Hockey Night In Canada Stanley Cup Playoffs 2011

Wings coach takes counsel from Lidstrom

Categories: Detroit Red Wings, SJS vs. DET, San Jose Sharks

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Detroit defenceman Nicklas Lidstrom, seen battling with San Jose forward Ryan Clowe earlier in the series, scored in Game 3. (Ezra Shaw/Getty Images) Detroit defenceman Nicklas Lidstrom, seen battling with San Jose forward Ryan Clowe earlier in the series, scored in Game 3. (Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

As he does every day after practice, Detroit Red Wings coach Mike Babcock went for a run along the riverfront, but it was how he went for that run which seemed somewhat appropriate.

He left Joe Louis Arena through a door marked emergency exit only.

Down 3-0 to the San Jose Sharks in their Western Conference semifinal series entering Game 4 Friday at Joe Louis Arena, there might not be a more appropriate time for Babcock to dial 911.

Except that's not his style.

"I believe in being positive," Babcock said. "That's how I live my life every day. I just think I'm going to disarm the bomb. I've always thought that. That's how a coach thinks.

"Whether that's selective memory, whether that's being hard-headed, or whether that's just not being smart, whatever you want to call it, I'm just a believer. I believe if you approach life that way, the ups outlast the downs."

That being stated, Babcock, who held an optional skate for his team Thursday, admitted his trek along the riverfront helped him realize the current state of mind among Detroit hockey fans was fragile.

"What I found funny today was usually it's, 'Hey coach, get 'em tomorrow,' Babcock said of the encouragement he generally gets from passers-by. "Today, they were more reserved."

Looking ahead

The Wings called it selective amnesia, but their approach to Game 4 is to ignore what's gone on thus far in the series and focus in on the task at hand winning the next game.

"If we think about the whole series right now, we're in a bad spot", Detroit defenceman Niklas Kronwall said.

Detroit was in a similar position against San Jose in the second round last season, and romped to a 7-1 victory in Game 4.

"It's pretty much simple," Detroit forward Tomas Holmstrom said. "We've got to win one game or the season is over."

Wings centre Pavel Datsyuk cautioned that no one among his teammates is ready to concede.

"If we do not believe, we should just go home," Datsyuk said. "We believe 100 per cent."

Changing up

The Wings held an optional skate Thursday, and Babcock was weighing the options of whether to make lineup changes for Game 4.

"One thing that happened with the optional practice today, when Nick [Lidstrom] told me he felt that was the best thing for our team today, that allowed me not to make a decision on any lines for today," Babcock said. "I have one more day to bide time and think about what I'm doing."

One possibility could be the insertion of veteran forward Mike Modano, who has yet to play this series.

"It hurts not being out there," Modano admitted. "It's tough to deal with."

Rafalski R & R

The Wings are giving defenceman Brian Rafalski maintenance days between games. He doesn't skate and Rafalski admitted that it's due to a knee ailment he's been nursing for much of the season.

"It's just a matter of getting a little soreness out," Rafalski said. "We had time to take advantage of it (rest), so let's take advantage of it and make sure it'll be as good as it can [for games time].

PK not OK

Detroit's penalty-killing struggles continued in Game 3. San Jose scored twice with the man advantage and has tallied four of its eight goals in the series on the power play. In the opening round against Phoenix, Detroit surrendered six power-play goals in four games.

"The penalty kill was real good in Game 1 of both series and it hasn't been any good anytime after," Babcock said. "What I didn't like last night is they had three opportunities off entries. If you go back to the Phoenix series, they scored three goals off entries.

"We've got to do a better job. We've got to sort that out. We can't keep taking the puck out of our net."

Sharks not taking Game 4 lightly

With the Sharks staring into the gaping maw of their first-ever series sweep on Friday night, the game that kept them from doing so last year has taken on its own import.

That would be this little beauty from May 6, 2010:

For those of you who get hives by chasing links, it's the boxscore from Detroit's 7-1 win in Game 4 of last year's conference semifinal. It's the one where Johan Franzen scored four times, including thrice in the first period, and the Wings had a 5-0 lead before the Zamboni danced for the first time.

This is why coach Todd McLellan's entreaties that the Sharks should forget about last year's series victory over Detroit have been such a mantra -- because history cuts both ways.

"I think it's natural to reflect upon last year a little," Mitchell said. "The similarities are all over it. Game 4, though . . . Franzen got that hat trick in the first period, they were up like what, 5-0? It was almost like we all said, 'Okay, let's get to Game 5.'"

They did, and won back in San Jose. But the first three games have been similar enough to the first three last year (although each game was 4-3 a year ago) that even McLellan said, "I've tried not to say so, but the games have been eerily similar."

Which brings us to Game 4, and whether the Sharks are strong enough to resist the impulse to start slow (as they have throughout the playoffs) and get boatraced before they get their legs.

There are no changes planned in the lineup, and McLellan is keeping the line combinations he has held throughout, although as he said, "We pretty much threw them in a blender in Game 2 against L.A., and Game 5, too."

Both those games were ones in which Antti Niemi was pulled in goal after bad starts, and McLellan went back to the original combinations the next night.

If there is one surprise above all others, though, it is third-line wing Kyle Wellwood. Since his acquisition from the KHL, Wellwood has played 44 games and is a plus-17, and he is a plus-seven in the post-season. His ticket already may be punched for a grander contract next year.

In the meantime, San Jose is on the verge of its first-ever series sweep.  They may also be on the verge of getting run out of the building. That much, we know.


Patrick Marleau-Joe Thornton-Devin Setoguchi
Ryane Clowe-Logan Couture-Dany Heatley
Torrey Mitchell-Joe Pavelski-Kyle Wellwood
Jamal Mayers-Scott Nichol-Benn Ferriero

Douglas Murray-Dan Boyle
Marc-Edouard Vlasic-Jason Demers
Ian White-Niclas Wallin

Antti Niemi
Antero Niittymaki