DETROIT – The Detroit Red Wings aren’t far off from where coach Mike Babcock wanted them to be at when the midway point of the season hits.
But they are off pace.
“We thought that if we had 30 points we’d be in a good position, so we came two shy of our goal,” Babcock said after practice Friday at Joe Louis Arena. “We actually had hoped to get 34. But we still think we’ve done a lot of good stuff and we’re getting better. We’re definitely getting better defensively and playing harder as a group and more structured and more organized.”
Heading into play Friday, the Wings are fourth in the Western Conference with 28 points.
“I think we should be pretty proud of the fact they we’ve really buckled down defensively,” forward Daniel Cleary said. “Obviously, the injury bug was a huge factor for us. It was good to see guys come in and have an opportunity and play real well.”
The Wings have been hardest hit on the blue line, losing Carlo Colaiacovo, Jakub Kindl, Jonathan Ericsson, Kyle Quincey, Brendan Smith and Ian White missing some amount of time.
That unit has gotten healthy and has stabilized of late, along with the help of rookie Brian Lashoff.
“We’re heading in the right direction,” Lashoff said. “We just needed to find a way to win with this group. I think sticking to the system, playing strong in our own end and getting it out of our own end as quickly as possible is something we’ve focused on the last couple of weeks and we’re not giving up that many goals because of it. If we continue doing that we’ll be fine.”
The Wings are 6-1-1 over their last eight games and have allowed a total of five goals during that stretch.
“I think our defense and Jimmy Howard has been really helping us out a lot,” Smith said. “We’ve had a lot of adversity with injuries. Now that we have pretty much everyone back, but we’re still missing guys like (Todd) Bertuzzi and (Darren) Helm who are a very big part of this team.
“The Red Wings are all about winning and have that competitive nature,” Smith continued. “You’ve seen them plug in Grand Rapids players and we’ve done really well. I’m not surprised.”
The only adjustment to Babcock’s lineup for Saturday’s game in Columbus will be Jonas Gustavsson in goal.
“The team we’re playing has got five out of six points against us and has really been hot lately,” Babcock said. “We have back to backs against them and they’re important four points.”
Columbus is last in the Western Conference standings with 20 points.