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Panic in Hockeytown? No worries, say Wings

Ted Kulfan
The Detroit News
Gustav Nyquist is checked by Anton Stralman during the Red Wings' loss to the Lightning Friday night.

Tampa Bay, Fla. – There's no panic, no uneasiness, everything in the Red Wings locker room remains normal and businesslike.

At least that's what they say. Never mind that the Eastern Conference standings would indicate something quite different.

What was a casual stroll through the regular season into the playoffs has become a bit more difficult for Detroit, which is in seventh in the East heading into Saturday's games.

With the Red Wings losing six of their last eight games, Boston and Ottawa have closed to within four and six points, respectively. If both were to pass the Red Wings, Detroit would be out of the playoff picture.

"We're not hunting; there are teams behind us," said captain Henrik Zetterberg of the playoff chase, after Friday's 3-1 loss in Tampa Bay. "We're still ahead. I was more concerned before the Pittsburgh game (last Sunday's 5-1 victory after a pair of ugly losses).

"In my mind, the way we've played the last three games, we've been doing a lot of good things. Obviously, you want the points. But if we can keep playing like that, we'll be fine."

Said goaltender Jimmy Howard: "Sometimes you go through things like this. I don't think there's any panic button being pushed around here."

The Red Wings didn't win either game in the back-to-back swing through Florida, but they felt it was a positive development by the way they played.

"The last three games (including the blowout victory over Pittsburgh) were encouraging for me," coach Mike Babcock said. "We had tons of opportunities (vs. Panthers), and Friday (vs. Lightning) we did, as well. We started to skate better.

"For a while there after the (West Coast) trip, we didn't skate. But our energy is coming back."

Zetterberg feels this rough patch could benefit the Red Wings, especially the younger players.

"I learned for many, many years and I'm still learning out there," Zetterberg said. "Every year I've been playing over here (in the NHL), you have stretches where it doesn't go your way. You can't get too high or too low.

"There's a game on Sunday again. You take what you did good and move on."

Slump buster

Tomas Tatar's goal Friday ended an eight-game drought in which he hadn't scored. The team's leading goal-scorer (26), Tatar hopes this begins a much-needed hot streak.

"The last two games I felt kind of weird; I didn't feel like I played good and didn't help the team enough," Tatar said. "Before that, I had chances and breakaways and just didn't find the net.

"Same with the team, same with me, I just have to find a way to play good and try to score every night and be consistent."

Ice chips

Babcock ruled out Pavel Datsyuk (lower body) for Sunday's game against St. Louls. Datsyuk didn't make the trip for the two games in Florida, either.

"It would be nice to get Pavel back," Babcock said. "I don't know when that's happening. He should be freshened up."

… Does Babcock feel his team is snakebit during this recent losing streak, possibly not getting victories they'v deserved?

"We probably didn't feel snakebit when we were winning a few games we shouldn't have," Babcock said.

… Howard made 29 saves and was arguably the Red Wings' best player Friday against Tampa Bay, after allowing seven goals against Philadelphia in his last start.

"I hold myself to high standards and I have to get back to where I was playing," Howard said. "I've had spurts since coming back from the injury but I have to find that consistency again."

Blues at Red Wings

Faceoff: Noon, Sunday.

TV / radio: NBC Channel 4 / 97.1-FM, 1270-AM.

Outlook: The Red Wings defeated the Blues 3-2 in overtime Jan. 15. ... Blues RW Vladimir Tarasenko is having a breakout season with 34 goals, 34 assists and a plus-30 rating.

ted.kulfan@detroitnews.com

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