Jan. 27: Look Ahead in Hockeytown
Six points available against Metropolitan Division opponents this week
|Tomas Tatar collected his first two-goal game of his career in a 6-2 loss to the Flyers at Joe Louis Arena on Dec. 4. (Photo by Dave Reginek/Detroit Red Wings)|
DETROIT – Despite Sunday’s disappointing shootout loss to the visit Florida Panthers, the short-handed Red Wings managed to get seven of an available 10 points in a five-game homestand that keeps them in the Eastern Conference hunt.
“I’m pleased to be honest with you. If you had told me before the homestand we were going to do that I would have said great,” Red Wings coach Mike Babcock said. “Maybe it’s easier to not be as critical when you have so many young guys, but the reality is I think our group’s making progress. I like what I see from our guys.”
It’s that competitiveness and work ethic – particularly from young guns like centers Riley Sheahan and Luke Glendening, and forward Tomas Jurco – that is a double-edge sword, and will make it very difficult on Babcock and general manager Ken Holland who will have to make some roster decisions before the Red Wings play at Philadelphia and host Washington this week.
The Sheahan line, with Jurco and Tomas Tatar, was spectacular last week, gaining more and more responsibility and respect from the coaching staff for their high-revving engines and determination.
“What we’re going to do is talk about it and the best guys are going to play,” Babcock said. “It’s not going to have anything to do with age, it’s just going to be what have you done here lately. They’re pushing real hard. Riley Sheahan, Tats, Jurco, that line was really good. I thought (Darren) Helm was really good (Sunday), too. He had some jump. Those two groups were our best lines.”
In order to make room for Franzen’s return on Sunday, the Red Wings assigned veteran forward Mikael Samuelsson to their minor-league affiliate in Grand Rapids. Still, the Red Wings will be faced with further personnel decisions when Pavel Datsyuk (lower body), Henrik Zetterberg (back) and Joakim Andersson (lower body) return. All three are day to day.
Statistically speaking, the kids won’t make it easy for the team’s decision-makers to dissolve their line. Sheahan has four points in his last four games; Tatar has three points in his last three games; and Jurco has two points in three games. But Tatar is the only one of the trio who is permanently on the Wings’ roster as he can’t be returned to the minors without first clearing waivers.
“We know each other well, all three of us are really skilled, fast, young guys,” Tatar said. “We have lots of energy and I think we playing good right now and we have to keep playing better and better and hopefully those guys can stay here as long as they can and I think so far they prove that they belong, or they’ve won, they will be in the NHL so just the whole line have to play good and try help the team to win every game.”
With that, here’s a look ahead to this week in Hockeytown:
PLAYER TO WATCH: Giroux is among the league’s power-play point leaders this season, producing five goals and 16 assists to lead the Flyers’ No. 18 ranked power play. His 16 power-play assists is tied with Pittsburgh’s Evgeni Malkin for sixth in the league. A former first-round draft pick, Giroux is three power-play goals shy of reaching his single-season best when he scored eight times in each 2009-10 and 2010-11. In seven career games against the Red Wings, Giroux has produced three goals and three assists, including a power-play goal.
Adam Oates, who picked up his 50th coaching win in his 100th career game as a NHL bench boss. Nicklas Backstrom leads the league with 23 power-play assists and 27 power-play points. He has earned an assist on nine of Alex Ovechkin’s 13 power-play goals this season. … Ovechkin (RUS), Backstrom (SWE) and John Carlson (USA) were selected to represent their respective countries at the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia.
PLAYER TO WATCH: Ovechkin has six goals and 10 points in his last 10 games. Going back to last season, the Caps’ captain has scored 59 goals in his last 71 regular-season games. This season, he ranks first in the league in goals (36), power-play goals (13) and shots (260), tied for third in power-play points (24) and tied for 13th in points (51). … Since entering the league in 2005-06, Ovechkin leads the league in several offensive categories, including goals (407), points (786), power-play goals (140), power-play points (306), and game-winning goals (64). He also leads the NHL in shots on goal (266), a category that he has led in each season that he’s been in the league.
PLAYER TO WATCH: In the last two seasons, Massachusetts native John Carlson ranks third with 15 goals among American-born NHL defensemen, trailing only Winnipeg’s Dustin Byfuglien (19) and Phoenix’s Keith Yandle (16). Carlson, who is a two-time Calder Cup champion, ranks eighth among NHL defensemen in goals (9), first among Washington skaters in ice time (24:29) and blocked shots (104) and second on the team in shots (146). He is one of eight players who has played in each of Washington’s 52 games this season and has played in 266 consecutive games, the second all-time longest streak by a Caps’ defenseman (Calle Johansson, 271).