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Wings coach Mike Babcock: “We give them two goals no matter how you look at it.”

DETROIT >> All in a span of just less than seven minutes in the opening period, the Detroit Red Wings’ lost their home-ice advantage over the Boston Bruins.

And all because of one bad goal and one bad line change.

Boston took back home ice after a 3-0 victory over Detroit in Game 3 of their first round Eastern Conference best-of-seven playoff series Tuesday night at Joe Louis Arena.

“We give them two goals no matter how you look at it,” Wings coach Mike Babcock said. “It was like the energy in the building, the excitement, whatever it was we didn’t handle it to good. We were off kilter from the get-go. We fumbled the puck around.”

Boston, which dropped Game 1 of the series 1-0, has outscored Detroit 7-1 over the last two games.

Dougie Hamilton, Jordan Caron and Patrice Bergeron scored for the Bruins, who last won a game at Joe Louis Arena on March 11, 2007. Tuukka Rask made 23 saves.

Jimmy Howard stopped 31 shots.

“We made some uncharacteristic mistakes there in the first and it gave them some life,” Danny DeKeyser said. “They put home a couple goals right away there that took some life out of our sails.

“It’s always tough to get into a 2-0 hole, especially at the start of the game,” DeKeyser continued. “It’s hard any part of the season, but it’s harder at playoff time. They buckled down and played some solid D.”

Hamilton scored first on the power play, one that Howard would want back, wristing a shot over his glove hand.

It was Hamilton’s first career playoff goal.

The Wings were penalized for too many men on the ice.

“It’s probably one I should have had,” Howard said.

The Bruins are now 3-for-8 of the power play in the series.

“That goal can’t go in,” Babcock said.

Earlier in the period, Hamilton rang a shot off the goal post to the right of Howard just three minutes into the game, intercepting an attempted backhand clearing attempt by Pavel Datsyuk.

The Bruins doubled their lead seven minutes later taking advantage of a horrible line change by the Wings. Shawn Thornton picked up the puck at center ice to go alone in on Howard, who made the save, but it was followed up by Caron blasting it home.

“I didn’t think we played very well from the start,” Niklas Kronwall said. “I didn’t think we took care of the puck well enough, and again, I have to be better in those areas, help our team better. We made some mistakes. The second one was just a bad change by me. And those are freebies we can’t afford.”

Bergeron added an empty-net goal with two minutes left to play.

The Wings, who had won both regular season meetings at home be a combined score of 9-3, were 0-for-3 with the man advantage, making them 0-for-6 in the series.

“I thought the power play was a little bit better,” DeKeyser said. “It doesn’t really matter if it looks good. The purpose of the power play is to score goals and that’s not happening right now. We’ll look at the tape and try and change some things.”

The winner of this series will face Montreal after the Canadiens eliminated Tampa Bay in four straight games with their 4-3 win Tuesday night.

The Wings best chance to get back in the game came midway through the second period with 35 seconds of a 5-on-3 power play, but like all series long they were unable to beat Rask with the man advantage.

Then on a power play in the third, Johan Franzen feathered a pass to the front of the Bruins net that David Legwand was unable to redirect past Rask.

“It’s tough coming out of a 2-0 hole early in the first like that,” DeKeyser said. “We put ourselves in a bad position. They make it hard to score goals.”

Boston had back-to-back power plays to begin the second period that the Wings were able to kill off. The best scoring chance was by Darren Helm, who dinged one off the post to the left of Rask.

“They’re a veteran team,” Howard said. “They’ve been in situations playing with a lead. They played in the Stanley Cup Finals last year. They know what they’re doing out there. We’ve got to find a way to have a lot better start, get our young legs going and just skate and find ways of crashing the net, just getting in there and make him a little more uncomfortable.”

Game 4 is Thursday night at Joe Louis Arena.

“I think they’re a good team,” Howard said. “There’s a reason why they won the Presidents’ Trophy this year. They know what they’re doing. They play their systems really well, they box out and make it really hard to get free to get to the net. We’re just going to have to, all of us, get a little bit better.”

