DETROIT – The Wings’ only offensive production from their forwards is coming from the top six.
It’s not a major concern for coach Mike Babcock, as long as the bottom six forwards aren’t given up goals and are providing energy while they’re on the ice.
“When you’re not scoring, just don’t give any up and give your team energy,” Babcock said after practice Wednesday at Joe Louis Arena. “Just do good things defensively and everything else will work out fine. Let’s just keep plugging and go from there.
“When you look at the end of the game, our big dogs can’t get outscored 2-0 either,” Babcock added referring to the Wings’ 4-1 loss Tuesday to Calgary. “There’s a whole bunch of ways you can look at it. We’re in it together, that’s the great thing about being on a team. Sometimes guys pick you up and sometimes you got to pick yourself up. We got to be better, that wasn’t good enough.”
The Wings’ bottom six forwards have recorded one assist which came from Patrick Eaves. However, that point came on the power play.
“We just want to keep improving our game and play the way we do and play with energy,” Justin Abdelkader said. “Everyone’s got to be better and we’ve definitely got to pull our end a little bit. Just keep funneling pucks at the net and eventually it’s going to go in.”
Of the four forwards that have played every game – Abdelkader, Daniel Cleary, Drew Miller and Jordin Tootoo – they’re a combined minus-11.
“Offensive numbers are going to come and go,” Abdelkader said. “I think you can always control your defensive play and attention to detail. You might win some 1-0, 2-0, 2-1 games. You don’t need to score four goals every night. We’ve just got to come out with better start. We might not be a team that’s going to score 4-5 every night, but we’ve got to play well defensively and not give so many chances and so many goals.”
Last season Miller scored 14 goals, while Cleary added 12 and Abdelkader eight. The three combined for 80 points.
The biggest piece missing from the bottom six is third-line center Darren Helm, who’s played one game this season after hurting his back.
“When they get one or two goals ahead it’s tough to score sometime,” Henrik Zetterberg said referring to Tuesday’s loss. “But still, I think getting production from everyone would help too. But it’s almost if you play good defense and win 1-0 or 2-1 it’s better than winning 5-4.”
The Wings play at St. Louis Thursday and the team will go with the same lineup it did against Calgary, moving Todd Bertuzzi back to the second line with Pavel Datsyuk and Valtteri Filppula. Tomas Tatar will be on the third line.
“Only change might come in goal,” Babcock said.