DETROIT – Finally, the Red Wings are in the midst of a long stretch where they will see teams in their new conference with 13 straight games against the East. Not since the first week of the season has Detroit had a week like the one coming up. The next seven successive days is filled exclusively with Eastern Conference foes with the Bruins, Islanders and Senators on tap.
The Red Wings are 1-3-1 against their Week 9 opponents with their lone win – a 3-2 decision against the Bruins – in a Columbus Day matinee at Boston on Oct. 14.
The Original Six rivals will meet for the third time this season when Detroit hosts the Bruins in Wednesday’s tradition Thanksgiving Eve contest. The game will mark the Bruins’ first trip into Joe Louis Arena in 33 months.
But it’s next Sunday’s game in Ottawa that will be a significant one for Daniel Alfredsson, who returns to the city that he was a part of for 17 seasons.
While Alfredsson doesn’t know what to expect from the Senators’ fans, he knows it will be an emotional visit to the Canadian capital. But as he was in Ottawa, Alfredsson’s been exceptional in his time in Detroit, producing three goals and 14 points in 19 games.
“He’s outstanding, he’s great, unbelievable,” Red Wings coach Mike Babcock. “Just a great, great person, he’s a great player, provides very good leadership in the room for a guy who hasn’t been in our organization. Knows the right thing to say, knows how to be a pro, had great integrity, is a great help to the coach.”
The Sens have adapted to life after Alfie, though they certainly know, and appreciate, his value on the ice and in the community.
“We’ve adjusted just fine,” Sens coach Paul MacLean said. “We all have tons of respect for Alfie and the stuff he did in Ottawa. But he’s not here. So we don’t have any concern about it. We’re moving along just fine.”
With that, here’s a look ahead to this week in Hockeytown:
WEDNESDAY – vs. BOSTON (15-6-2): Detroit and Boston have lost the fewest number of games in regulation, with the Bruins posting a 7-1-2 record in their last 10 games. Owners of the league’s second-best penalty kill unit (86.3 percent), the Bruins have surrendered just 10 power-play goals on 73 attempts. … Since the 2010-11 season, the Bruins have a 101-6-6 record in games when they've built a two-goal lead, including a 11-2-0 mark this season. Their success rate extends to 57-1-1 over that same span when they have led by three goals. David Krejci scored his fourth goal of the season, lifting the Bruins to a 3-2 overtime win over Carolina on Saturday. The Bruins’ center snapped a five-game pointless and seven-game goal-less slump. … Boston has gone to overtime five times this season with two contests decided in the five-minute session (2-0) and three in the shootout (1-2). All five of the games finished with 3-2 scores.
PLAYER TO WATCH: Goalie Tuukka Rask has been astounding this season, collecting a 12-5-1 record with a 1.61 goals-against average and .946 save percentage. He’s allowed one goal or fewer, including a pair of shutout victories against Tampa Bay (Oct. 19 & Nov. 11), in 11 games. Last month, Rask produced a 1-1-0 mark in two starts against the Red Wings, both in Boston. He turned aside 25 of 26 shots in the Bruins' 4-1 triumph over Detroit in the season’s first meeting. In four career starts against Detroit, the Finnish netminder has had trouble against the Red Wings. He has a 1-2-1 record and .893 save percentage, and his 2.95 GAA is his third-highest against NHL clubs, only surpassed by Washington (3.42) and Nashville (3.77).
FRI – at NEW YORK ISLANDERS (8-13-3): The last time these two teams met, Frans Nielsen capped a thrilling shootout with his trademark backhand that beat Jonas Gustavsson. Isles’ Evgeni Nabokov was injured in the first period of that game when Darren Helm scored on a breakaway. The veteran goalie suffered a pulled groin muscle and was placed on IR on Nov. 18. … The Isles have struggled on special teams, ranking No. 21 on the power play with a penalty kill that is dead last in the league. New York is 2-10-2 when allowing at least one power-play goal. The Isles are 6-2-1 when not giving up a PPG.
PLAYER TO WATCH: John Tavares has eight points in his last six games, and collected two points in the 5-4 shootout win over the Red Wings earlier this month. The fourth-year center is tied for second in league scoring with 26 points, including nine goals. He is the Isles’ ironman, having played in 231 consecutive regular-season games. One of the league’s top young marksmen, Tavares was battled through a hip injury this month. But he had a significant streak stopped by Los Angeles on Nov. 14 when his 69-game consecutive shot streak was snapped. The Islanders are 4-2-1 in games that Tavares has produced more than one point this season.
SUNDAY – at OTTAWA (9-11-4): The Senators had a chip on their shoulder last Saturday at JLA, when they baited the Red Wings into taking a season-high 23 minutes in penalties. The Red Wings had three separate 5-on-3 opportunities worth 3:45, but only managed to score once, which led Sens winger Clarke MacArthur to say afterwards, “Obviously, we don't want to give up three or four 5-on-3s. I don't know if their (Red Wings) skates were sharpened, but they went down really easy a couple of times.” … This is only the 14th time the Red Wings will play the Senators in the Canadian capital city. The Senators are 4-7-1-1 at home against Detroit. The last time these teams played in Ottawa, Johan Franzen went crazy, scoring a career-high five goals in the Wings’ 7-5 win on Feb. 2, 2011. … The Senators are undefeated in regulation against their Atlantic Division rivals going 6-0-1 this season, including a pair of wins over Detroit. … The Sens haven’t fared well at home, however, and are in the bottom third in the league with a 4-6-2 mark at Canadian Tire Centre.
PLAYER TO WATCH: Smooth skating Erik Karlsson has produced 16 points in his last 13 games and ranks 10th in league scoring with 24 points. He has been held off the scoring sheet seven times this season, while recording seven multi-point games. Karlsson routinely logs big minutes for the Senators. He skated 30-plus minutes and collected assists on Ottawa’s final two goals in Saturday’s 4-2 win at Detroit on Saturday. In two games against the Red Wings this season, Karlsson has four assists, four shots on goal, and two blocked shots with a plus-2 rating. In four career games against Detroit, Karlsson has six assists with a minus-1 rating. The former Norris Trophy winner, Karlsson is averaging 27 ½ minutes of ice-time. Only Minnesota’s Ryan Suter is logging more this season.
Follow Bill Roose on Twitter | @Bill_Roose
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