The Columbus Blue Jackets are riddled with injuries to key players and basically playing with a patchwork lineup, but that doesn’t make them any less dangerous in the mind of Detroit Red Wings coach Mike Babcock.
The Wings have also won a franchise record 15 straight games at Joe Louis Arena, so a Saturday night visit from the Blue Jackets looks every bit like one of those “trap games” on the schedule – when teams that are heavily favored get trapped into thinking it’s going to be an easy win.
Babcock isn’t looking at it in quite the same way, however.
“I worry about every game,” he said after Detroit’s optional skate on Saturday morning. “On game day I worry about the game we're playing and that would be consistent today. Obviously, we have to find a way to win. We have done that the last couple of games. We haven't been great in our last couple, so we can be much better and we expect to be much better at home.”
They have been, too.
The Wings have lost just xxx time on home ice this season, where at times they’ve looked like an entirely different team than when they wear the road whites. The good news for the Wings is that their last two wins both came on the road to even their road record at 13-13-0 after lagging below the .500 mark for most of the season – and now they get a struggling, injury-strapped opponent at Joe Louis Arena.
It might not seem like a big game from the sheer matchup, but the way the top three teams in the Central Division have played leapfrog in the division and Western Conference standings of late, they’re all big games from here on out.
“Overall, playing fast is what we have to do to be successful,” Babcock said. “We haven't been as efficient as we'd like to be (recently), but we've found a way to grind out points and as you know in the NHL that’s hard to do.”
Here’s a look at the projected lineups for the Blue Jackets and Red Wings on Saturday night:
Vinny Prospal - Antoine Vermette - Rick Nash
Ryan Johansen - Derek Brassard - Tomas Kubalik
Ryan Russell - Samuel Pahlsson - Derek Dorsett
Colton Gillies-Derek MacKenzie-Jared Boll
Fedor Tyutin - Nikita Nikitin
Marc Methot - John Moore
Grant Clitsome - Aaron Johnson
Columbus received some good news on the health front on Friday to go with its spate of bad, as forward R.J. Umberger (concussion) passed his baseline test to get back on the ice, according a report from the Columbus Dispatch. He will not play against the Red Wings and neither with recently-signed defenseman Brett Lebda – a former Red Wing who was brought in to help fill the void after Radek Martinek’s season was officially ended because of a concussion he got on Oct. 19 when hit by Detroit’s Brad Stuart.
Johan Franzen - Pavel Datsyuk - Todd Bertuzzi
Valtteri Filppula - Henrik Zetterberg - Jiri Hudler
Drew Miller - Darren Helm - Danny Cleary
Cory Emmerton - Justin Abdelkader - Tomas Holmstrom
Nicklas Lidstrom - Ian White
Niklas Kronwall - Brad Stuart
Jonathan Ericsson - Mike Commodore
Rookie forward Jan Mursak and Jakub Kindl will be healthy scratches for Detroit, which means defenseman Mike Commodore will get a chance to start against his former team – which buried him in the minors for most of last season before signing with the Wings as a free agent. Commodore had been battling a foot injury that happened while blocking a shot, but is healthy enough to play now.