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Detroit —Red Wings coach Mike Babcock isn't a big believer in momentum.

"I'm sure they think and I don't have to remind them, but I've reminded them for two straight days now and I"ll remind them again," Babcock said after Thursday's morning skate. "I don't believe in momentum in playoff series.

"It starts with the drop of the puck (for Game 4) until it gets maybe out of reach. But when there's a series like this, and it's tight, I don't believe that."

Justin Abdelkader has been part of a lot of series with the Red Wings, and understands how important it is to stay on an even keel.

"Momentum in series can go back and forth," he said. "I've been part of a number of series (like that). You have to take it a game at a time and not get too high or low.

"Last game we were feeling good about ourselves after we left the rink, but the next day you have to flush it out. It's a series, not a one and done and you have to be prepared."

Ericcson responds

Red Wings defenseman Jonathan Ericsson missed the first round series against the Bruins last season with an injury, and is playing hurt this spring, too.

But he's playing sound hockey.

"In the better games, or the bigger games, he usually is better," Babcock said. "Intensity sometimes in the regular season isn't his calling card, so when he's dialed in, he's a good player."

Niklas Kronwall and Danny DeKeyser have been the two most consistent Red Wings defensemen this season, but Ericsson plays a vital role.

"DeKeyser and Kronwall are the guys who lead the way for us on the back end," Babcock said. "The other guys are more in support roles, but (Ericsson is) an important piece."

Unlucky Lightning

His team might not be scoring as it has, but Lightning coach Jon Cooper isn't worried.

"We're in pretty good spirits actually, given the scenario," Cooper said. "When you look at the tape, some of the (offensive) chances we've missed can leave you scratching your head a little bit.

"That group in there, they're not lacking confidence, I know that."

The Lightning has had some opportunities to score but shots have hit crossbars or goal posts or missed the net or simply stopped by Red Wings goaltender Petr Mrazek.

Luck, Cooper said, will even out.

"We talked about it the other night, (it's a) game of inches," Cooper said. "It was post and crossbar night for us. If we get a couple inches the other way, who knows?

"This series is that tight, and you just have to keep plugging away and I truly believe you earn your own breaks. Eventually, if you just keep competing and stick to your structure, they're going to go in for you."

Old friends

Lightning forward Tyler Johnson (Spokane, Wash.) and Red Wings center Landon Ferraro (Vancouver) would play regularly on summer leagues since they were about 12 years old.

"He's a great kid," Johnson said. "It's fun to see him. When you're playing with people like that your whole life, it's cool to see them succeed."

Ferraro remembers Johnson's family driving "a big mini bus" to summer leagues.

Ice chips

NBA legend Charles Barkley had some words of encouragement for the Lightning during Wednesday's "Inside the NBA."

"Come on Tampa Bay, I haven't given up on you yet coach Coop," he said.

Cooper said he met Barkley in Los Angeles last year and was impressed by the way he carried himself.

"After spending a few hours with the guy, he was one of the greatest guys I've met," Cooper said. "I marveled at how he is with other people, the stories he told, and how genuine he was."

... Babcock, on how scoring is difficult in this series for players such as Gustav Nyquist: "There's not a lot of room, so it's hard to be the offensive guy people think you are. You have to play well. His Game 1 wasn't very good, his Game 2 was better. Game 3 was his best."

ted.kulfan@detroitnews.com

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