A victory in their last game helped the Detroit Red Wings solve some of their recent struggles, but they will have to string some wins together to maintain their grip on first place in the Western Conference.
The Red Wings look to win consecutive contests for the first time in nearly a month when they open a season-high, five-game homestand against the St. Louis Blues on Wednesday.
|Niklas Kronwall (right) has provided the decimated Red Wings defense with a needed boost. (AP Photo/Jerry S. Mendoza)
Detroit (43-18-6) ended a four-game losing streak with a 4-2 victory at Buffalo on Sunday. Valtteri Filppula and Johan Franzen each had a goal and assist for the Red Wings, who haven't won two straight since winning eight in a row from Jan. 17-Feb. 5.
Henrik Zetterberg - the Red Wings' leader with 36 goals - was kept off the scoresheet for the fourth time in his last five appearances, but his team had its best offensive performance since a 4-0 win at Colorado on Feb. 18. They had totaled just six goals during their four-game skid.
"We were waiting for a game like this," said goaltender Dominik Hasek, who made 22 saves. "We weren't playing bad, we just couldn't score the goals. (Sunday), we finally scored a few goals and played well defensively."
Since last month's win streak, the Red Wings are just 2-8-2, and have seen their once comfortable lead in the West sliced to five points over surging Dallas.
One of the biggest factors in that slump was a decimated defense corps. However, they have already received a boost in that area and could have a few more players back on the blue line during this homestand.
Defenseman Niklas Kronwall had two assists on Sunday, giving him four in two games since returning to the lineup after missing the previous 13 with a clavicle injury. On Tuesday, Brian Rafalski was activated from the injured reserve after missing eight games with a groin strain, and could play Wednesday.
"Just getting healthy is going to make a huge difference," coach Mike Babcock told the Red Wings' official Web site, "just because the speed of our team without our back end moving the puck hasn't been near as good, therefore we haven't generated near the offense.
"The bottom line is you want to get healthy, so you can spread your talent out a little farther and make it hard to play against."
|Ryan Johnson helped end the Blues' six-game losing streak with a game-winning goal Tuesday. (AP Photo/Kyle Ericson)
Captain Nicklas Lidstrom, who has missed the previous five contests with a sprained right MCL, could also return later this week. Meanwhile, veteran Chris Chelios remains sidelined indefinitely with a knee injury.
Detroit plays 10 of its remaining 15 games at home, where it is 21-8-2 this season. Only Anaheim has more wins at home (22).
The Red Wings, though, have lost four straight at Joe Louis Arena since winning three in a row there from Jan. 17-Feb. 1. This four-game home slide matches a skid they had Nov. 27-Dec. 8, 1992, and is their longest in Detroit since they dropped six consecutive home games from Feb. 8-March 3, 1986.
Detroit is 28-7-4 with three ties against the Blues since the start of the 2000-01 season, winning 15 of 21 at home during that stretch. The Red Wings, however, are 2-3-0 in this season's series, including a 2-0 home loss to St. Louis on Dec. 31 in the most recent matchup.
The Blues (29-27-10), who begin a season-high, nine-game road trip, have lost four straight away from home. They are 10-14-5 as visitors this season, the worst road record in the West.
Ryan Johnson scored in the third period as St. Louis ended a six-game losing streak with a 3-2 home victory over Los Angeles on Tuesday.
Andy McDonald and Keith Tkachuk also scored for the Blues, who tallied just four goals during their skid.
"We limit a team to two goals and we've done that in 11 of the last 13 games," Blues coach Andy Murray said. "It's amazing that our win totals have not been better than that, but (Tuesday night), we managed to score three goals."