November 20, 2013 at 1:00 am

Gregg Krupa

No time for Red Wings or fans to panic, despite winless skid

Detroit The fans, the 25 percent of them who stayed for the end, booed the Red Wings off the ice Tuesday.

That does not happen often.

When it does, the Wings notice. They also tend to concur with the judgment.

The Predators, winners of one of their last five entering the game, won 2-0. It was the Red Wings seventh consecutive loss, eighth at home.

They had not lost seven in a row in 11 years, and it can be of little solace that was a Stanley Cup season.

Meanwhile, the old problem with turnovers, which they hoped they had conquered, reappeared. The Wings handed it away 14 times.

Adding injury to insult, their outstanding young defenseman Danny DeKeyser left in the first period with what the Wings called a shoulder injury. DeKeyser will be out one to two weeks.

Confidence ebbs. Goals come barely at all, unless Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg score them. After red-hot starts that adequately covered the Red Wings deficiencies, they are bound to cool.

Team in transition

So what to make of this?

Whether the fans are willing or not, there is little doubt this season will require their patience. Accustomed to different hockey in Detroit over time, they knew at the start of the season that this team is a transition in progress.

But lots of losing is so far from the norm that, even nine days before Thanksgiving, some fans might panic.

They should not.

And, although their confidence is shaky, the Red Wings will not scare yet, either.

The fact of the matter is despite a considerable rough patch, the Red Wings are playing better than last year, all in all. It is from some of those accomplishments, through 22 games at 9-6-7, that they can mount a revival.

The fact of the matter also is, more than a few things are going well for them as the season points toward Thanksgiving.

So, when you hear things like, Weve just got to keep at it, from their coach and significant veteran leadership around the room, it is not sloganeering.

In truth, it is both what they must do and all they can do.

Although they have lost seven straight, they also have points in the nine of the last 11.

The power play, at first a bit up for several games and then more than a bit down for a good stretch, entered the game against the Predators seventh in the NHL, at 21.5 percent.

While they failed to convert on two power plays totalling 3:18, last season, after 20 games, the efficiency was only 15.9 percent, 20th in the league.

The Red Wings killed five of six penalties, a bit less than their 86.1 percent rate at the start of the evening, which was good for fifth in the NHL. That also was better than last year after 20 games, when they killed 77.1 percent and ranked 23rd in the 30-team league.

They are also going to the box far less than the start of last season, and important attribute for a team in flux, as Mike Babcock calls them.

Going into play Tuesday, the Wings were averaging 8.6 penalty minutes per game, third best in the NHL. Last season, after 20 games, they were 14th in the league, averaging 12.7 minutes.

And despite the injury to DeKeyser, They are considerably less injured than last season, with 62 man games lost compared to 129 through 20 games last season.

Some positive signs

The Wings also have three more points in the standings, compared to last season, and benefitting from their move to the Eastern Conference, where the quality of the teams lags several of those in the West in the early going, they were in sixth place, four points out of first, with the Lightning playing a late game on the West Coast.

Panic? Nah.

Move away from their develop-from-within strategy? That would be most unfortunate.

Play better? Oh, you betcha!

They did not generate enough second chances on their power play Tuesday. But that had been turning, recently.

They turned over the puck a bit too much, again. But they had begun to take care of their problems with possession, in recent games.

If, in the coming days, you hear a lot of assertions from Babcock and the leadership quartet of Zetterberg, Datsyuk, Niklas Kronwall and Jimmy Howard that they just need to keep on keeping on, and that eventually things will turn, it is not because the record is broken on the turntable.

Beyond the likelihood that it is true, it is all a lagging hockey team can do.

The fans booed Tuesday. It is their prerogative.

Besides, in Detroit, they are hockey fans among the most knowledgeable. And, right now, the Red Wings are struggling.

After the morning skate Tuesday, Babcock said, We got points in nine out of 10 games. Thats the way I look at it. Lets make sure we get points, tonight.

They failed, Tuesday. But do not think that will keep their coach from saying about the same thing, today.

gregg.krupa@detroitnews.com
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The Predators celebrate a third-period goal by Gabriel Bourque on Tuesday at Joe Louis Arena in Detroit. / David Guralnick / Detroit News