DETROIT -- Detroit Red Wings coach Mike Babcock likes the potential for his team to be more physical this season -- and he's not referring to just racking up hits.
Being physical also is about being strong on the puck, grinding it, cycling it and wearing down opponents by making them chase you all night long.
"The more physical we can be, the better opportunity I believe this team has," Babcock said. "I think we can skill our way around the rink, but if we work and we're gritty and we're determined, we're a much better team."
Babcock bemoaned a lack of physicality in losses to St. Louis and Colorado earlier this season. He had no such complaints after Thursday's 4-3 loss at Nashville.
Even though the Red Wings squandered a lead in the last five minutes, they dominated territorially, and Babcock liked the way his players responded to the Predators' physical ways.
"It's not how big you are, it's how big you play," Babcock said. "Some guys that weigh 180 play 210, and you got guys that are 220 that play 150. So you got to decide who you want to be and how hard on the puck you want to be."
Forward Justin Abdelkader said they can be skilled and gritty.
"I think we have a group that can not only skate, but can be physical, play with grit," Abdelkader said. "That's important, especially as you get through the second half of the year and the playoffs. You see a team like Boston, they won (the Stanley Cup) with grit and determination. They were physical."
The Red Wings are not as big and abrasive as the Bruins, but they don't need to be to have success.
"When people say physical, I mean being hard to play against," Abdelkader said. "There's a lot of things that factor into being physical, not just hitting."
When you possess the puck as much as the Red Wings, you're not going to be hitting as much.
"If you're looking at a physical team, we wouldn't be at the top of the list," forward Danny Cleary said. "But if the game calls for it or if it's what we need to do, we seem to be able to do that."
The Red Wings will take a nine-game home winning streak into tonight's game against the Los Angeles Kings, who fired coach Terry Murray earlier this week, replacing him with John Stevens, after a disappointing start.