Detroit Red Wings Week Ahead: Rivalry and Revenge
The Red Wings can run away from the pack and bury a division rival if they get some points out of this week.
The Detroit Red Wings, owners of a 9-2-0 record in their last 11 games, have an Atlantic Division slate on tap for this week, including a pair against revived rivals in the Toronto Maple Leafs. Detroit is currently tied at the top of the Atlantic with the Tampa Bay Lightning in points, and the Lightning currently hold the tie-breaker in ROW. The Red Wings can help put even more distance between themselves and the Maple Leafs with another four points from their games.
Wednesday: Toronto Maple Leafs at Detroit Red Wings
TV: NBCSN, TVA, SN
Detroit hosts Toronto for a legitimate Wednesday Night Rivalry game, ticking off the 15th team on the checklist of rivals NBC thinks Detroit has. Incidentally, Toronto is one of the losses in Detroit's current 9-2-0 run, the 4-1 debacle three Saturdays ago. I'd say Detroit's recovered pretty well since that loss.
The Maple Leafs are currently eight points behind the Red Wings and barely holding onto a wild card spot. It's a bit early in the season to talk about playoff positioning, but those are the standings as of now. Toronto is in a bit of a hot streak of its own, winning five of their last seven games and recovering pretty well from those mid-November 6-2 and 9-2 shellackings at the hands of the Buffalo Sabres and Nashville Predators. The top line has produced like a top line should for Toronto, with Phil Kessel, Tyler Bozak, and James van Riemsdyk leading the team in goals and points. One other player to look for is potential free agent Cody Franson, as he leads their defense in scoring and had a nine-game point streak in November.
Friday: Florida Panthers at Detroit Red Wings
Florida comes to town for the second of four meetings this season between the two Atlantic Division rivals combatants. Funnily enough, the Panthers are the other loss in this recent run.
The Panthers, as I'm sure would surprise some of you, are currently in wild card contention. Florida sits two points back of the Boston Bruins and the Maple Leafs, with one game in hand on Toronto and three on Boston. (And the top seven teams in the Atlantic have more points than the fourth team in the Metropolitan, the New York Rangers.)
The Panthers have been trading wins and losses in their last five games, and they'll pay a visit to the St. Louis Blues today before heading to Motown on Friday. They've got plenty of young talent in Vincent Trochek, Rocco Grimaldi, Nick Bjugstad, Aleksander Barkov, and Aaron Ekblad. And in case our last loss wasn't enough of a reminder, they brought back Roberto Luongo in goal.
Saturday: Detroit Red Wings at Toronto Maple Leafs
TV: FSD, CBC, NHLN-US, TVA
The Red Wings head to the Air Canada Centre to finish off the season series with the Maple Leafs, with four months remaining in the regular season. Detroit leads the season series so far 4-3 in points, so these are important games for (heaven forbid) any potential tie-breakers.
Justin Abdelkader at last update had no timetable for his return from a "slightly separated shoulder." He started skating on Friday, but he still has some time before he can join the team for practice and drills.
Every injury is different, but if we're looking for a gauge, Pavel Datsyuk suffered a similar injury in the preseason, and he missed pretty much just about the long end of the 2-5 week timeline originally indicated. Abdelkader's younger, but his much more physical style of play will probably require a bit more time for recovery to build up the strength in the shoulder and confidence that he won't re-injure it.
There hasn't been an update I've seen because of the long timetable, but this past weekend marked the one-month point in the two-month timetable for Jonas Gustavsson's return from a dislocated shoulder. The backup netminder is slated to return to action in early January, barring any setbacks.
- Soak it in: 9-2-0 in the last 11.
- Fourth in the league in goals per game at 3.11. Seventh in goals against per game at 2.39. The power play's surged to a top 10 spot, eighth at 21.8%. And the penalty kill has come down from its high, but it's still third in the league at a damn good 87.1%. We saw this team get off to a good start against Carolina, so I think it's safe to say things are clicking on all cylinders for the Red Wings.
- Stephen Weiss cracked the double-digit mark for points on Saturday against the New York Rangers with an assist. The man now has 10 points in nine games, making him their 12th double-digit point scorer on the roster this season. Scoring depth? We has it.
- We've got 36 goals from three players: Datsyuk, Tomas Tatar, and Gustav Nyquist, who all share the team lead with 12. The most astounding thing to me is that Datsyuk has his 12 in only 17 games. While we've been doing Nyquist shooting percentage watch in these look ahead posts, Datsyuk's been posting a sizzling 26.7% shooting percentage. Scorching.
- Speaking of: Nyquist shooting percentage watch: 12 goals on 69 shots for a 17.4% shooting percentage.
- If we're going to talk about players' shooting "regressing to the mean," let's talk about Henrik Zetterberg. Five goals on 90 (90!) shots through just under 30 games for a 5.6% shooting percentage from a career 10.4% shooter. The captain's due for a goal-scoring streak anytime soon.
The task seems pretty simple at this point: just keep winning. As several wise men have said: more points, more fun.