Babcock not worried about a suddenly cooled-off Nyquist

DETROIT >> Gustav Nyquist was the hottest goal scorer in the league in the month of March.

Once April hit, he cooled off.

He’s gone eight straight games without a goal.

“I need to try and use my speed a little more, shoot the puck and get on the inside,” Nyquist said Monday at Joe Louis Arena. “I’ve got to spin off those big guys, get in front of the net because that’s where the goals are going to be scored. That’s something I have to improve on for sure.”

Nyquist has one goal in April, which was the game winner against Boston on April 2.

“I need to shoot the puck more,” Nyquist said. “I haven’t shot the puck as much and that’s something I need to change.”
Nyquist has a total of 20 shots over his last eight games, four of which came in Sunday’s 4-1 loss in Boston that evened the best-of-seven first round series.
“It’s a tight game out there,” Nyquist said. “There aren’t many scoring chances.”

Despite playing in just 57 regular season games, Nyquist led the team with 28 goals.

“It’s not even scoring, you’ve got to compete, you’ve got to get playing like you can,” Wings coach Mike Babcock said. “Anytime you’ve been through it, and now suddenly instead of being a guy nobody ever heard of, like last year in the playoffs, you’re a guy they’ve heard of.

“His space is probably a little harder to come by,” Babcock continued. “You’ve just got to find your game.”

Tomas Tatar was second in goals with 19.

“The thing I know about Nyquie is he always seems to find his game,” Babcock said. “I’m not concerned. I had a chat with him (Sunday) night on the plane. I expect him to be very good.”

Johan Franzen: “We want to keep winning.”

DETROIT >> Quick update from the Wings’ morning skate prior to hosting the Carolina Hurricanes tonight at Joe Louis Arena in their final regular season home game.

Coach Mike Babcock will keep with the same lineup he’s had the last two games, sitting Joakim Andersson and Todd Bertuzzi.

“We have to get better as a team,” Babcock said after the skate. “It’s so important to get better as a team. Every year we have a system review as soon as we get in, in other words we look at the details in our game so we’re ready going in.

“We play four lines,” Babcock continued. “We roll you out the door. We don’t know who’s first or who’s fourth until the game’s over because whoever plays good gets to play and we’re going to do the same thing tonight. We have to tighten up details.”

Jimmy Howard will start.

The Wings host a Carolina team that has just 79 points on the year.

“There’s not really going to be any change,” Riley Sheahan said. “Obviously we’re comfortable with the spot we’re in, but we’ve still got to play and we’ve still got to stay focused and keep winning. We’re not going to change anything and we’re going to keep going in with the same attitude.”

If the season ended prior to tonight’s game, the Wings would face Boston in the opening round. If they’re able to climb into that first wild card spot in the Eastern Conference they would open with Pittsburgh.

“We just want to be playing well,” Justin Abdelkader said. “Any team that gets in they just want to be playing well. We’re not worried about we’re going to play. Everything will sort itself out.”

Detroit went 3-0-1 against the Bruins this year and ended the year 1-1-1 against the Penguins.

“We want to keep winning,” Johan Franzen said. “We want to win these last two games and maybe climb up a spot. So, that’s our focus right now.

“I think it’s more we want to keep the winning going and come into the playoffs with a good feeling,” Franzen continued when asked if it mattered who they played in the first round. “Even if you say a loss like that doesn’t matter, it’s still a loss and we all want to win all the time. You feel worse after you lose than after a win, so we want to keep building our confidence and keep playing good.”

Detroit ends the regular season Sunday in St. Louis.

Columbus and Philadelphia also have 91 points and both have two games left in the regular season. Both teams hold the tiebreaker on the Wings, wins in regulation.

“You want to go on the playoffs on a roll and play good these last two games so we feel good about ourselves going in,” Abdelkader said.

