Lightning offer no respite for struggling Wings

Ted Kulfan
The Detroit News

Detroit — With the talk of goaltending, turnovers and losing, it’s easy to forget the Red Wings actually play Saturday.

Against a really good opponent.

The Lightning is 3-0 against the Red Wings, and are nine points ahead in the race for second place in the Atlantic Division.

“They’re a real fast team and for whatever reason, we haven’t found our stride against them,” Red Wings defenseman Niklas Kronwall said. “A new challenge.”

It’s a challenge that’s likely not going to be easy.

The Lightning is on a 7-2-1 run, but coming off a 3-2 loss Thursday to the Predators.

While the Red Wings are simply fighting to keep their place in the playoffs, the Lightning is aiming to pass the Canadians and win the division.

“Good forwards, good defense, a real good goaltender (Ben Bishop), it’s hard to score goals against them,” Red Wings forward Darren Helm said. “It’s a good opportunity for us. A potential first-round matchup, we want to make sure and compete and play hard and get back on track.

“These next two games (today and Sunday on the road against the Islanders) are a stepping—stone for us to get into playoff mode. This is a good opportunity for us.”

While the concerns about goaltending have been well-documented, coach Mike Babcock also has stressed the need to reduce turnovers.

“We talked about the fact we have to be way better in net, we have to be better on the back end, we have to be better up front,” Babcock said. “It’s easy in life to blame everyone else. When you’re the coach you have to look at yourself. When you’re a goalie, you have to look at yourself, when you’re a D-man you have to look at yourself, or a forward.

“The bottom line is you have to trust one another, everyone has got to do their part. We have to do our part better.”

Injury update

The good news is the Red Wings could center Pavel Datsyuk (lower body) back on the ice this weekend.

The bad news — forward Erik Cole (upper body) is out, and center Riley Sheahan (upper body) joined him on the bench.

“He got bumped (in the loss to the Sharks),” Babcock said. “He’s out. I don’t know for how long.

“Obviously (Sheahan) brings a lot, but it’s an opportunity for someone else. There’s no sense talking about guys who aren’t here. Let’s talk about the guys who are here.”

Datsyuk, who has missed the last five games, increased his workload, but Babcock said, “I don’t know” when asked if the center will play today. Cole didn’t practice Friday.

Lightning at Red Wings

Faceoff: 2 Saturday, Joe Louis Arena, Detroit

TV/radio: FSD/97.1

Outlook: The Lightning is 3-0 against the Red Wings. ... Cs Steven Stamkos (40 goals) and Tyler Johnson (67 points) lead the Lighting offense, while G Ben Bishop (36-12-4, 915 SVS) has been steady.