March 11, 2013 at 10:19 am

Gregg Krupa

Red Wings need to grind again as road beckons

The way gets tougher from here because the Red Wings are about to be on the road, a lot.

They certainly could have managed a better lead-in to the next 22 games, which will be played in 48 days, including 14 road games, two trips to western Canada, one to California and one each to Phoenix and Colorado, all before the end of the season.

Garnering just one out of four points against an injured, lowly Blue Jackets team was not a good segue to heading off to face the Flames, Oilers and Canucks over the next six days.

"It was tough," said Henrik Zetterberg, after the Wings' compounded an embarrassing loss in Columbus on Saturday with a less than vigorous effort against the Blue Jackets at home Sunday. "We wanted to get two points."

But the captain put out the call for regrouping, beginning with a day off today and then a practice before hitting the road to Alberta.

'A tough stretch'

"I think before these two games we were on a little bit of a roll," Zetterberg said. "We've been up and down, and I think when we're doing the right things, we are playing well. We just have to keep doing that.

"We're into a tough stretch, here, a lot of road games, and our record on the road has got to be better."

Going 0-3-2 against the Blue Jackets was not the way the Wings would have drawn up the season series against a weaker divisional rival.

But they cannot go back now. They have left those and more points "on the table," after 25 games of a 48-game schedule.

And it seems they wake up every morning about a point or three out of third and a point or three out of 11th.

All they can do, beginning Wednesday in Calgary, is get back to the grinding — and love it.

Explaining the 3-0 Blue Jackets' win Saturday, before the 3-2 win in a shootout Sunday, Derek Brassard, who opened the scoring for Columbus on Sunday, was succinct.

"I think we played really hard," he said. "We just played the game they don't want to play."

The grinding style is not easy, or a whole lot of fun.

The Wings must grind and commit few errors to win at home. On the road, more grinding and fewer errors are required.

It isn't pretty, and it takes lots of energy. But it is how this team wins.

"It's definitely going to be tough, but there's not excuses because we're going out on the road," said Jimmy Howard. "We've got to find a way to get dirty wins.

"It's just going to the net and hopefully getting some puck luck. I don't think we've really been on it, as of late, and hopefully we can break out of it, on this road trip."

The Red Wings' hard work, when it is there, is not sexy hockey. But it is also the most they can offer, right now.

As the last two games against the Blue Jackets proved, unfortunately, the Wings are not always capable of mustering it..

They can win when they commit to a no-frills, start-with-the-puck-and-move-it-efficiently, or get-the-puck-back-and-move-it-efficiently style in which team defense and goal tending are the first priorities and puck control, shooting and going to the net quick to follow.

Scan the roster. This is no offensive juggernaut that can suddenly turn up the energy and turn a game around, as in many previous years.

They searched in vain for their grind-it-out mentality when they were 0-3-2 from Feb. 13-22.

They found it, from Feb. 23 through March 7, when they were 5-1-1, when they were also the best team in the NHL in goals against.

Their determination has now wavered for two games, resulting in just one point against a team that played without several key players.

Looking for points

"We didn't get enough points on the weekend," said Coach Mike Babcock, who evaluated the effort Sunday as better than Saturday, despite the difficulty moving the puck early in the game.

"We thought we had it going pretty good," he said of the seven games before the pair against Columbus.

"But, even when we win, we win 2-1. And we got two again, tonight. So, it looks like we can't give up two, we can only give up one.

"That's a hard way to play."

Babcock thinks the team can get back to moving the puck and generating more chances.

"We got lots of road games. The bottom line is: There's nothing we can do about this now," he said, of the loss and the overtime loss to the Blue Jackets. "You know, feeling sorry for yourself isn't going to yield wins. We need the points."

And so, grind they must.

Matt Calvert of the Blue Jackets gets the puck past Jimmy Howard during the shootout Sunday. / David Guralnick/Detroit News
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