Petr Mrazek is being recalled to backup Howard tonight.

Season appears to be over for Stephen Weiss

DETROIT >> Stephen Weiss’ season appears to be over.

“I don’t really know where he’s at,” Wings general manager Ken Holland said Friday after team’s morning skate at Joe Louis Arena. “I know he’s frustrated. He’s not on the horizon to come back. I was just in there talking to Steve, talking to our trainers, everybody is a little bit frustrated because we obviously thought he would be back by now, actually a long time ago. So they’re going through a check list. Everybody’s frustrated. He’s not getting better the way we had hope. We might send him back next week to see the doc who performed surgery, but in the meantime, he continues his rehab.”

Weiss had sports hernia surgery on Dec. 23.

“The doctor who performed the surgery and the doctor in St. Louis, who gave a second opinion, both think that it’s not an issue,” Holland said. “Part of heeling is what they call breaking down scar tissue and is it the scar issue, is it some other issue? At this stage of the game I’m not expecting him back this year. I think that’s the way we have to go forward. I mean he’s not even practicing. So I really don’t know what to tell you.”

Weiss last played on Dec. 10.

Weiss was expected to return to the lineup right after the Olympic break.

“We’re a month in and he’s nowhere in sight, so when you’re talking about healing you’re really never 100 percent sure,” Holland said.

Weiss said last week he was a day away from returning when he suffered another setback.

“It’s been a nightmare,” Weiss said at the time. “I keep pushing and trying to make myself available because in the end if we get in (the playoffs) we’re going to need bodies to be available.

“I had to kind of go backwards there for a bit which was real tough to take,” Weiss continued. “For whatever reason it’s been a tough year for me trying to get healthy.”

Weiss, who signed a five-deal deal on the first day of free agency at $4.9 million a season, has just two goals and two assists in 26 games this season with Detroit.

Wings expect Alfredsson to play Friday; Datsyuk will skate with Helm and Abdelkader

DETROIT >> Quick update from the Wings’ morning skate at Joe Louis Arena prior to their game against the Buffalo Sabres.

Daniel Alfredsson (back) took part in it after not skating since last Sunday’s game against the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Wings coach Mike Babcock said Alfredsson will be reassessed when he returns later this afternoon.

Wings general manager Ken Holland said he thinks Alfredsson will play.

Babcock said he didn’t know who would be the healthy scratches if Alfredsson can go, but from how the morning skate looked it would be Todd Bertuzzi and Joakim Andersson.

Pavel Datsyuk confirmed he will play tonight against the Sabres, his first game back after missing the last 16 resting inflammation in his left knee.

He’ll center a line with Darren Helm and Justin Abdelkader.

Legwand a minus-8 since joining Wings; dropped to third line

DETROIT >> Wings coach Mike Babcock talked about needing more from his veterans after Thursday night’s loss to the Montreal Canadiens.

One of those players he was calling out is David Legwand.

“So, so,” Legwand said Friday after practice at Joe Louis Arena when asked to assess his performance since joining the Wings. “There is room to improve and be better in certain areas in the game.”

Legwand was dropped from the team’s top line in the second period Thursday to the third line, which is where he’ll begin the game Saturday night in Toronto

Legwand was also a minus-3 in the loss.

Over the last three games, Legwand has been a combined minus-6, which makes him a minus-8 with the Wings.

“We didn’t play very good so we changed things during the game,” Babcock said. “We’re just staying with what we finished with.”

Legwand will skate alongside Daniel Alfredsson and Joakim Andersson.

“You have to go out there and do what we can do to help the team out in whatever way possible,” Legwand said.

He played the fewest minutes (12:36) he’s played with the Wings since they traded for him at the deadline.

“It’s a different system and a different group of players,” said Legwand, who’ll be an unrestricted free agent this summer. “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.”

In 12 games this season with the Wings, Legwand has two goals and five assists.

“I think he’s been good, I didn’t think he was great (Thursday) but he was in a club with some other veteran guys that weren’t very good either so you know we weren’t good enough any way you look at it,” Babcock said.

