DETROIT – Wings coach Mike Babcock is giving his third line one final chance Thursday night and how long they stay together will be determined on how well they perform.
The line of Dan Cleary and Jiri Hudler, centered by Mike Modano has not lived up to the hype it came in with to begin the season.
“We’ve got to fix it, right,” said Babcock, whose Wings host Phoenix tonight at Joe Louis Arena. “They’re going to warmup tomorrow together.
“They’ve got to be way harder in the (offensive) zone,” Babcock added. “They spend way too much time chasing puck around.”
The threesome have a combined two goals and three assists, but the category that’s the biggest problem for the trio is plus/minus where they collectively a minus-16. Hudler and Modano are both a minus-6.
“We’re struggling because a lot of the pucks are ending up in our net,” Hudler said. “We’ve been doing good things, but obviously nobody’s going to see it when you look at the (game) sheet after the game and you see a minus. We just have to keep working hard.”
“I’m not frustrated,” Hudler added. “You can’t take (those seven games) back. We’ve definitely had our scoring chances. You have to practice hard everyday. It’s going to turnaround. We must produce as one.”
Breaking up the line would more than likely come at the expense of the Wings’ second line of Johan Franzen, Todd Bertuzzi and Valtteri Filppula.
That line, many nights, has been their best unit on the ice.
“That’s the problem … or the good thing,” Babcock said. “Maybe I could change it and fix both and maybe I could change it and not fix both.
“I haven’t been forced because we’ve been winning, but we’ve got to get them going,” Babcock continued. “Now the other thing is, I can say to you we got to get them going, but don’t they got to get themselves going? Between the three of them they all have a skill set. Let’s us that skill set and not try and do anyone else’s job.”
Modano has not scored since opening night.
“We all had high expectations going into the season and talked about how big of an impact the line could have,” Modano said. “We feel we’re on the verge. We’ve had opportunities, but we’ve just had a stretch of bad luck defensively.”