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Up-to-the minute updates and insights from the Red Wings locker room at home and on the road. By Chuck Pleiness of The Macomb Daily.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Red Wings alter practice M.O.

DETROIT -- Wednesday's practice at Joe Louis Arena was half as long as the normal off-day routine is for the Detroit Red Wings. They're hoping that the results go twice as far.
Instead of the normal 50 minutes on the ice, the team spent just 25 minutes. Instead of conditioning and high-tempo drills, the players spent the majority of their time standing and listening to coach Mike Babcock.
When you no team has had more points than you in any of the past three seasons, losing three games in a row (even if one was a shootout loss) is a slump that draws attention.
"There's two ways I could have went," said Babcock. "I could have come in here, skated and ground them into the ground. Or we could have come in here and talked about what's real important, having a good focus, being fresh and getting prepared and executing. In this league, if you win today, everything goes away and takes care of itself."
"Today" comes for the Red Wings at 7:30 p.m. against the Vancouver Canucks at Joe Louis Arena (FSN). The Canucks are tied with the Minnesota Wild for first place in the Northwest Division, but haven't won a game in regulation time in their past five tries, going 2-3-0 over that span with a pair of shootout victories.
The Red Wings' focus in yesterday's practice preparation for the Canucks was the penalty-kill. After going nine games without allowing one power-play goal, the Red Wings have allowed five in the past two games, both losses.
So Babcock used nine skaters as pawns, yesterday, having them stand in position as the power-play or penalty-kill unit. Babcock moved the puck or one skater and had the others react and freeze. They were questioned about passing lanes and shooting lanes. There were far more words -- most of which could be heard throughout the upper bowl of Joe Louis Arena -- than skaters' strides.
After that lengthy chalk-talk session, the Red Wings got a class in transition defense by the penalty-kill.
"A lot of these drills and things that we're doing are things that we've done all year," said Detroit's Kirk Maltby. "It's just a matter of executing and doing them properly. The practice isn't a game, but at the same time, you play how you practice. If you're not doing the little things in practice, you kind of carry it over. I think that's what we've been guilty of a little bit."
For the Red Wings, a three-game losing streak is unusual. They've had only one other this season and just 14 losses in 47 outings.
In Babcock's three seasons with the Red Wings, the team has had just eight losing streaks of at least three games. In addition to the two this season, the Red Wings had five in 2006-07 and one in 2005-06.
"We've just got to go through this little rough stretch and we're going to come out of it (Thursday)," said Detroit's Brett Lebda. "Whenever you're in a slump, you just go back to the basics. It's the same for every sport. In baseball you see guys going to the cages and redefining their swing. It's the same thing here. Stick to the basics, play good defense and your opportunities will come."


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