Babcock’s top line is now Johan Franzen, Darren Helm and Gustav Nyquist, while the Kid Line remains intact of Tomas Tatar, Riley Sheahan and Tomas Jurco.

“(The veterans) weren’t good,” Babcock said. “You’ve just got to play better, that’s all there is to it.”

With nine games left in the regular season the Wings still control their own destiny.

“Your season pretty much boils down to nine games,” Legwand said. “We control our own destiny pretty much and it starts (Saturday) night with beating Toronto and continuing Sunday (against Tampa Bay). We can get two big wins over the weekend and move on from there and put this other stuff behind us.”

Smith will be paired with Kronwall to start against Penguins; Ericsson has surgery to repair broken finger

DETROIT >> Quick update from Wings practice at Joe Louis Arena, which wound up being an optional skate.

Five of the injured players – Darren Helm (concussion), Jonas Gustavsson (groin), Joakim Andersson (broken foot), Mikael Samuelsson (shoulder) and Daniel Cleary (knee) – skated.

Jonathan Ericsson did have surgery to repair a broken finger suffered in Tuesday’s 3-2 win over Toronto. He’ll miss up to two weeks.

“We’ve had actually lucked out for a while on the blue line,” Brian Lashoff said of the injury bug that seems to be plaguing the room. “Not having E is going to be tough. It’s just kind of strange how it’s been happening all year and now these last couple of games guys are just going down. We just have to rally as a group back there and makeup for the minutes that E won’t be playing.”

Tuesday was the sixth consecutive game the Wings have lost a player to injury.

Gustavsson (groin) began the long list of injuries after leading the team to a win over the New Jersey Devils on March. 4. That was followed by Andersson (broken foot, March 9 against the New York Rangers), Tomas Jurco (broken rib, March 11 against Columbus), Todd Bertuzzi (lower-body injury, March 14 against Edmonton) and Justin Abdelkader (leg laceration, Sunday against Chicago.

Bertuzzi is the lone player to return off that list.

“There’s been times when we’ve had guys out, but not like this,” Helm said. “To have almost every one of our centers from the start of the year be out right now and seeing Johnny go out last night I don’t want to say it’s comical, but it’s unbelievable. You can’t really explain what’s happening with this team, but the guys that are in the lineup have been doing a good job so once everyone is back healthy we’ll make a good push.”

The team is also without Pavel Datsyuk (knee), Henrik Zetterberg (back) and Stephen Weiss (sports hernia).

“I don’t think anyone has seen anything like this,” Lashoff said. “It’s been weird for sure. A lot of guys have had opportunities to come up from Grand Rapids and guys have played more minutes than they would have before and those guys have been playing well and they’ve kept us in the hunt.”

Wing coach Mike Babcock said that despite the rash of injuries this year it doesn’t wear on him emotionally.

“I do the same every day, get up and do the best I can,” Babcock said. “I’m not carrying around the weight of the world, I don’t do that.”

Babcock said he’ll start with Brendan Smith paired with Niklas Kronwall on the blue line Thursday against the Pittsburgh Penguins.

“He’s just got to compete hard and make good decisions with the puck,” Babcock said. “Smitty’s got the competitive nature you need, he’s got the skating you need, the skill you need. His decision-making with the puck gets him in trouble at times and his decision making being active, so those are things you grow with, you become a better player. Do more by doing less, make the simple play, don’t force things, lots of shifts are 50-50, nothing happens.”

Smith began Tuesday’s game as the fourth-line forward before dropping back when Ericsson got injured.

Tatar scores lone goal in shootout as Wings get a very important extra point

DETROIT >> For a guy that wanted the shootout to end before it go to him, Tomas Tatar looked as confidence as can be when it was his turn to go in the glorified skills competition.

Tatar scored the lone goal in the shootout to give the Detroit Red Wings an important extra point as they skated by the Edmonton Oilers, 2-1, Friday night at Joe Louis Arena.

