DETROIT – Five straight road games.
That’s the current success streak that the Red Wings’ power play is riding. It’s an amazing turnaround considering the Wings began the year without scoring a single power-play goal in the first 10 road games.
But since Valtteri Filppula netted a meaningless goal that got the power play off the schnied in Calgary this month, the Red Wings’ power play has been red hot.
Now, the Red Wings head into their fifth eight-game segment this week, and can create distance between them and the Coyotes with a win tonight at Phoenix. It’s another big week for the Wings as they look to stockpile more points in their quest to extend their playoff appearance streak to 22 straight.
“It (the schedule) is going to be tough, but at the same time we just have to keep going the way we have lately,” Wings defenseman Niklas Kronwall said. “Just stay on top of it, stick to the game plan and we'll be fine. It's times when we get a little too loose, that's when we're not as good as we are when we're more structured. If we stick to the game plan we'll be just fine.”
The power play, especially on the road, has given the Red Wings a huge lift lately, producing seven goals on the last 24 chances with the man-advantage.
Someone who has made noise on the power play, and was finally rewarded Sunday, is Jakub Kindl, who leads the team, and ranks fourth among all NHL defensemen with a +16 rating. He has three points in the last four games, including an assist on Daniel Cleary’s power-play goal in the first period of Sunday’s game at Anaheim.
Goalie Jimmy Howard has praised Kindl for stepping up and adding some stability to the defensive unit that has dealt with injuries all season.
“He's keeping his game simple, he's not trying to overdo anything out there,” Howard said. “Instead of in the past maybe forcing a couple pucks here and there, he's making the safe plays, that's what I think has allowed his confidence to grow.”
Kindl has already produced single-season bests for goals (3), game-winning goals (2), and plus/minus (+16).
MONDAY – at PHOENIX COYOTES (13-14-4): The struggling Coyotes, who are winless in five straight, have had three days to prepare for their first look at the Red Wings this season. Phoenix is coming off of a 2-1 loss at home to Vancouver on Thursday night. The Coyotes have scored just three goals in their last five games, which included three straight shutout losses. Meanwhile, the Red Wings will play their third game in four days when they drop the puck at Jobing.com Arena on Monday. … The Coyotes are second in the NHL with 53 home goals. … The Coyotes are 8-1-1 this season and 108-13-16 under coach Dave Tippett when scoring first in a game. Starting goalie Mike Smith was knocked from last Thursday’s game on a hit by Canucks’ Alexander Edler. The status for Smith, who has four shutouts this season, is considered to be day-to-day. In eight career starts against the Red Wings, Smith is 2-4-2 with a 2.54 goals-against average.
PLAYER TO WATCH: Shane Doan will play in his 1,230 NHL on Monday. The Coyotes’ captain leads all active players in games played with the same franchise. His 13 hits at Los Angeles last week were the most hits by any NHL player in a game this season. The captain leads the Coyotes with 75 hits this season. He finished second on the team with 205 hits a season ago. Doan continues to pace the Coyotes’ offense as he is first on the team with 11 goals. The veteran forward recorded his 177th career multi-point game with two goals in a 3-2 loss at Los Angeles, and now owns 806 career points to move within 11 points of Thomas Steen (817) for second-place in franchise history behind Dale Hawerchuk (929). Doan has produced 13 goals and 22 assists with a minus-11 rating in 60 career games against Detroit.
THURSDAY – at SAN JOSE SHARKS (13-11-6): San Jose is in the midst of a seven-game homestand where they haven’t lost too many games this season. The Sharks are 8-1-4 at HP Pavilion, and haven’t lost in regulation since dropping a 5-3 decision to Chicago on Feb. 5. … The Sharks will once again don their alternate jersey when they host the Red Wings at HP Pavilion this week. The Sharks plan to wear their “black” jerseys a total of eight times at home this season. They are 3-0-1 when sporting the jerseys. The only time they didn’t win was in a 2-1 shootout loss to Detroit on Feb. 28. … According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Sharks coach Todd McLellan, in just 333 games, became the second fastest coach to 200 wins in NHL history. The only coach to get to that mark quicker was McLellan’s former AHL teammate/roommate Bruce Boudreau, who reached that mark in just 326 games.
PLAYER TO WATCH: Finally, center Scott Gomez scored his first goal as a member of the Sharks on March 5. While it took time to get going, the goal has ignited the former Calder Trophy winner as he has picked up at least one point in seven of the last 10 games, including a five-game assist streak. Gomez’s offensive production has plummeted over time. He’s struggled in recent years – he has 11 goals in his past 156 NHL games – and was bought out of his contract by the Montreal Canadiens last summer. He was happy to sign a one-year deal with the Sharks for $700,000 and now is beginning to produce like he’s capable. … Red Wings’ fans haven’t seen too much of Gomez over his 13 NHL seasons. He’s played in just 12 games against the Red Wings, producing a goal and five assists. Gomez’s only tally against the Wings came during a New Jersey second-period power play as the Devils lost 2-1 on Dec. 16. 2006.
SUNDAY – vs. CHICAGO BLACKHAWKS (24-3-3): Happy Easter, everyone! The Blackhawks remain atop of the standings (with 51 points) as the 10th week of the lockout-compressed season commences. Despite a 4-2 loss at Anaheim last Wednesday, the Hawks are 7-3-0 in their last 10 games, and 14-1-0 when scoring the first goal of a game this season. But it’s against the Central Division where the Blackhawks have been flawless, running the table with a perfect 9-0-0 record against the Red Wings, Blues, Predators and Blue Jackets. Seven of the ’Hawks wins against Central rivals have been one-goal decisions.
PLAYER TO WATCH: Captain Jonathan Toews is second among Blackhawks with 30 points (15 goals, 15 assists) through 30 games this season. He is tied for eighth in the league in goals and tied for 12th in the NHL with a plus-17 rating. … The 24-year-old Winnipeg native recorded a season-high three points, including two goals, at Dallas on March 16, and repeated the feat two nights later at Colorado. The Blackhawks have posted a perfect 8-0-0 record this season when Toews records more than one point. Toews has 15 points (eight goals, seven assists) in his last 11 games. He ranks fourth in the NHL, first in the Western Conference, in faceoff wins (355) and trails Pavel Datsyuk (39) for the league lead with 35 takeaways.
Follow Bill Roose on Twitter | @Bill_Roose
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