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The offensive statistics, over the course of the season, have shown the problem to be real in stark terms.

And over the last four games — with the Red Wings being shut out in three of those — it’s become dreadfully apparent.

The Wings don’t score many goals. In fact, as we said, in three of the last four games — no goals.

Friday’s 2-0 loss in Columbus was the latest quiet evening offensively.

And it was very meek and mild in some ways.

The Wings only had 16 shots on red-hot goalie Elvis Merzlikins, did nothing on two third-period power plays, and eventually wound up being shut out for a league-leading seventh time this season.

“We didn’t shoot the puck,” coach Jeff Blashill told reporters afterward. “If you get the 2-on-1s, you gotta shoot the puck. You get opportunities to shoot it, you gotta shoot it.”

Somehow, the Red Wings need to manufacture more offense out of a lineup that is without some key weapons right now.

The Wings are likely to get back a key piece next week when forward Anthony Mantha returns from a punctured lung.

Mantha has been out since Dec. 21, he’s missed 26 games total, and yet he’s tied for third on the team with 12 goals.  The Wings have missed his size and goal-scoring ability.

The loss of Filip Zadina (8 goals) for another likely couple weeks (undisclosed injury) hasn’t helped either. Andreas Athanasiou returned to the lineup a week ago and is getting back on track.

Somehow, the Wings need to create some offense to give themselves a chance.

“You have to score goals to win and we didn’t do that (Friday), we didn’t generate enough shots,” forward Dylan Larkin said.

Praise for Howard

Goaltender Jimmy Howard is going through a mind-boggling season, having lost 18 consecutive decisions after Friday’s loss.

But Howard stopped a season-high 42 shots against the Blue Jackets, was particularly tough in the third with the game still on the line, yet came out of it on the losing end again.

His record fell to 2-21-2.

“He played great, and that’s a testament to his character, his work ethic,” Larkin said. “Things haven’t been going his way but he came out and gave us a heck of a game. We have to come up for him at a time he needs us, as well.

“We didn’t give him enough.”

Ice chips

The Wings lost defenseman Madison Bowey in the first period Friday and his availability for Sunday’s game against Boston is unknown, as the team didn’t practice Saturday.

If Bowey can’t go, Jonathan Ericsson could return to the lineup.

... The Red Wings assigned defenseman Dennis Cholowski to the Grand Rapids Griffins.

... The Wings were without forward Darren Helm in Columbus, with an undisclosed injury, and Helm's availability for Sunday is also unknown. Brendan Perlini replaced Helm.

… There used to be a time when Columbus entered the NHL that the Wings dominated the season-series. Not anymore. Friday’s victory enabled Columbus to sweep the three-game season series, and the Blue Jackets are 10-2 in their last 12 games against the Wings and have won four consecutive season series (three by sweeps).

Bruins at Red Wings

Faceoff: 12:30 p.m., Sunday,  Little Caesars Arena.

TV/radio: NBC/97.1 

Outlook:  The Bruins (33-10-12) entered Saturday’s schedule with the most points (68) in the NHL…This will be a difficult back-to-back for Boston, who hosted Arizona at 3 p.m. (EST)…RW David Pastrnak (38 goals) and G Tuukka Rask (2.15 GAA) are among several Bruins having outstanding seasons.

ted.kulfan@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @tkulfan

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