AnaheimDucks.com After more than three months since they last clashed, an intense rivalry between the Ducks and Detroit resumes Wednesday night at Honda Center.
While the rest of the league has had its share of trouble with the Red Wings, who sport the league’s best record at 35-10-4, the Ducks have earned three of four points in their two previous meetings this season. Fighting jetlag from their return from England to start the season, the Ducks lost at Detroit 3-2 in a shootout way back on Oct. 3. Twelve days later on Oct. 15, the Ducks returned the favor with their best effort of the early season in a 6-3 victory.
When the Red Wings arrive for their matchup on Wednesday, they will encounter a much different Ducks team from those early-season games. Since the return of Scott Niedermayer and the debut of Doug Weight in the lineup on Dec. 16, the Ducks are the hottest team in the NHL with a 12-3-2 record and 26 points. Along with those big moves, the Ducks have also acquired Brandon Bochenski and seen J.S. Giguere (missed both games with offseason sports hernia surgery), Mathieu Schneider (missed both games with a broken ankle) and Todd Bertuzzi (missed the Oct. 15 game with a concussion) all return from injuries since they last faced the Red Wings.
“We have a different team now with a different makeup,” said left winger Chris Kunitz. “Our team’s changed and we went on a nice little roll. It’ll be nice to test our team now against the team that’s best in the league. I think it’s going to be a fast, hard-hitting affair.”
Even with All-Star Henrik Zetterberg and his 61 points questionable for Wednesday with back spasms, the Red Wings still have plenty of quality skill players at their disposal, including the team’s other All-Stars, Pavel Datsyuk, Nicklas Lidstrom and Chris Osgood. The Red Wings’ talent-laden roster provides quite the task for Ducks head coach Randy Carlyle in his gameplan, but so far the third-year coach appears to have a winning formula. That includes last year’s Western Conference Finals, when the Ducks defeated Detroit in a highly charged six games.
“We have a different team now with a different makeup. Our team’s changed and we went on a nice little roll. It’ll be nice to test our team now against the team that’s best in the league. I think it’s going to be a fast, hard-hitting affair.” - Chris Kunitz Said Carlyle, “They’ve got a lot of depth from a skill standpoint. They play the game at a very high pace and move off the puck. If you’re not ready, these are one of the team that can embarrass you in a hurry. We know that we have to play to a very high level to have success.”
Some might may say Wednesday night is just another game, but the players on both sides know there is a heightened intensity between the Ducks and one of their biggest rivals. The Ducks also swept Detroit in the first round of the 2003 playoffs, revenge for Red Wings sweeps in the ’99 and ’97 postseasons.
“You’d like to say that you bring the same effort for 82 games and two points is two points,” Ducks defenseman Sean O’Donnell said. “But, we’re human and we see that it has become a bit of a rivalry. I’m sure they going to be amped up for the game and I know we are. We’re looking forward to it. It should be a fast, fun, exciting game tomorrow night.”