Feb. 4: Week Ahead in Hockeytown
Red Wings play four games in six days this week
DETROIT – For the second time this season, the Red Wings will face a stretch of three games in four days when they travel to St. Louis on Thursday then return to the friendly confines of Joe Louis Arena for back-to-back games against Edmonton and Los Angeles this weekend.
But the action-packed week begins Tuesday when the Wings host former teammate Jiri Hudler and the Calgary Flames.
February is an important month for the Red Wings, who can capitalize on their favorable schedule. Detroit has eight games at home this month, including four straight beginning with the Oilers on Saturday.
“When you got the good schedule you have to take advantage of it,” coach Mike Babcock said.
Getting points, especially against teams, like the Flames, who are last place in the Western Conference standings, is critical if the Red Wings are to extend their 21 straight appearances in the Stanley Cup playoffs.
“Good team, dying for points,” said Babcock, of Calgary. “They’re a team that needs to play well and we need to play well. Plus they’ll have Huds in the lineup. We’re big fans of Huds here. We still wish he was a Red Wing, but that’s a decision guys make and we wish him luck every night except when he plays against us.”
This week in Hockeytown:
TUESDAY – vs. CALGARY FLAMES (1-3-2): The Flames head out on their first extended road trip of the season, heading to Detroit, Columbus and then Vancouver. Calgary limps into town with the league’s worst record, however, the Flames possess one of the league’s top power-play units, scoring six times on 25 opportunities with the man-advantage.
PLAYER TO WATCH: Former Red Wings forward Jiri Hudler had two goals and an assist against Colorado last week. The speedy Czech has recorded two goals for five points in three games since joining his new club as a free agent during the off-season.
THURSDAY – at ST. LOUIS BLUES (6-2-0): The Western Conference leaders in scoring – with 30 goals in eight games – the Blues are 3-1-0 in one-goal games this season. A very good team at protecting the puck, St. Louis has coughed up the puck just 37 times. Only Columbus has fewer giveaways with 33.
PLAYER TO WATCH: With starting goalie Jaroslav Halak placed on injured reserve on Sunday, backup Brian Elliot will likely get his first start against the Red Wings this season. Elliot is 2-5-1 with a 2.48 goals-against lifetime against the Red Wings. Halak suffered a lower body injury on Feb. 1 at Detroit.
SATURDAY – vs. EDMONTON OILERS (4-3-1): One the strongest power plays pay a visit to Joe Louis Arena in a special Saturday matinee. The Oilers’ special team is 11-for-38 (29 percent).
PLAYER TO WATCH: Nineteen-year-old forward Nail Yakupov (5G, 1A) has registered at least one point in four straight contests for the Oilers. The former Sarnia Sting star is currently tied with Tampa Bay’s Cory Conacher and St. Louis’s Vladimir Tarasenko for the league’s rookie lead in goals.
SUNDAY – vs. LOS ANGELES KINGS (2-3-2): The defending Stanley Cup champions have struggled in the first month of the season. The Kings are ranked 27th in the league with 2.14 goals per game, and only three players – Dustin Brown, Anze Kopitar and Jeff Carter - have scored more than once.
PLAYER TO WATCH: Jonathan Quick, the reigning Conn Smythe Trophy winner, had his last game end prematurely Saturday, as Anaheim chased him from the crease with two goals on just three shots in less than six minutes.