SUN Hockey Pool

Swede's game coming Back

RANDY SPORTAK, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 9:50 AM ET

DETROIT — Mike Babcock hadn’t much of an idea who Mikael Backlund was prior to the game.

He certainly will have a better read now.

After putting his team through the morning skate in anticipation of facing the Calgary Flames, the Detroit Red Wings head coach was talking about Calgary’s lines and Backlund’s trio came up.

“I don’t really know the kid in the middle,” Babcock said of the Flames rookie.

“It looks like he has some skill.”

Backlund showed how much, by scoring both goals for the Flames in their 4-2 loss.

“I actually read that,” the club’s third-line centre said.

“I was actually thinking, hopefully, he would after.”

It’s been a slow start to Backlund’s rookie season, but he netted his first goal of the season to open the scoring at the Joe Louis Arena Thursday.

He tallied a second time in the opening period to give the visitors a 2-1 edge.

“I was happy to score two goals, but I hate to lose,” Backlund said.

Still, there had to be some relief for the 21-year-old who was chosen in the first round of the 2007 draft.

“Of course,” he said. “I only scored one goal last year in 23 games. It’s fun to help the team and score. But

I haven’t focused on it much.”

The focus was the path needed to score more goals.

Backlund has done his share of putting pucks on net — 20 through six games now — but was told in a meeting Wednesday with assistant coach Dave Lowry to drive to the net harder.

“I like that. It’s going to help me be a better player,” he said of the tutelage.

“If I don’t have things to see I can get better, I can’t get better. It’s good to see those details.

“I know I haven’t been good enough (in the first few games.) The last two games haven’t been bad and I’ve been getting better and better.

“Hopefully, I can build on this game.”

Backlund, who fired a half-dozen shots on goal, was even rewarded with some powerplay time.

“It’s not the fact he scored. It’s the fact his compete level was much higher,” head coach Brent Sutter said.

“He’s got skills, but it’s that competitive nature he has to bring all the time.”

randy.sportak@sunmedia.ca


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