The Malik Report
by George Malik on 03/12/13 at 05:28 PM ET
The Detroit Red Wings will play seven of their next eight and eight of their next nine games away from Joe Louis Arena, with a March 20th game against Minnesota and a March 31st affair against Chicago marking the team's only remaining home games until April.
This week's three-game road swing through Calgary, Edmonton and Vancouver seems mild and moderate compared to the seven-or-eight-day and four-game road trip that includes a pair of "on the road and still on the road" games against Anaheim and then road tilts in Phoenix and San Jose in the last week of March, and the Wings' schedule is equally split between 7 home games and 7 road games (including two more "western swings") in April, so Detroit needs to figure out how to win on the road in a hurry.
MLive's Brendan Savage separated the injury news and/or Nyquist recall/Tatar demotion stories from an article very specifically discussing the Wings' road trip, and the Wings were blunt when speaking with Savage about the importance of turning their 3-5-and-2 road record around in a hurry:
"Huge," [Wings coach Mike] Babcock said. "It's not even the trip, it's tomorrow. We got a game tomorrow. We've got one out of a possible four points here lately. We need to get back on the winning side of things. We've continued to be pretty good defensively. We thought we only gave up very few chances in (Sunday's) game. But we still didn't score. So hopefully with (Valtteri Filppula) back and spreading it out, we'll have more opportunity to score. We're putting (Johan Franzen) back with Pavel (Datsyuk), hopefully there's a twosome there. Fil with (Henrik Zetterberg), hopefully there's a twosome there. Then we haven't had much trouble in our bottom six."
Do the next nine games tell the Wings' playoff-making tale? Possibly...
"It's definitely huge," goaltender Jimmy Howard said Tuesday. "Whether it's make or break, I don't know. There's a lot that's going on here with teams just jockeying for position. It's imperative for us to get off on the right foot here tomorrow night. We can't start looking too far ahead into the future. We can just concentrate on Calgary. If we start looking at the schedule, we could overwhelm ourselves."
Because the lockout shortened the regular season to 48 games, every game has obviously taken on added importance. It's not uncommon to see a team go from third or four place to ninth or 10th – and vice versa – after one or two games.With a 12-9-5 record entering Tuesdays' games, the Red Wings were fifth in the Western Conference standings. But they were only two points ahead of ninth-place Phoenix and seven in front of last-place Calgary (9-11-4). Yeah, it's that tight.
"Obviously now we're going to be on the road for a long time, so there are a lot of games at the end of the season, and obviously we need some points to be in the playoffs," said forward Valtteri Filppula, who is expected to return to the lineup during the trip after missing seven games with an injured left shoulder. We definitely need a different kind of road performance than we have had so far."
And it goes without saying that the team's 0-for-36 road power play just doesn't cut it:
The power play hasn't been bad at home, where the Red Wings rank ninth in the NHL, but overall it's producing at 14.4-percent clip to rank 26th in the NHL.
"We need to get there," Babcock said. "We need it for two reasons. One, obviously we need the goals but two, when your offensive people are scoring on the power play, it puffs them up and they're that much better all around. Guys who score want to score. We have to put our work as a coaching staff and as a group of players into being effective on the power play."
Savage posted a video of Babcock discussing the upcoming road trip(s):
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The Malik Report is a destination for all things Red Wings-related. I offer biased, perhaps unprofessional-at-times and verbose coverage of my favorite team, their prospects and developmental affiliates. I've joined the Kukla's Korner family with five years of blogging under my belt, and I hope you'll find almost everything you need to follow your Red Wings at a place where all opinions are created equal and we're all friends, talking about hockey and the team we love to follow.