Despite playing the league’s worst team tonight, the Buffalo Sabres, Wings coach Mike Babcock isn’t taking anything for granted.
“We have to be prepared for tonight,” Babcock told reporters after the morning skate in Buffalo. “All you have to do is … if you watched Calgary and New Jersey (Monday) night, or Anaheim go into Edmonton, these games aren’t easy to win. They never are. They’re NHL players and an NHL team with pride that you’re playing against. You’ve got to dig in and you’ve got to play well. The biggest thing is you have to be playing well this time of year to have success anyway.”
Thanks for a 1-0 win by the Flames over the Devils on Monday, Detroit’s magic number is now three. That number is reduced by any combination of points the Wings gain or lost points by New Jersey, which has three games left on their schedule.
The Sabres have a league-worst 51 points, 14 fewer than Edmonton, which has the second-lowest point total.
“You always want to get better,” Babcock said. “I think our team has gotten better all year long and our kids are understanding more what it takes. I liked our power play entries the last game, I thought we got in the zone real well and the game before. I liked our penalty kill. I thought we could have executed better from the back end a few times in two games, so we got to do better in that area. We can’t lose F-3, F-3 can’t be impatient and dive in and give up odd-man rushes against.”
Jimmy Howard will start in goal against the Sabres, while Joakim Andersson and Todd Bertuzzi will be the healthy scratches.
The Wings are looking to extend their streak to qualifying for the playoffs for 23 consecutive seasons.
“The biggest thing to me is we have good players and then there’s been a culture created and a demand and expectation for success,” Babcock said. “Ideally, our young players are getting that. I’m a big believer that when you get a young player, and four or five years later, if he isn’t a good pro, it’s on your watch. It’s your responsibility. If they don’t have enough personal drive to become a good one, then make sure they’re in someone else’s organization. But the ones that stay in yours have to be pros, have to be every-dayers, have to be consistent in their effort. Your performance isn’t always what you want it to be but your effort and your professionalism has to be and that’s something you can control and we really try to focus on those areas.
“I keep hearing about how it’s passed on and then I tell these guys I don’t believe a whole bunch of stuff is passed on,” Babcock continued. “You’ve got to re-establish it each and every year. If you think it’s there just because you put your sweater on that’s not the way it works. It’s maintaining, it’s an accountability process that goes from year to year.”