Draper continues scoring onslaught
November 27, 2003
BY NICHOLAS J. COTSONIKA
FREE PRESS SPORTS WRITER
Five goals in five games?
"That used to be a season for me," center Kris Draper said Wednesday night, smiling sheepishly after scoring twice in the Red Wings' 7-1 romp over Edmonton.
The Wings have barely passed the quarter pole, and Draper is already more than halfway to his career high in goals. He has nine this season. He had 15 in 2001-02.
He's trying to play it cool.
"I'm just shooting, and I'm going to the net, and I'm just going to continue to do that," he said.
"To be honest with you, I don't want to get caught up in it. I don't want to even think about it. Just kind of want to keep doing what I'm doing."
But there's no denying he's hot.
"I think this is probably his best offensive start ever in his career, and I think he's having a lot of fun with it," coach Dave Lewis said.
"He's full of energy. It's almost like a kettle on a stove. You've got to release the steam every now and then or else it'll blow up."
Draper has set a new career high in points each of the past three seasons. He posted 25 points in 2000-01, 30 in '01-02 and 35 last season. He has 12 points this season.
Why the increased production? He points to an increase in ice time. He averaged 13:26 in 2000-01, 15:35 in '01-02 and 16:12 last season. He entered Wednesday night averaging 16:13 this season.
"He's worked really hard, and he's really improved from year to year," captain Steve Yzerman said. "His role has increased. He's always gotten a lot of chances, and now they're going in for him. Once they start going in, you stop thinking. Just shoot, and they go in."
Maybe, at 32, he's just in his prime.
"I like that," Lewis said. "He's in his prime. There's a certain maturity level. I think he's more confident now with his shot and his ability to score."
Don't start calling Draper a sniper, though. He's still a grinder.
"I'll never forget where I came from," Draper said. "Don't worry about that. I've got a lot of guys to make sure I don't."
No kidding. Yzerman was asked in jest if Draper would score 50 for the first time. His response?
"I wouldn't bet on it."
NO EXCUSES: Lewis was asked Wednesday morning if it was tough to assess the Wings because they had suffered so many injuries. He said yes. But he also said the injuries didn't excuse the Wings' start.
"I don't think we've met the expectations of how I think we can play," Lewis said. "We're in a situation where we can get better, even with the guys that we have. . . .
"There's no crutches. . . . Injuries are not factored into this."