Washington — Jonathan Ericsson is 367 games into an NHL career, and a dozen years from the day European scout Hakan Andersson, the fabled European scout for the Red Wings, saw the former center play a game on defense and persuaded him to stick to it.
Drafted that summer 291st overall, Ericsson, now 30, is settling in to his second full season in the Red Wings' top defensive pair with Niklas Kronwall.
But he carries a negative plus-minus total, with three more goals allowed than scored by the Wings while he is on the ice.
Through five seasons, he has never finished in the minus column.
At one juncture, Mike Babcock said he thought Kyle Quincey and Danny DeKeyser, nominally the second pair, was playing best.
"Well, too much up and down," Ericsson said, when asked to evaluate his season. "I want to be more consistent.
"We are playing against the best lines every night. And, of course, everything's not going to go as you want, every night.
"I like the challenge to get out there against the best guys, and I'm just trying not to look too much at what I've done and more at what I want to accomplish. And I want to be more consistent and more reliable."
Ericsson says his bothersome hip is better this year, after the Wings staff and others with whom he consulted devised a training program geared to improve the situation, which made it difficult to walk after some games last season.
He said he was happy not to require surgery.
"If it can just stay like this the whole season, I am really happy because I was afraid of how it was going to be this season," he said.
A finger, fractured in March, may never be quite 100 percent. But Ericsson said, "It's fine."
Meanwhile, the penalty killing that first earned him high praise from Babcock a couple of seasons ago, remains stellar, helping the Wings to an 86.3 percentage, which ranks fifth in the NHL.
"I think PK has been really good for us and, of course, I take big pride in playing in that," Ericcson said.
He also scored his first goal of the season Saturday.
Special teams humming
Overall, the Wings' performance short-handed and on the power play is driving their success, to date, this season.
After a stubbornly halting start with the man advantage, they now rank third in the league, behind the Blues and Blue Jackets, at 24.3 percent.
"Our specialty teams, and knock on wood that we can keep it going, have been a huge factor in the success we've had, thus far," Babcock said.
He credited assistant coach Tony Granato, along with the return of a healthy Darren Helm and Luke Glendening gaining NHL experience, and with strong performances by Drew Miller and Joakim Andersson.
"Our power play is better than it was last year; just flat out better," Babcock said.
Part of it is the health of Pavel Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterberg and Stephen Weiss, and significant contributions from new players having an increased role: Gustav Nyquist, Tomas Tatar and Riley Sheahan.
A new scheme, devised by assistant coach Jim Hiller, also improved it.
Pulkkinen wants better
Teemu Pulkkinen made it on the power play against the Capitals, but not the score sheet.
After the 3-1 loss Saturday, Pulkkinen, already a 20-goal scorer this season in the AHL for the Griffins, said he was mostly satisfied.
"I felt good," he said. "The first period, I was a little gassed. But as they game went on, I felt better and better.
"Last 40, I was feeling very good."
Pulkkinen said what many new players do, the players are bigger and stronger.
"You've got to play hard and battle hard," he said. "It was OK.
"But I know I can do better, in the NHL."