DETROIT – Taking four points out of a possible six, the Red Wings’ players are beginning to feel a little better about themselves following back-to-back convincing wins over Nashville and Vancouver at Joe Louis Arena.
But the wins, where they outscored the Predators and Canucks by a combined 12-3 score, will be a distance memory by the time the team lands in southern California Monday evening.
“It’s a better feeling when you’re winning games, but in saying that, those five games that we lost … we still have to get back to a winning streak,” captain Henrik Zetterberg said. “We have to go down and win games. We have to regroup and starting Wednesday we have to be good again.”
Only three games are on the schedule this week, however, with the added burden of traveling across three time zones and back-to-back games in Los Angeles and San Jose, wins again won’t be easy.
“It is a tough week for us and it’s the first time we’re going to the West Coast, as well,” Zetterberg said. “The time difference and all that comes with it, we have to be ready for it. Hopefully, we can get some bodies back too, and win some games.”
In the last four seasons, the Red Wings are 11-9-4 on the road in California.
The Wings return home next Sunday to face the red-hot Chicago Blackhawks, who remain unbeaten in regulation this season. The Wings took the Blackhawks to overtime, but lost when Nick Leddy scored at 2:45.
So, with that, here’s a look ahead to this week in Hockeytown:
WEDNESDAY – at LOS ANGELES KINGS (8-6-2): The Red Wings enter the lion’s den this week when they visit the Kings at Staples Center in Wednesday. Since dropping a 3-2 loss to the Wings in Detroit two weeks ago, the defending Stanley Cup champions are on a 5-1-0 stretch. The Kings will definitely benefit from a more favorable schedule in the second half of the compressed season. They will play 20 of their final 33 games at home. … The fourth lowest scoring team in the league, the Kings have been gotten an offensive boost from center Jeff Carter, who has scored five goals in the past six games. … Like the Wings, the Kings have been bite by the injury bug, although not to the same extent with only three players – Matt Greene (back), Alec Martinez (upper body) and Willie Mitchell (knee) – on injured reserve.
PLAYER TO WATCH: Last week, Drew Doughty had the dubious distinction for owning an NHL-worst minus-11 rating for the season. However, over the last three games, the 6-foot-1 defenseman is a plus-4. For someone who has always enjoyed joining the rush, Doughty hasn’t been thrilled with the way his season has gone so far. “I'm not happy about some things – not scoring points, I haven't scored a goal yet – it isn't a good thing," he told the Los Angeles Time. “Sometimes bounces just don't go your way. We're not scoring a lot of even-strength goals. And if you're playing a lot of minutes, pretty much half the game, you're going to be out there for goals against.”
THURSDAY – at SAN JOSE SHARKS (8-6-3): This is the first of three meetings against the Sharks, who return home following a not-so-kind two weeks on the road. San Jose went 1-4-1, including losses at Chicago on each of the last two Fridays. … Owners of the league’s second-best home penalty kill, the Sharks have allowed just two power-play goals at HP Pavilion this season. … Patrick Marleau begins the week in a five-way tie for the league-lead in goals with 12. The veteran left winger has cooled off a bit from his extremely hot start – he scored two-goals in each of the first four games this season – though Marleau, who has 20 career goals against the Red Wings, has a goal in each of the last two games. … The Sharks will likely be without Ryane Clowe for a few weeks. The veteran forward is facing a possible 10-game suspension after he received a game-misconduct for leaving the bench to start at altercation Friday night against the Blackhawks. Look for Scott Gomez to take Clowe’s spot on the Sharks’ second line.
PLAYER TO WATCH: In the last two seasons in Detroit, Brad Stuart produced a plus-20 rating, second best among Red Wings’ defensemen in that time. So it’s no surprise that the 33-year-old currently leads the entire Sharks team at plus-7. Injuries along the blue line have been a bit of an issue this season with Stuart and Marc-Edouard Vlasic the only D-men to play in every game. Always defensively responsible, Stuart enters the week having blocked 30 shots, which is second highest among San Jose players. … Stuart’s next goal will be the 75th of his 13-season career. He produced 15 goals and 61 assists in three-plus seasons with the Red Wings.
SUNDAY – vs. CHICAGO BLACKHAWKS (15-0-3): The Blackhawks’ start is the best in NHL history, but they’re not complacent. “The guys should be proud of the accomplishment. But we shouldn't be happy with where we're at,” coach Joel Quenneville told CSN Chicago. “I like the demeanor and the approach, just looking to the next game, trying to contribute. It's been a nice environment for the guys and they keep pushing each other.” Balanced scoring has been a huge help for the Blackhawks, who have six forwards – Patrick Kane, Marian Hossa, Jonathan Toews, Dave Ballard, Viktor Stalberg, and Patrick Sharp – with at least four goals each. … Veteran goalie Ray Emery has been vital to the Blackhawks’ success backing up starter Corey Crawford. Both goalies have seven wins each, and are among the league leaders in every goaltending category. Crawford is ranked third with a 1.65 goals-against average, while Emery is 10th with a 2.10 GAA.
PLAYER TO WATCH: A deadly shooter and super stick-handler, Patrick Kane is the Western Conference’s leading scorer with nine goals and 14 assists in 18 games. Kane, who attended Detroit Country Day, has registered at least a point in 15 games, including seven multiple-point games. Only the Red Wings and Los Angeles Kings have held the Buffalo native off the score sheet prior to Sunday. Kane has seven goals and 27 points in 32 career games against Detroit, his lowest point production among the Central Division teams.
Follow Bill Roose on Twitter | @Bill_Roose
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