Red Wings head coach Jeff Blashill talks about Canadiens goalie Carey Price ahead of Thursday's game. Ted Kulfan, The Detroit News
Detroit — The fact the Red Wings haven’t won in five games is tough enough.
But the fact captain Henrik Zetterberg hasn’t scored a goal in much longer than that — 18 consecutive games — is even more bitter for Zetterberg, because he feels he isn’t doing enough to help the Red Wings break into the win column.
“It does,” Zetterberg said after Tuesday’s loss to Los Angeles. “Obviously it’s not fun when you don’t score, so I take a big responsibility in that.”
This isn’t the first time Zetterberg, 37, has gone through a drought like this.
Coach Jeff Blashill brings up the 2011-12 season, when Blashill was an assistant under Mike Babcock, and how Zetterberg endured a 13-game drought in the middle of that season.
“The year I was here as an assistant, the first half of the year was a real struggle for him and then he was unreal the second half,” Blashill said. “He’s been through lots of this in his career. He’ll keep doing what he does, which is work his butt off and compete like crazy and in the end, he’ll get results.”
Blashill has been searching for the right fit with Zetterberg and Gustav Nyquist, but Zetterberg’s line, against Los Angeles, was arguably the most effective.
Nyquist had several quality opportunities in the second period, but was denied by goaltender Jonathan Quick.
“That line created the most chances on our team,” Blashill said. “They have to keep doing it. There’s not an easy answer to it. You have to keep grinding.
“Him (Zetterberg) and Nyke (Nyquist) have been together, and we’re working to find that third (linemate) that hopefully creates some more production. Nyke has gotten chances on a fairly consistent basis. Do they need to produce? Yes. But with the chances, comes production.”
Zetterberg has 15 points (four goals, 11 assists) in 25 games this season, with a minus-4 rating — after last season leading the Red Wings in games (tied), assists, points, shots and plus-minus.
Blashill hasn’t seen any drop in Zetterberg’s overall contributions.
“First of all, he’s a 200-foot player that’ll help you be in the mix to potentially win,” Blashill said. “He’s a big part of that. You have to have 200-foot centermen that play both sides of the puck to have any chance to win and he consistently does that.
“He just hasn’t been as offensive as he’d like to, or I’d like to.”
The Red Wings host Montreal on Thursday, then visit the Bell Centre on Saturday in a back-to-back against the divisional rival Canadiens.
In at least one of those two games, and who knows, maybe both, they’ll face Canadiens goaltender Carey Price.
The Canadiens have struggled for much of the season, with Price, long considered the premier goalie in the NHL, a main reason behind the troubles.
But Price returned last week after missing 10 games with a lower-body injury, and stopped 73 of 74 shots in victories over Buffalo and Columbus, two signs Price might be turning a corner.
“I just watched the game the other night and it didn’t look like he (Price) has lost anything,” said Blashill, noting Price’s situation is similar to Zetterberg’s. “Again, when there’s attention every single (game), and people have a dip, there’s a tendency to overreact a little bit.
“Carey Price’s game looks great. Everybody ebbs and flows and I hope he’s struggling against us, but I’m not planning on that. I plan on him playing great and us finding ways to score against him.”
Defenseman Trevor Daley (neck) practiced Wednesday but it’s still uncertain whether he’ll play against Montreal.
“We have to be real confident we’re not putting him in any kind of situation where he could hurt himself further,” Blashill said.
… Forward Frans Nielsen didn’t practice Wednesday, Blashill calling it a “maintenance day”.
… Forward Martin Frk (groin) practiced and could be ready for a return to the lineup this weekend.
Canadiens at Red Wings
Faceoff: 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Little Caesars Arena, Detroit.
TV/radio: Fox Sports Detroit/97.1 The Ticket.
Outlook: Montreal has rounding into form after a slow start…Key off-season acquisition C Jonathan Drouin leads offensively with 12 assists and 16 points, but G Carey Price (3.24 GAA, .898 SVS) is the key.