Their defense has been riddled by injuries. Goaltender Jimmy Howard has been taxed because they have no healthy backup they feel comfortable playing. The top two lines are carrying them offensively.

The Detroit Red Wings could use a lift from the third and fourth lines, but they're not getting it.

"We need some support,'' coach Mike Babcock said, following a 4-2 loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets Saturday at Nationwide Arena. "The whole group there's got one assist. Six guys got one assist.''

Babcock often says that Darren Helm makes the third and fourth lines go with his speed and energy, calling him the best third-line center in the league. Helm has played only one game due to a back injury, but his absence doesn't excuse the bottom six forwards from having provided no offense and, aside from three fights and some hits by Jordin Tootoo, little emotional spark.

"We got to be better,'' Daniel Cleary said. "We got to produce offense, momentum, energy. That's the only way to win in this league, you got to have depth.''

Cleary is struggling, with no points and a minus-2 rating. He has taken seven minor penalties, second-most on the team, behind Niklas Kronwall's 10.

"I got to be better. That's it, bottom line,'' Cleary said. "Got to get it done.''

Cleary said he feels fine physically, after battling through an assortment of injuries the past few seasons and undergoing arthroscopic knee surgery in May.

"Cleary's No. 1 skill is skating,'' Babcock said. "The better he skates, the better he plays. We're using him in a lot of different situations -- power play, penalty kill, regular shift. He's working hard.''

Justin Abdelkader also has no points, but Babcock said he is starting to skate better.

"There's no one more committed to being in shape than Abdelkader, but you're not as in game shape as you could be,'' Babcock said. "It affects your cycle grind game because that's heavy lifting with guys on your back. I thought he had his best game against Chicago (Jan. 27), so he's coming.''