Wings offense sputters again in loss to Flames

DETROIT — The Red Wings have done a pretty good job of knocking goalies out of the game. Now they need to do a better job of knocking pucks past them.

In two of the last three games, the opposing starting goaltender has had to leave because of injury. Last week it was St. Louis Jaroslav Halak, who came out with a lower-body injury. Tuesday it was Calgary’s Miikka Kiprusoff, who came out with a lower-body injury after two periods.

But that didn’t help the Wings put the puck in the net in a 4-1 loss on Tuesday.

It’s no secret that if Henrik Zetterberg, Pavel Datsyuk, Johan Franzen and Damien Brunner aren’t scoring, then the Wings aren’t scoring.

Valtteri Filppula and Todd Bertuzzi each have two goals on the season, but the scoring has not been so evenly distributed as it’s been in the past.

The third and fourth lines have just one assist combined.

The Wings have already been shut out once and have scored just one goal in three games — and they’ve only played nine.

As a means of comparison, in those nine games the Wings have scored 22 goals. Through nine games, the Tampa Bay Lightning have 40 goals, the St. Louis Blues 31 and the Pittsburgh Penguins 29.

That’s one of the reasons the Wings called up Tomas Tatar, who had 19 goals and 20 assists in 44 games with the Grand Rapids Griffins. They were looking for some offensive help.

Unfortunately, they didn’t get any in Tuesday night’s 4-1 loss to the Calgary Flames.

Franzen had the lone goal on the power play, assisted by Zetterberg and Niklas Kronwall.

“It will happen one game once in a while, but you can’t have a long stretch of that,” Zetterberg said of the lack of scoring. “It’s something we have to look after and change.”

The special teams have not helped the Wings any either.

Despite Franzen’s power-play goal, the Wings are 25th in the league with the man advantage, converting just 12.2 percent of their chances.

“We’re not generating enough chances,” Kronwall said. “We have bits and pieces but overall we need to do a better job of just getting the puck to the net and generate chances that way.”

The penalty kill is also one of the worst in the league, currently ranked 28th after allowing Calgary two power-play goals. The Wings have only killed off 69.8 percent of their opponents’ chances.

Generally, the Wings expect to be in the top 10 in both special teams categories.

“PK, we need to be more organized,” Kronwall said. “Sometimes I think we’re thinking too much out there instead of just going out there and staying on our toes, being aggressive. Sometimes we’re a step behind.”

The Wings looked a step behind Saturday in Columbus and again Tuesday against the Flames.

When Datsyuk has the puck on the right doorstep early in the second period and hits the crossbar instead of the net, you could probably guess it’s going to be a long night.

“I think that will happen during the course of a game,” Zetterberg said. “You can’t be perfect all the time. But we just gotta keep at it. The puck will go in eventually.”

It would help if the puck started going in early and often so the Wings don’t have to play from behind so much.

“We had opportunities, but didn’t capitalize on them,” coach Mike Babcock said. “I didn’t think we were terrible, but catch-up hockey is losing hockey. You can’t start from behind. You’ve got to start from ahead. That’s what you’ve got to do. You want to be playing right from the get-go. We’ve got to continue to improve, that’s all there is to it.”

The Wings don’t have a lot of time to improve in practice as they head to St. Louis on Thursday.