Red Wings back Filip Zadina as he tries to shake prolonged scoring slump

Detroit News

Detroit — The last time Filip Zadina scored a goal, hockey fans had just finished downing their Thanksgiving turkey and were getting ready to buy presents for the holidays.

It was Nov. 30, to be precise, against the Boston Bruins. Zadina hasn’t scored a goal in 17 games, and only four for the entire season.

No Red Wings player is struggling more offensively.

“I’ve been through it myself. I understand the feeling,” veteran forward Sam Gagner said when asked about Zadina’s struggles. “There’s a ton of pressure involved in it. You put pressure on yourself to succeed and there’s outside noise as well. It’s tough to handle as a young player in the best league in the world.”

Zadina has 11 points (four goals, seven assists) this season, and has a minus-17 rating. Zadina has dropped from playing on a scoring line, primarily on the second line, to third- and fourth-line roles.

The last three games, Zadina has been playing about 10 minutes per game.

Teammates are encouraging Zadina, trying to boost the 22-year-old’s confidence.

“You try to help, little things within the game that might help them have success,” Gagner said. “It’s a really tough league to produce in. If you can bring other things, it helps you as your career goes along. Filip, specifically, I feel the offense will come for him. He’s got great talent. He works really hard on his game.

“We certainly have his back.”

Zadina has only played 126 games in his career, is in his third full season, but the pressures and doubts from impatient fans are growing, as he’s only scored 19 goals in his NHL career.

The sixth overall pick in the draft in 2018, the Wings were hoping to see significant progress from Zadina this season — after a disappointing 2020-21 season — but Zadina hasn’t put together any sort of hot stretches.

Gagner was the sixth overall pick in 2007 by the Edmonton Oilers, and can relate to the pressures and expectations involved for a player drafted that high. Gagner, in fact, remembers the pressure heaped upon former Red Wings forward Johan Franzen, a notoriously streaky goal-scorer, who was a favorite target of impatient Wings fans.

“All of the sudden he starts scoring goals at a really high rate, just because he starts to get that feeling around the net, and gets confidence,” Gagner said. “There’s different players that go through it. ‘Z’ just needs to stay with it and the floodgates will open for him.”

Zadina has been urged by coach Jeff Blashill, and the rest of the coaching staff, to get to the net more often, and spend less time on the perimeter. If there’s been one constant in Zadina’s game as professional, it might be an over reliance on his powerful shot, which can sometimes work as a negative.

“Five-on-five, there’s one area of the ice where everything is scored now and that’s in that slot,” Blashill said. “There’s different ways to get pucks there. You can carry it there, receive passes there, and you can get loose-puck recoveries there. That includes the net-front area.

“It’s easier to talk about than it is to actually do. But whether it’s giving it and finding those soft areas in the slot, whether it’s getting it back and carrying it into those areas, whether it’s, probably this is the easiest way, putting yourself in those areas constantly and other people shooting the puck and you get those loose-puck recoveries.

“The guys that score consistently always have dirty goals as part of their collection, because it’s impossible to score from the outside on a consistent basis. He knows that, and he’s going to continue to work to get to those areas.”

Even getting that hard shot toward the net has been a struggle. Zadina has only been averaging one shot per game over the last 10 games, which makes it even more difficult to score goals.

“There’s probably been more times where he’s had the opportunity to shoot and he hasn’t gotten it off quick enough, more than he’s passed up shot opportunities,” Blashill said. “He looks to shoot as much as anybody on our team. He just hasn’t gotten into those situations enough.

“Before the Christmas break that was extended, he was getting lots of opportunities and chances. He’s just got to keep working his way into getting those chances again.”

Blackhawks at Red Wings 

Faceoff: 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Little Caesars Arena, Detroit

TV/radio: TNT/97.1 FM

Outlook: The Blackhawks (15-20-7) are coming off a 2-0 loss Monday in Colorado. … The Wings blasted the Blackhawks, 6-3, on Oct. 24, the only other game between the teams this season. … Wings D Gustav Lindstrom (lower body) practiced Tuesday, after not skating Monday. … Farmington Hills native LW Alex DeBrincat leads the Blackhawks with 24 goals.

Twitter: @tkulfan

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