Notes: Weiss struggling to score; Smith improving

In the nine games since he came back from the shoulder injury, Stephen Weiss has one goal and one assist.

Rick Osentoski

The New Year has not been so kind to Stephen Weiss but the Red Wings aren’t worried about him.

Since his assist at Boston Dec. 29, Weiss has gone six games without a point.

"When you look at the piece of paper and whether he scored or not, he didn’t score," Wings coach Mike Babcock told reporters in St. Louis. "So I think all players go through that. The reality is if I look at St. Louis for example, if every five games everybody on their team had 10 points, they’d have a lot of points at the end of the year. If I look at the numbers today, that’s probably not happening. It goes in ebbs and flows. 

"Does he need to get better? Absolutely. Is he getting better? For sure."

From Nov. 24 when Weiss returned from a groin injury to Dec. 12 when he went down with a shoulder injury, he had four goals and six assists in 10 games.

In the nine games since he came back from the shoulder injury, Weiss has one goal and one assist.

"It’s a really hard league to score in," Weiss told reporters in St. Louis. "There’s no doubt about it. Sometimes the power play is not scoring, it’s real hard to score 5-on-5. Sometimes you have a streak where it’s going in and sometimes you don’t. You just got to stick with it and hopefully you get a bounce here or there and the next thing you know you’re on a run for a few games and you try to get that to run for as long as you can. 

"I don’t focus on stats, really. I’m just concerned about playing solid and helping the team get two points as much as possible."

The Wings are 6-3 in those nine games so Weiss not scoring hasn’t affected them much.

Weiss said he hasn’t heard much from the coaches.

"Which is maybe a good thing," Weiss said. "In this league, to score you have to bang in rebounds. It’s hard to get quality chances so you have to be in front of the net. It’s a real struggle to get chances. It will come."

SMITH AND OUELLET PAIR WORKING

Brendan Smith has come a long way since the 2012-13 playoffs.

Back then, fans were terrified that something bad was about to happen when Smith came onto the ice.

But Smith has settled down and while he’ll still take some chances on offense, he’s a much calmer player.

"Smitty is one of those guys, he’s an ultra-competitive kid," Babcock said. "He skates real well. He’s got a good skills set. I think he’s really settled down here of late. Him and X (Xavier Ouellet) give us a real good pair. You don’t have to worry about who they’re on the ice against. You just play them and so what you do with them is you play your top four less, which I think is so important because when you’re yanking them off because you’re so scared to have them out for D zone faceoffs, your top four play too much and you wear your team out."

Veteran defensman Niklas Kronwall has watched Smith grow the last few seasons.

"I think (he’s grown) confidence-wise," Kronwall told reporters in St. Louis. "I think he’s learning to pick his spots when to jump and when not to jump. He’s still a work in progress but he’s making some strides."

Smith, who turns 26 Feb. 8, is now paired with Ouellet and Babcock likes what he’s seen from the duo.

"I think they’ve played well together," Babcock said. "To me, the bottom line is I’m not concerned. I feel safe when they’re on the ice, X really moves the puck well and he seems to do good things on the offensive blue line."

Smith has two goals and five assists and is minus-2 in 38 games this season.

"The biggest thing for most pros, unless you’re a superstar, is you’re trying to get a bigger chunk of cheese all the time," Babcock said. "The coach doesn’t give you more, you take more. So by playing good and doing good things, you get more and more. He’d like to have more ice time and I’d like to give him more ice time. You just got to earn it."

RETURNING HOME

After playing six straight on the road, including Thursday’s game at St. Louis, the Wings will return home for three games before the All-Star break.

"It’s been pretty good," Weiss said. "We’ve been fairly happy with the way we played. We had some real good road games. We liked our game in Washington, just got off to not a great start and couldn’t find the net. But we liked our game. We played some real good road games and it would be nice to finish it off with a big effort (Thursday night)."

Although it can be a grind to be away from home so long, it’s not always a bad thing.

"I think everyone loves to be at home and play in front of your home fans but sometimes it is nice to get out on the road and spend some time with the guys," Weiss said. "You get more of those pranks going on. It can bring the team closer together. We’ve enjoyed the trip so far."

Weiss wouldn’t identify any of the pranksters but did say they manage to have fun.

"We keep it pretty loose," Weiss said. "We’ve got a good mix of older guys and a lot of young guys with a lot of energy. It’s a good group."