Detroit – The way things were going, coach Mike Babcock was probably going to break up the Kids Line sooner or later anyway. The probable return of Pavel Datsyuk Tuesday only hastened the inevitable.
Through five games, the line of center Riley Sheahan and wingers Tomas Tatar and Tomas Jurco produced one goal. In more than 222 minutes of ice time, the trio put 22 shots on goal with nine giveaways.
A small sample size, granted, but it was a pretty sudden dip in production from what the line had provided last season as rookies. Babcock talked about it on Saturday, before the Wings beat the Maple Leafs, 1-0.
"You come back and now you are in your second year," he said. "You're going to play with the puck a little bit more and you're going to score a little bit more and usually you know what you do? Less.
"Just dig in and be a good pro. It'll all work out."
The return of Datsyuk, combined with Johan Franzen going on short-term IR with a groin injury, forced Babcock to reconfigure the lines for the game Tuesday in Montreal. At practice Monday he had Datsyuk skating with center Henrik Zetterberg and Justin Abdelkader on the first line.
He kept Sheahan and Tatar together on the second line, but added the team's leading goal scorer Gustav Nyquist. Jurco, who has struggled and played only 11 minutes in the overtime game Saturday, was bumped to the third line with Darren Helm and Andrej Nestrasil.
"Just trying to get that line (Kids Line) to generate more," Babcock said. "Nyquist has been playing real well. If I'm going to play Pav and Z together, they need a bigger body to be at the net for them (Abdelkader). And I want Nyquist to have as many touches as he can. Sheahan is a big body at the net for him and Tatar.
"And we need Jurco to get going, too. This is an opportunity for that."
The changes didn't take any of the players by surprise.
"We kind of expected something to happen," Tatar said. "Personally, I've had lots of chances, but I haven't put the puck in the net. Maybe the next few games I will get better bounces. Our line didn't play bad, we just couldn't find a way into the net."
There were positives. Sheahan, Tatar and Jurco weren't on the ice together for any goals allowed in the five games, and there were flashes where they controlled the puck for long stretches.
"Just a little inconsistent," Sheahan said. "We'd have a good shift, sag for a few and then come back and have another good one. It'll be good switching things up and having something different, spreading things out a little bit might be good."
But the Wings already have two checking lines. They need the second line to score.
"There's going to be times when the pucks bounce your way and times when they don't," Sheahan said. "But it would be nice to have more offense. That's what we're meant to do. There was a lot of offensive skill on our line, so we are going to keep pushing for that."
Adding Datsyuk to the first line, Nyquist to the second and Jurco to the third does spread the offensive talent a little deeper and could open up the ice for the second and third lines.
"If Pav and Z are on another line, teams don't even worry about that other group," Babcock said, referring to Sheahan's line.
From the way things looked Monday, Babcock will still keep Sheahan, Tatar and Jurco together, along with Nestrasil, on the second power-play unit. Datsyuk was working on the first power-play unit with Zetterberg, Nyquist and Helm.
Chris McCosky is on Twitter @cmccosky.