Each Wednesday throughout the regular season, Kevin Weekes will be offering his pluses and minuses for the teams competing in the NBCSN "Wednesday Night Hockey" game in his Weekes on the Web blog.
The Detroit Red Wings and New York Rangers each look to get back on track when they play at Madison Square Garden on "Wednesday Night Hockey" (8 p.m.ET; NBCSN).
The Red Wings (4-11-1) have been outscored 17-4 in three straight losses and have lost 11 of 12 games since starting the season 3-1-0.
The Rangers (5-6-1) are coming off a disappointing 6-2 loss to the Ottawa Senators at home on Monday after winning two straight against two of the best teams in the League in the Tampa Bay Lightning (4-1) and Nashville Predators (2-1).
Here's my breakdown of the game:
Pluses: The top line of Tyler Bertuzzi, Dylan Larkin and Anthony Mantha has been good, even if majority of the team is struggling. The three have combined for 40 points this season (19 goals, 21 assists) and are the only three players on the team with double digits in points (Mantha, Bertuzzi 14 each; Larkin 12).
It's also given guys like forward Taro Hirose (five assists in 16 games) and defenseman Dennis Cholowski (four points) more of an opportunity to show what they have and if they figure into the Red Wings' long term plans.
Lastly, should Jimmy Howard get the start in goal, he always plays great against the Rangers. The New York native is 10-3-3 with a 1.77 goals-against average and .948 save percentage in 16 starts against them.
Video: VAN@DET: Mantha scorches Hronek's dish on power play
Minuses: The Red Wings are clearly a team in transition and are in the heart of a rebuild right now. They have missed the Stanley Cup Playoffs three straight seasons after qualifying for 25 straight from 1990-2016. Since winning three of their first four games this season, they've lost 11 of 12 games, including eight of them by three goals or more.
They have lost Pavel Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterberg and Niklas Kronwall in the past few seasons either due to injury or retirement from the NHL, and the inexperience has shown without those veterans. They do have some nice young leaders emerging but this is a franchise which is used to having Hall of Fame-type guys leading the team.
The Red Wings rank last in the League in goals-per game (2.13) and on the penalty kill (68.6 percent), and tied for 25th on the power play (13.2 percent). Those aren't the numbers you want to see.
Pluses: Artemi Panarin and Mika Zibanejad have been great for the Rangers. Panarin leads them with 12 points (six goals, six assists) and Zibanejad, who has missed the past three games, has 11 points (four goals, seven assists). If those two can produce all season, New York will be in decent shape.
Like the Red Wings, the Rangers are also in a rebuild, having missed the playoffs in two straight seasons. That's given younger players a chance to play, including forwards Filip Chytil and Lias Andersson, and goalie Alexandar Georgiev, who has made seven starts to six for Henrik Lundqvist.
Also, the power play has looked better recently. The Rangers have at least one power-play goal in five of their past eight games.
Video: OTT@NYR: Panarin rips short-side wrister home for PPG
Minuses: It's tough in a rebuild, like they are in. They also have some players playing out of position and mix and match forward lines a lot, so it's hard to get chemistry when that happens.
They've been too inconsistent. The Rangers followed up wins against the Lightning and Predators with a bad home loss to the Senators. The good teams find ways to win those games.
Special teams need to be better. They rank 18th on the power play (17.8 percent) and 22nd on the penalty kill (79.6 percent).
THREE THINGS TO WATCH
1. Can Panarin keep it up offensively?
2. Howard-Lundqvist battle in goal
3. Rangers power play looks a lot better