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Detroit Red Wings: 5 Things That Must Change Heading into the NHL Playoffs

JohnCorrespondent IMarch 5, 2012

Detroit Red Wings: 5 Things That Must Change Heading into the NHL Playoffs

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    The Detroit Red Wings have lost four of their last six games and have gone 1-3 at home during that stretch. 

    This is not to cause to panic as the Wings are still tied atop the Central Division and are only one point out of first place in the Western Conference. 

    However, if the Wings are to have any chance in the playoffs of making a run at bringing the Stanley Cup back to Hockeytown, they need to change these five things before April. 

Penalty Kill

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    Detroit has the 16th best penalty killing percentage in the league. Killing only 82.3 percent of penalties, the Wings special teams need to play better down the stretch.

    The good out of this is the Wings average only 8.78 penalty minutes each game, the second lowest in the NHL.

Power Play

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    The Wings are 10th in the league in power play goals. Not a bad place to be, but when you compare that to the number of power play opportunities, 245, it is a weakness of the team. Their power play percentage, 17.1, is the 15th best, right in the middle of the league. 

Play Tougher

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    The Wings are last in the league in fights per game. Averaging .22 fights each game, Justin Abdelkader leads the team with six fights this season. General manager Ken Holland was rumored to be interested in adding a gritty forward before the trade deadline, but was unable to find a match for the right price. 

    Rookie defenseman Brendan Smith put up a good fight in his first one in the NHL against Chicago’s Andrew Shaw on Sunday. Smith looks like he very well might be in the NHL to stay. 

Away Record

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    The Wings have been the toughest team to beat on their home ice this season and set an NHL record of 23 straight wins at home.

    Their record on the road, however, has been a different story. They are 16-16-1 away from Joe Louis Arena. The St. Louis Blues have kept pace with the Wings and are tied atop the Central Division with 89 points. If Detroit finishes second in the division, the highest seed they could earn in the playoffs is the fourth, meaning they could easily lose home ice advantage after the first round. 

Injuries

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    Pavel Datsyuk had knee surgery and is expected back well before the playoffs begin. 

    Jimmy Howard returned from a broken finger and did not seem to miss a step after sitting out six games. He left after the first period with a lower body injury during Sunday’s 2-1 loss against Chicago. 

    The defense has gotten pretty beat up since acquiring Kyle Quincey and trading Mike Commodore at the trade deadline. 

    Nicklas Lidstrom suffered a bad bone bruise in his ankle and has sat out the past few games. 

    Jonathan Ericsson broke his wrist and should be ready to play by April. 

    Like Howard, Jakub Kindl left after the first period of Sunday’s game. 

    Detroit has good depth in the minor leagues in case a third or fourth line player has to sit out, but if they want to make a run at another Stanley Cup, they are going to need their star players. 

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