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November 20, 2003 - 3rd-period slump worries Draper
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3rd-period slump worries Draper

November 20, 2003

BY HELENE ST. JAMES
FREE PRESS SPORTS WRITER

As the Red Wings attempt to climb out of their early-season funk, there's one area that has caught their attention: their third-period play.

In the first 19 games, the Wings' third-period performance has been notable chiefly for its erraticism. As recently as Friday they surrendered a two-goal lead to Chicago, then Saturday held Minnesota scoreless. For the season, the Wings hold an 18-17 edge in goals-scored to goals-allowed in the third period. Nor is that statistic skewed by elite opponents; Nashville, for example, has scored six goals during two third periods.

"We play well for 40, 45 minutes, and then, I don't know, we're just not closing the door on teams," said Kris Draper, one of the select forwards who is called on to close out a game if the Wings are playing with a lead. "When you see teams that are successful, their third periods are the best periods that they have, especially when they have the lead. We just can't go out and get the job done.

"Against Minnesota, I thought we played a really good game from start to finish. Chicago, I mean, we're up 3-1, and next thing you know we have to win it in overtime. Those are the things I think bothers everyone. It especially bothers the players who are out there in those situations. We're aware of it, and it's just a matter of collectively as a group making sure that we find ways to shut the door. . . . Hopefully, we can make our third period the way it should be, and that's our best period."

Last season at this point, the Wings had outscored opponents, 20-12, in the third period, and they ended the season with a 90-75 edge. It was the fourth straight year they finished with an advantage in third-period scoring, something they've accomplished six of the past seven seasons.