DETROIT – Wings coach Mike Babcock and Stephen Weiss agree on one thing, the center simply needs to relax.
Through 11 games, Weiss has just two goals and is a minus-4.
“You want to be the best player on the ice every night,” Weiss said. “And sometimes when it doesn’t happen you tighten up a little bit. Even though you’re not trying to, you’re telling yourself all the right things and try not to think too much, but when you get out there sometimes that’s all out the window.
“It’s tough battling yourself trying to get out of your own way,” Weiss added.
Weiss was the second-line center the Wings coveted in free agency when it became apparent that Valtteri Filppula had priced himself out of their plans.
Weiss signed a five-year deal on the first day of free agency at $4.9 million.
“The first thing you have to do when you come to a new place is you have to breathe, and you have to give yourself a break, and you have to spend no time thinking and spend all your time playing,” Babcock said. “That’s easy for me to say, but when you come in and get off to a good start and three bounce in off your leg, you get rolling and you relax. And when you don’t you pressure up.”
To try and jump start Weiss’ game, Babcock took him off centering the second line and added him between Daniel Cleary and Tomas Tatar on the third line over the last two games.
“Just look after defense and once he settles down the rest will come,” Babcock said.
He also took Weiss off the power play and added him to the penalty kill.
“I’m not going to worry about results,” Weiss said. “I’m just going to go out and play and try and be as loose as I can. I felt a little bit better that way. When you’re trying too hard and trying to do too much and wanting it so much sometimes that gets in your way. I think that’s been the case a little bit at the start of the season. I’m just trying to relax and not worry about results at the end of the night. That stuff will all take care of itself in the end.”
Prior to coming to Detroit, Weiss, 30, had 145 goals and 249 assists in 654 career games with the Florida Panthers.
“I haven’t felt any pressure, it’s all that I put on myself,” said Weiss, who was the fourth overall pick by the Panthers in the 2001 NHL Entry Draft. “I need to handle the puck and do all those little things and it will all take care of itself.
“I’ve got a different mindset,” Weiss continued. “I’m going to try and create and all those type of things. Our line has jump and has created some scoring chances.”
Babcock’s plan heading into training camp was for Weiss to play center between Daniel Alfredsson and Johan Franzen.
The line spent little time together at camp and in preseason due to injuries at different times to Alfredsson and Franzen and therefore was unable to form chemistry.
“This falls on me,” Weiss said. “You just have to get out of your own way, not worry about the results and just go out and have fun. You have to realize you’re a good hockey player and you’re here for a reason. Just get the heck out of your own way that’s the key.”