MONTREAL -- For the past few seasons once the NHL season began its stretch run, media and fans alike have speculated if the demise of the Detroit Red Wings' run of success and streak of appearances in the Stanley Cup Playoffs had finally arrived.
Each time the run appeared to be over, the Red Wings have proven the doubters wrong. Although the core isn't getting any younger and Detroit has been hampered by injuries, the Red Wings are focused on the final 24 games of 2013-14 and extending that into the playoffs.
That mission starts Wednesday when the Red Wings (26-20-12, 64 points) play the Montreal Canadiens (32-21-6, 70 points) in a key Atlantic Division game at Bell Centre.
"We think we know how to play and we've had a number of good players for a long time," Detroit coach Mike Babcock said after the morning skate. "We've had a number of injuries the last couple of years and those things can't be excuses. You gotta find a way to get it done and that's it."
Babcock is fresh off leading Canada to a gold medal at the 2014 Sochi Olympics, but as far as he's concerned that's in the rear-view mirror.
"Instead of [Jonathan] Toews and [Rick] Nash and [Patrice] Bergeron and [Jamie] Benn and I guess [Patrick] Marleau and [Jeff] Carter killing the penalties, I'm going to have [Joakim] Andersson and [Darren] Helm and [Drew] Miller, and let's get on with it," Babcock said. "Don't get me wrong, I had a great time and you have a bond with those guys for the rest of your life. Anytime you win, you always do. But I know who pays me and I know what makes it work."
The Red Wings return without captain Henrik Zetterberg, who reinjured his back at the Olympics and is out indefinitely. They're also missing defenseman Jakub Kindl and forward Stephen Weiss.
"There's no sense worrying about that," Babcock said. "Z's a good man. As good a player as he is, he's a better leader. But the reality is we don't have him, so let's get on with it."
Forward Daniel Alfredsson echoed the sentiment.
"That's just part of the game," he said. "Everyone goes through adversity at certain parts of the season. We've been dealing with it a lot and we'll continue to deal with it."
The Red Wings will get some players back into the lineup. Forward Todd Bertuzzi will return after being a healthy scratch for eight games. Forward Johan Franzen (concussion) skated Wednesday morning and is a game-time decision.
Here are the projected lineups:
Johan Franzen - Pavel Datsyuk - Todd Bertuzzi
Justin Abdelkader - Darren Helm - Daniel Alfredsson
Tomas Tatar - Riley Sheahan - Tomas Jurco
Drew Miller - Joakim Andersson - Gustav Nyquist
Jonathan Ericsson - Niklas Kronwall
Danny DeKeyser - Kyle Quincey
Brian Lashoff - Brendan Smith
Scratched: Daniel Cleary, Patrick Eaves, Luke Glendening, Ryan Sproul
Injured: Stephen Weiss (sports hernia), Henrik Zetterberg (back) Jakub Kindl (lower body)
Max Pacioretty – David Desharnais – Brendan Gallagher
Daniel Briere –Tomas Plekanec – Brian Gionta
Alex Galchenyuk – Lars Eller – Rene Bourque
Travis Moen – Ryan White – Dale Weise
Josh Gorges - P.K. Subban
Andrei Markov - Alexei Emelin
Douglas Murray - Jarred Tinordi
Scratched: Francis Bouillon, George Parros
Injured: Carey Price (lower body), Davis Drewiske (shoulder)