“I really didn’t know what to do,” Tatar said. “I was hoping all the time that the guys before me would score so I didn’t have to go, unfortunately they didn’t. I was happy my puck found a way to the net. Good for us.”

Todd Bertuzzi and Daniel Alfredsson each missed prior to Tatar’s attempt. Jimmy Howard stopped all three of the Oilers’ shootout tries.

“We were watching some highlights of a shootout before and I saw the goalie let lots of goals in on his glove (side),” Tatar said. “So I was going to be like smart since he would expect lots of shots there so I was trying to do something else. It worked.”

Tatar pulled the string off his backhand and went top shelf with his forehand, blocker side on Edmonton goalie Viktor Fasth, who finished with 22 saves.

Detroit is tied with Philadelphia with 73 points, but the Flyers still hold down the final wild card spot because they’ve played one less game and they also have more regulation wins than the Wings.

“They are huge,” Tatar said of the two points. “We need every point right now. That game was kind of sloppy. We put ourselves in a bad position when they tied up the game and we had a power play and couldn’t score. It was tough. We could play better. There are games like this and we are really happy to take those two points from them.”

Riley Sheahan scored in regulation for Detroit, which was 0-for-4 on the power play, and Howard made 21 saves.

“Definitely,” Sheahan said when asked if this extra point was a relief. “We’ve got to start winning some games. The standings being so tight, this is a good way to start. Now we just have to carry it over to Sunday.”

Ryan Smyth scored for the Oilers, who have lost eight in a row in Detroit. They last won at Joe Louis Arena on Dec. 3, 2009.

The Wings clung to a 1-0 lead heading to the third period when a very costly turnover from Brendan Smith led to the equalizer for Edmonton off the stick of Smyth.

“If he puts it on our guy’s tape and we skate out through the middle I like it,” Wings coach Mike Babcock said. “If you turn it over it doesn’t look very good.”

Smith tried to backhand a pass into the slot to a teammate, but instead it went right onto the blade of Smyth, who wristed a shot over Howard’s glove to even the game at 1-1.

“I absolutely didn’t expect that,” Smyth said. “I thought he was going to throw it around the boards. Smith just threw it up the middle.”

Smith immediately put both gloves on his head as he skated slowly to the bench, where he sat with his head down for a good length of time.

The Wings had a chance to end things in regulation and then again in overtime when Edmonton were called for back-to-back delay of game penalties for putting the puck off the glass.

“We’ve just got to focus on getting shots through and getting active at the net,” Sheahan said. “It comes in waves. Right now maybe we’re not getting the shots through that we want but I think it’ll come.”

Sheahan opened the scoring just past the midway point of the first period depositing a pretty pass from Tatar past Fasth.

Trying to shed an Edmonton player, Tatar began to take the puck behind the Oilers’ net, but instead spun back around and threaded a pass to Sheahan and he chipped his shot into the goal.

The goal came after a pretty lackluster power play by the Wings.

Helm progressing from his latest injury … a concussion

DETROIT >> Darren Helm took a baby step Friday in his hopes of returning to the Detroit Red Wings lineup from a concussion.

Helm participated in the team’s morning skate at Joe Louis Arena prior to the game against the Edmonton Oilers.

“I didn’t really get the heart beating too hard, still good to be out there in different elements,” Helm said afterwards. “I haven’t had any bad headaches or long-lasting ones. Every once in a while I get a slight headache or slight pressure up there but nothing where it’s been a huge concern to keep me off the ice or keep me from moving forward.”

Helm was diagnosed with a concussion by the same specialist the saw Patrick Eaves and Johan Franzen.

“I’ve been keeping close contact with him about my progress each day,” Helm said. “He says things are going well. Hopefully (Friday) will be another positive and I won’t feel anything tonight and we can keep pushing forward.”

Helm practiced on his own Thursday and needs to check with the doctors before taking part in a full practice.

