Jan. 6: Look Ahead in Hockeytown
Red Wings face big test against three Western Conference titans
|Daniel Cleary knows the Red Wings will need to play better in the second half of the season if they expect to make the playoffs in the spring. (Photo by Getty Images)|
DETROIT – “We have to get winning,” forward Daniel Cleary said before embarking on Detroit’s five-game road trip that’s kicking off the second half of the season.
With a 5-1 victory over Dallas on Saturday, the Red Wings did just that, as they look to improve upon their 19-14-10 record earned through 43 games that was accompanied by a plethora of injuries.
“We’ve been with the injury bug for a little bit, probably more than a little bit,” Cleary added. “We obviously have to get going here. We don’t want to get too far ahead, but it’s a pretty big road trip. We’ve played well on the road so far this season now we just have to keep it going. It’ll be great for us actually.”
The Red Wings have found much success on the road this season (13-4-3), and hope to see a few players who have been sidelined with injuries back in the lineup this week in California.
Center Pavel Datsyuk is day-to-day with a lower-body injury, and after missing Saturday’s game in Dallas, is possible to return Thursday at San Jose.
“I’m assuming he’s possible to return Thursday night since we thought we were going to have him Saturday, so now it’s four days later and he’s going to play,” Wings general manager Ken Holland said. “That doesn’t mean he’s going to play. We have to get on the ice and see how he feels.”
Defenseman Danny DeKeyser (groin) practiced Tuesday and will be assessed after Thursday’s morning skate on whether or not he will be in the lineup against the Sharks.
After missing seven games with a concussion, Johan Franzen has been cleared to practice and joined his teammates Tuesday. Although there is no timetable for Franzen’s return, Holland isn’t ruling out this weekend for the forward.
“Now I’m assuming, if he goes three or four days in a row, practices full out and he feels great and we call the doctor Saturday morning and tell him he’s practiced four days in a row and has had no setbacks, no issues, he feels great and wants to play I’m assuming the doctor’s going to clear him,” Holland said. “That’s an assumption.
“We’re not far away, but what not far away means with these injuries I don’t know.”
Center Darren Helm and backup goalie Jonas Gustavsson have both been sidelined with sore groins, and while Holland didn’t have an update on Helm, Gustavsson will not be ready for Thursday’s game and will be reassessed later in the week.
“We’ll reassess on Friday and Saturday if he’s ready to go,” Holland said. “Depending on how practice goes Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday we’ll make an assessment. If he’s not ready to play Saturday we’re going to hold him out until the Rangers game.”
The Red Wings have a tough road trip ahead, as the three California teams they’ll face – San Jose, Los Angeles and Anaheim – are a combined 84-31-15 with an astonishing 46-6-7 home record.
“The first four games here are going to be huge, especially the last three,” captain Henrik Zetterberg said. “We have three games in four days but we’re looking forward to it. It’s teams that we played a lot before and we had some good battles against them.”
With that, here’s a look ahead to this week in Hockeytown:
PLAYER TO WATCH: Thornton, the former first overall pick of the Boston Bruins in the 1997 NHL draft, extended his point streak to eight games with an assist on Jan. 5 at Chicago. Thornton has recorded 12 assists in San Jose’s last eight contests, and currently sits a top of the league with 43 assists. In his ninth season with the Sharks, the veteran is first on his team and tied for third place in the league with 48 points, having recorded a point in 26 of his last 30 games.
PLAYER TO WATCH: It’s a good sign for the Kings when center Anze Kopitar nets a goal. Los Angeles is 9-3-0 this season when Kopitar scores, and the 26-year-old has been doing so often. Kopitar has six points in the last seven games, including two goals, and dating back to early this season, he’s recorded 30 points in the last 35 games. The center leads the Kings with 38 points, and his plus-22 rating is tied for second in the league. Kopitar is a force on the Kings’ power play, scoring six goals on the unit this season, and is also 5-for-7 in shootouts with four game-deciding goals. Kopitar was named to the 2014 Slovenian Olympic team on Monday. The Sochi Games will be Kopitar’s first Olympic appearance.
Henrik Zetterberg, Justin Abdelkader, Gustav Nyquist, Danny DeKeyser, Jimmy Howard and Darren Helm in the 5-2 loss. … Anaheim sits a top of the league with a 31-8-5 record through 44 games, and has been dominant at the Honda Center this season. The Ducks are 17-0-2 at home, marking the best home start and longest home point streak in franchise history, and is the only NHL team that hasn’t lost in regulation at home this season. … Anaheim boasts a 16-1-5 record in one-goal games, and has seen much success when scoring first, as the Ducks are 18-3-4 when netting the first goal. … The forward-line combination of Saku Koivu, Andrew Cogliano and Daniel Winnik has produced 17 points and a plus-19 rating over the past six games. … Rookie Hampus Lindholm’s plus-22 rating is highest among all NHL rookies and is tied for second in the league. … Captain Ryan Getzlaf leads his team and is tied for fourth in the league with 48 points, including 20 goals.
PLAYER TO WATCH: Highlighted by two, two-point games, center Nick Bonino has recorded five points in Anaheim’s last three games, and ranks third on the team with 30 points through 44 games. After recording only five multi-point games over the past three seasons, Bonino achieved his fifth multi-point game of the season in a 4-3 victory over Vancouver Sunday. The 25-year-old is one of five Anaheim players who has appeared in all of the Ducks’ games this season, and ranks second on the team in faceoff wins (335) and third among forwards in average time on ice (16:17). He is also tied for first place on the team with 13 power-play points, notching three goals and 10 assists so far this season.