.

Ty Conklin (D): 1-2-0, 3.33 GAA, .880 SV% – After a 29-save shutout in his first game he imploded with seven goals against in his next start and hasn’t found his way back into the lineup.

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