DETROIT – It’s a Pacific kind of week for the Red Wings as they travel to western Canada later today to begin a trip that consists of three games in four nights, making stops in Vancouver, Calgary and Edmonton.
It’s their only excursion to the Great White North this season – thank you move to the Eastern Conference! – and while it’s still early in the season, this is a highly important trip for the Red Wings who are coming off a stretch of four straight losses to Phoenix, San Jose, Ottawa and the New York Rangers.
Last season, the Red Wings were 5-3-1 against western Canada opponents, but 2-2-1 in enemy territory, so stopping the recent turnovers trend, which has led to an exorbitant amount of shots and scoring chances, must cease sooner than later.
“Obviously, we don’t go there that often now,” Wings captain Henrik Zetterberg said. “I’m kind of looking forward to going to those cities and play those games. It’s fun to go there, to play in Canada, lot of attention on hockey. Then you know you don’t have to go back there. Nice to play all those teams at once. You have a good road trip, a fun road trip and play some good hockey games.’’
Detroit (6-4-2) begins the week in fourth-place in the eight-team Atlantic Division, but only trails first-place Toronto by two-points. The Wings will conclude their four-game road swing through Canada a week from tonight when they visit Winnipeg for the first time in 17-plus years.
While the Wings have struggled to score goals – netting three in the last four games –
Goalie Jimmy Howard has been spectacular. Other than the 6-1 drubbing to the Senators when he was pulled in the first period, Howard has kept the Wings in every game this season.
“He’s very strong mentally and doesn’t let anything get to him,” defenseman Niklas Kronwall said following Saturday’s overtime loss to the rangers. “I’m sure he wasn’t very happy about the last game, but no one in here was happy with that last game. I don’t think we can blame anything on any particular guy; it was a team effort. We played horrible, but tonight I think he deserved more and better.”
Howard has posted a 10-4-2 lifetime record in games after he was lifted. It’s too bad the Wings play the Flames and Oilers on back to back nights, because Howard likely will split those games with backup Jonas Gustavsson. In his career at the Saddledome and Rexall Place, Howard has a 7-1-2 all-time record with a 2.14 goals-against average. He is 5-3-1 with a 2.84 GAA at Vancouver’s Rogers Arena.
With that, here’s a look ahead to this week in Hockeytown:
WEDNESDAY – at VANCOUVER (8-4-1): The Canucks are on a three-game winning streak, but needed extra time in deciding those games, in fact, five of their wins were achieved in extra time. Overtime goals by Brad Richardson and Ryan Kesler gave Vancouver victories at the New York Islanders and St. Louis, while Mike Santorelli produced the lone tally in a shootout win at New Jersey. … Kesler, a Livonia, Mich., native, is off to a phenomenal start, benefiting from coach John Tortorella’s decision to put him together with the Sedin twins. Kesler has six points in the last three games. He is second in the league in average ice time, logging 22.32, which is 14-seconds fewer than Sidney Crosby. Canucks forwards Henrik Sedin (22:11) and Daniel Sedin (22:00) are also in the top six in the NHL in average ice time. … Through 13 games, the Canucks have produced scoring opportunities when on the penalty kill. Richardson leads the league with two shorthanded goals.
PLAYER TO WATCH: Captain Henrik Sedin is enjoying one of his most productive Octobers in his illustrious NHL career. He is tied for second in the league in scoring with 15 points and is first in assists with 12. He is just two points shy of surpassing his all-time best start to a season when he produced 16 points in Oct. 2009. The most points that Sedin has compiled in any single month has happened twice, when he registered 25 points in back to back months in Dec. 2009 and Jan. 2010. … Earlier this month, he collected career point No. 800 when he picked up an assist on Chris Higgins’ third-period goal in a 3-2 win at Philadelphia on Oct. 15. It is expected that Sedin will extend his Canucks’ ironman streak when the Canucks host the Red Wings this Wednesday. He has played in 642 consecutive games and ranks sixth in NHL history for the longest games-played streak.
FRIDAY – at CALGARY (5-4-2): The Red Wings go up against a pair of former teammates – goalie Joey MacDonald and center Jiri Hudler – when they face the Flames in their only visit to the Saddledome. The Flames have been outscored this season, but managed to maintain an above .500 winning percentage through 11 games. Despite their mediocrity, the Flames own the third-best home power play in the league, scoring three times on 13 chances. … Former University of Michigan standout Michael Cammalleri, who started the season on IR, returned Oct. 21 and collected a goal and an assist in his season debut. The 31-year-old winger led the Flames with 32 points in 44 games last season. … The Flames’ forward that the Wings could do without seeing is Curtis Glencross. The 30-year-old Saskatoon native has potted three game-winners in his career against Detroit – the most he’s scored against any league team. He’s already scored two game-winners this season, which is tied for second in the NHL. … Calgary captain Mark Giordano, who has been a power-play machine against the Red Wings, was placed on injured reserve Saturday with a lower-body injury sustained at Los Angeles on Oct. 21. Of the six points all-time he’s scored against the Wings, five have been on the power play, including three goals. … Four of the five Flames’ wins this season have been of the one-goal variety. The only one that wasn’t was Saturday’s 5-2 home triumph over Washington.
PLAYER TO WATCH: Hudler started the season with a nine-game point streak and now he has five goals and eight assists in 11 games to lead the Flames. Until last week, he was the last player in the league to have had a point in every game, but the streak came to a screech last Thursday in a 5-1 loss at Dallas. … The Red Wings’ former second-round pick in 2002, Hudler has never really lived up to the expectations, however, his recent success could be something more than an anomaly. Hudler signed a four-year contract worth $16 million with the Flames prior to the start of last season.
SATURDAY – at EDMONTON (3-8-2): No wonder why the Oilers are in last place in the Western Conference with six players in injured reserve. Center Sam Gagner (broken jaw), and wingers Taylor Hall (knee), Ryan Hamilton (knee surgery), Jesse Joensuu (back) and Steve MacIntyre (knee) are out, and goalie Devan Dubnyk (ankle) and winger Ryan Smyth (groin) are day to day. … The Oilers let a big division game slip through their fingers over the weekend, losing a third-period lead at Phoenix as the Coyotes stormed back on a pair of late power-play goals. … The Oilers’ penalty-kill is abysmal, and ranked No. 29 in the league, having allowed 12 goals in 49 chances. Through 12 games, the Oilers have yielded the most goals per game in the league, surrendering four goals, which is nearly 1 ½ goals more than last season. The Oilers are 1-5-1 when scoring first this season. … Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and journeyman center Boyd Gordon lead the Oilers with four goals each.
PLAYER TO WATCH: With Gagner beginning the season on IR, rookie center Mark Arcobello has taken full advantage of his opportunity, collecting 10 assists, which is a league high among rookies, in 10 games. His helpers have come in bunches, with two each at Montreal (Oct. 22) and New York Islanders (Oct. 17), and a career-high three at Toronto (Oct. 12). Arcobello has done a superb job in Gagner’s absence, and is tied for third in league assists alongside names like Crosby, Joe Thornton, Anze Kopitar and David Krejci. … Last year, Arcobello, who is from Milford, Conn., and played at Yale, led the Oklahoma City Barons in scoring during the regular season with 68 points in 70 games, and in playoffs with 20 points in 17 contests.
Follow Bill Roose on Twitter | @Bill_Roose
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