Helm was injured in Ottawa on Feb. 27 when he hit his head hard on the ice. Later in the game he was grazed in the chin which also could have triggered it.

In the Wings’ next game his vision became blurry.

“That’s why we kind of stopped and re-evaluated,” Helm said. “I don’t know if I’ll know exactly how good that is until I start amping up my workouts and my skating because I did take two practices before (game at New Jersey) and had no issues. When I got to that game situation where I really going, that’s when the vision problems started happening. We just keep moving slowly with this and at some point we’ll test and see if that’s an issue.”

Franzen and Justin Abdelkader have missed time this season due to concussions.

“I’ve got a couple more days to go until we start thinking about getting back in the lineup, but anytime you get back on the ice it’s exciting,” said Helm, who hopes to travel to Chicago with the team. “That would be my goal (to return next week), just from watching other guys with concussions and head injuries, can’t really put a finger on when you think you’ll be back. We thought Mule was going to be back for the Olympics but he kept having complications and couldn’t go. Abby had one this year, he was good to go after a week and a half, so you don’t know how your body is going to react.”

Helm, who missed his fifth straight game Friday, has played in just 29 games this season.

Just this season alone, Helm has been sidelined with injuries to his groin, shoulder and back.

He was a last minute scratch prior to the Winter Classic due to the groin injury.

Helm returned to the lineup on Nov. 2 after playing in just two games over the last 19 months.

To begin the season, Helm was sidelined with a back problem and then his groin became an issue.

Howard will start Sunday; Zetterberg will play; Datsyuk’s chances of playing in the Olympics getting slim

DETROIT >> Quick update from Wings practice at Joe Louis Arena before they head out to Washington for a game with the Capitals Sunday at 12:30 p.m.

It appears that there won’t be any lineup changes for the game.

Jimmy Howard will start in goal and Henrik Zetterberg, despite not practicing, will play as well.

“I feel good,” Howard said. “It’s kind of nice. The injury wasn’t as significant as the one before. I wasn’t really all that worried about it.”

Friday was Howard’s first game back after missing four in a row due to a knee injury. He also missed eight games in December with a more severe knee injury.

Zetterberg also returned to the lineup Friday after missing two games with a reoccurring back issue.

“I felt pretty good in here,” Zetterberg smiled. “It felt good (Friday night). It was fun to be back playing again. I’m looking forward to (Sunday).”

Zetterberg missed 11 games in December with a herniated disc.

“I felt pretty good, better than I have the last couple of days (waking up),” Zetterberg said. “I played a game so that’s positive. It’s not fun to be out so it was a little never wracking to see it reacts, but it feels good.”

As for Pavel Datsyuk, it’s beginning to look more and more like his chances of participating in the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, are getting slimmer and slimmer.

“Nope,” Wings coach Mike Babcock said shrugging his shoulders when asked if there was anything new on Datsyuk.

Datsyuk is the captain for Russia.

Asked if he would be back before the Olympics, Babcock said, “I don’t know. I’m just like you. I just keep asking.”

Babcock also picked up his 400th with Detroit on Friday.

“Obviously I got my 400th before, but my 400th with Detroit means I’ve been here a while and I’ve had good players,” Babcock said. “Let’s be honest, this last little while I haven’t exactly been mowing them down. So mowed ‘em down for a long time and it’s been a bit of a grind here lately.”

And like many of his players, Babcock is picking Denver to win the Super Bowl.
“I lived in the Pacific Northwest,” Babcock said. “Mark Rypien is a friend of mine. I remember when he was with Indy and then came into Seattle and I’d go watch him there. But I got to pick Peyton Manning.

“He’s ultra-competitive,” added Babcock about Manning. “He’s a working machine. He and (Tom) Brady to me are incredible because they’re so intelligent and they execute so good and they’ve done it over and over and over again. I just think it’s impressive. But I also (respect) Seattle as well so who knows. Plus the NHL will be in Seattle one day.”