It’s taboo to talk to a pitcher in the midst of tossing a perfect game or a no hitter.
That’s apparently the same around a hockey locker room where the team’s penalty killers are in the midst of its best goalless run of the season.
Entering play Friday, Detroit’s penalty kill had not allowed a power-play goal in 10 straight games, killing off 26 straight power play chances in that stretch.
“We’re not worried about the streak, we’re just worried about doing things right,” said Patrick Eaves, who returned to the lineup after missing three straight games with a shoulder injury. “There are bigger things going on rather than a PK streak. If we work hard, stick together and talk a lot out there we’ll have success.”
The penalty kill units have actually killed off the last 28 power play opportunities.
“I never realized we had a streak going,” said Darren Helm, who looked for a piece of wood to knock on when asked about the streak. “I think we’re taking a lot less penalties so that helps.
The Wings rotate three units on the penalty kill, but rely heavily on two groups of forwards – Eaves and Helm and Drew Miller and Valtteri Filppula. Henrik Zetterberg and Dan Cleary also rotate in.
Eaves and Helm think the addition of Miller to the PK has really helped solidify the group.
“Maybe he was the missing link,” Eaves said. “With his skating ability, long stick and hockey sense, he’s really helped us out. And I think everyone just got used to each other. That’s how it goes.
“Our defense has been awesome,” Eaves added. “For us, we’re just trying to get in the way.”
“It’s all Drew Miller, our penalty killer specialist,” Helm said. “We were in 17th spot till (Miller) came in. Now look at where we are.”
The Wings’ penalty-kill ranked 10th in the league prior to Friday, killing off 83.8-percent of the power play chances.
“We definitely take pride in it, from our goalie, to our forwards to our defense,” Miller said. “Even the guys that aren’t on it, they realize it and use it as a boost on the power play or the next shift after the kill.
“It’s a big part of our team,” Miller added. “We’re having a lot of success because everyone is buying into it, blocking shots and battling in the corner. We’re just going to keep doing what we’re doing and working hard.”
The Wings went eight straight games earlier this season without allowing a power-play goal, killing off 23 straight chances.
“You’ve got Eaves blocking shots off his arm, his foot, shoulder, leg or whatever,” Miller said. “He’s the best I’ve seen blocking shots. You see him blocking shots and it makes you want to block shots.”
No production line
While the Wings’ second forward line has been red hot of late, the top line has been ice cold.
Pavel Datsyuk has accounted for all the points that line has produced over the last four games – one goal and one assist. Johan Franzen has not scored a goal since March 11, while Tomas Holmstrom scored in March 15.
“Wins are more important,” said Datsyuk, who entered Friday’s game tied for the team lead with 23 goals. “We’ve had chances.”
“The last game we didn’t play that good,” Franzen said. “That’s how it goes sometimes. We’re lucky we’ve got that line going.
No production line part II
Miller centers the Wings’ third line with wingers Dan Cleary and Jason Williams. Cleary road a 10-game goalless streak into Friday’s game with Minnesota, while Williams hadn’t scored in eight straight.
“Miller has been good,” Wings coach Mike Babcock said. “I think Cleary and Williams should spur Cleary and Williams. But that’s a challenge for both guys. In saying that, I think chemistry is a good thing.”
Miller has scored in six games, but has been generating scoring chances every game.
“I don’t think Cleary has played badly,” Babcock said. “I just don’t think the puck hasn’t gone in the net for him. As he skates better he’ll play better.