DETROIT – It's not about starting a new home winning streak for the Detroit Red Wings as much it is about getting back to the basics of what helped them reel off an NHL record 23 straight victories at Joe Louis Arena in the first place.
They need to skate better than they have the past two games, both one-goal losses, and they need to fix their puck-possession game – which, when it's right, is dominant. The hurdle on Saturday night (7 p.m.) will be doing it against the hungry, athletic Colorado Avalanche (31-37-4), who have won two straight games including a 5-0 thrashing of the Columbus Blue Jackets in Ohio on Friday night.
Colorado finds itself deadlocked in the Western Conference standings at 66 points with two other teams – who are all two points behind the Dallas Stars for the final playoff spot. So, the Avs ought to be highly motivated.
Detroit (41-18-3) should be, too, after Vancouver passed the Red Wings by a point for the top spot in the West after winning on Friday night in New Jersey.
"They’ve won their last two games total and they’re playing well," Red Wings coach Mike Babcock said of the Avs on Saturday morning at Joe Louis Arena. "They play fast, and they’ve got some skill up front. Their back end is young, but they’ve got some good skill. They’re going to be a test. The other thing is, we haven’t been as good. You’ve got to reestablish how you play and your structure."
The Red Wings will also try to accomplish that for the third straight game without star center Pavel Datsyuk, who could be out for up to two more weeks recovering from arthroscopic knee surgery this past Tuesday.
The dynamic Russian two-way centerman's prowess in the faceoff circle – among all other facets of his game – has been noticeably missed in the last two games against the Chicago Blackhawks and Vancouver Canucks, which leads to the Wings not possessing the puck as much as they'd like.
Babcock said it's merely another opportunity for somebody else to step forward and fill the gap until Datsyuk returns.
"It’s important that you can have enough guys to keep everybody hungry," Babcock said. "It’s like anything. Am I satisfied with our scoring ability without Pav? Am I satisfied with our defense without Pav? Well, I like having Pav on the team. We don’t have him on the team, but opportunity knocks for somebody else."
Newly-acquired Red Wings defenseman Kyle Quincey – who was traded from the Colorado Avalanche in a three-team deal on Tuesday – didn't meet with reporters prior to the game after making a few comments about his former teammates "having their bags packed" hoping to be traded.
After Friday's practice, Quincey said the comments – which he gave to reporters in Detroit on Thursday – were taken out of context and didn't think they should be bulletin board material for Saturday night's game against the Avs.
Colorado only held a sparsely-attended optional skate at Joe Louis Arena on Saturday morning and didn't have many players who will play in the game available for comment.
Here is how the Avalanche and Red Wings will likely line up to start Saturday night's game:
Matt Duchene - Paul Statsny - Milan Hejduk
Gabriel Landeskog - Ryan O'Reilly - Steve Downie
Daniel Winnik - Mark Olver - David Jones
Cody McLeod - Jay McClement - Chuck Kobasew
Shane O'Brien - Erik Johnson
Jan Hejda - Ryan Wilson
Stefan Elliott - Matt Hunwick
Johan Franzen - Henrik Zetterberg - Todd Bertuzzi
Jiri Hudler - Valtteri Filppula - Danny Cleary
Drew Miller - Darren Helm - Justin Abdelkader
Jan Mursak - Cory Emmerton - Tomas Holmstrom
Nicklas Lidstrom - Ian White
Niklas Kronwall - Brad Stuart
Jonathan Ericsson - Kyle Quincey