The Blue Jackets take their six-game winning streak on the road Tuesday night when they face the Detroit Red Wings at Joe Louis Arena. The Red Wings are once again in familiar territory near the top of the standings, currently second in the Atlantic Division but tied in points with first-place Tampa Bay.
The Red Wings have been strong on home ice this season, their 11-3-4 record at Joe Louis Arena one of the best in the league. They’ve racked up 26 points on home ice, tied with Toronto for the most in the NHL. Despite that success, the Red Wings have hit a snag of late, losing three in a row as well as their last two home games in shootouts. They had won 10 of 12 before their current streak, starting with their win in Columbus on Nov. 18.
Henrik Zetterberg leads the Red Wings with 26 points, but he only has five goals on the season. Gustav Nyquist is handling most of the goal scoring early in the season, and leads the team with 14. He’s been joined by Pavel Datsyuk and Tomas Tatar, with 12 goals and each having picked up the scoring pace since these teams met last. Datsyuk missed the last meeting at Nationwide Arena, but has seven goals in 10 games since. Tatar has six goals in his last 13 games.
Defenseman Danny DeKeyser has been out with an upper body injury since Wednesday, Justin Abdelkader has been out with an upper-body injury since Nov. 30, and Stephen Weiss was diagnosed with a shoulder injury on Saturday that has him day-to-day. DeKeyser and Abdelkader are hoping for a Tuesday return, according to beat writer Ansar Khan of MLive.com.
The Red Wings rolled through Columbus for a 5-0 win on Nov. 18. It was a rough night for the Jackets that would spawn a rougher two weeks, as it was the first of six straight defeats for them leading up to the current six-game winning streak.
Tatar opened the scoring for the Red Wings midway through the first. The Blue Jackets responded with a goal by Boone Jenner, only to see that goal disallowed as the puck was kicked into the net. It was an early sign that things wouldn’t be going Columbus’ way that night. Nyquist added to the lead to start the second period, and the Red Wings added three more in the third. Even after surrendering five goals, Sergei Bobrovsky had 35 saves in a losing effort.
It’s been a streaky run for Cam Atkinson of late. He has eight goals and 14 points to tie for third on the team in scoring. But he’s only scored once in his past 12 games and has been somewhat snake-bitten offensively. The Blue Jackets can hope that Saturday’s game against the Penguins may spark his next hot stretch. Though Atkinson didn’t register any points, he was much more noticeable against the Penguins with five hits on the night, engaging more in the offense and beating Thomas Greiss in the shootout with a beautiful move. For Atkinson, goals tend to come in bunches. The Jackets would like his speed and grit to pay off in Detroit.
Nick Foligno hasn’t had too many quiet games this season, but when he does, he is sure to follow them up with a bang. Foligno has three goals in his last two games and four in his last five. He’s been scoring in all situations and from all areas of the ice, whether it be his two high-zone shots that beat Braden Holtby in Washington or his dirty-area goal in the crease against Pittsburgh. Perhaps most surprisingly with Nick Foligno’s stellar 14 goal season to this point is just how often he’s hitting his spot. Only once since Nov.8 has Foligno registered more than three shots in a game, and his 59 shots this season are the fewest by any player in the NHL with 14 goals or more.
Beware the 'second wave' Wings
The Red Wings are one of those teams that just won’t stay down. The Blue Jackets always talk about the importance of getting out to a good start, but against Detroit, that may not be enough. The Red Wings have a strong record when leading after the first period (8-1-0), as do most teams, yet they’re 4-1-1 when trailing after the first period. They’re 4-4-2 when trailing after the second period, compared to the Blue Jackets’ 0-11-0 record when trailing after two. The Jackets can expect a scrappy Red Wings team, but also one that will keep coming at them until the final buzzer. With the Jackets losing leads in the final minutes in two of their last three games, the Red Wings will certainly be a team that tests their ability to close out a contest.