The Detroit Red Wings have lost four of five in March, scoring six goals in those four losses. They're also entering a crucial stretch in which 13 of their final 17 games will be against teams that occupied a Stanley Cup Playoff spot entering play Friday.
So a visit from the Edmonton Oilers, against whom the Red Wings have gone 11-0-1 since the start of the 2010-11 season, might be a good way to break out of that slump. But the Red Wings are not taking their opponent likely, especially with the Oilers posting a 3-2-1 record in March.
"It doesn't matter who you're playing, you can't take a night off. In today's day and age in the NHL anyone can beat anyone on any given night. You have to get ready and prepared the same way no matter who you're playing," goaltender Jimmy Howard told MLive.com. "We have got to win games. There's nothing else you can say."
Howard will get the start for Detroit, and forward Teemu Pulkkinen will make his NHL debut on the fourth line and is expected to get some time on the power play.
The Red Wings have struggled with injuries, but there were signs Friday that some of those players could be making their way back. Forward Darren Helm skated with the team, although there is no timetable for his return from a head injury. Forwards Stephen Weiss and Mikael Samuelsson skated on their own.
The young Oilers figure to have their work cut out for them after losing 6-2 to the St. Louis Blues on Thursday. They did not skate Friday and have not won in regulation in Detroit since Dec. 3, 2009. One player from that game, center Sam Gagner, remains on the Oilers roster.
"These guys [Detroit] are a very veteran team no matter who is playing for them. We have to be ready to go from the start," center Ryan Nugent-Hopkins said. "It doesn't matter that we played last night."
Nugent-Hopkins was pleased with how Edmonton played through two periods before St. Louis scored four times in the third.
"I thought we had some really good chances in the first period and cycled a few good times in the second," he said. "Defensively we could have been more solid and gave them a little bit too much out there."
Here are the projected lineups for the Oilers and Red Wings:
Taylor Hall - Sam Gagner - David Perron
Jordan Eberle - Ryan Nugent-Hopkins - Nail Yakupov
Jesse Joensuu - Boyd Gordon - Matt Hendricks
Ryan Smyth - Luke Gazdic - Ryan Jones
Mark Fraser - Justin Schultz
Andrew Ference - Oscar Klefbom
Jeff Petry - Martin Marincin
Scratched: Philip Larsen, Anton Lander
Injured: Anton Belov (oblique)
Justin Abdelkader - David Legwand - Johan Franzen
Tomas Tatar - Riley Sheahan - Gustav Nyquist
Todd Bertuzzi - Luke Glendening - Daniel Alfredsson
Drew Miller - Cory Emmerton - Teemu Pulkkinen
Jonathan Ericsson - Niklas Kronwall
Kyle Quincey - Danny DeKeyser
Brian Lashoff - Brendan Smith
Scratched: Jakub Kindl
Injured: Darren Helm (concussion), Jonas Gustavsson (groin), Henrik Zetterberg (back), Pavel Datsyuk (knee), Stephen Weiss (hernia), Daniel Cleary (knee), Joakim Andersson (foot), Tomas Jurco (ribs), Mikael Samuelsson (shoulder)