After struggling to score during a slump to close out January, the Detroit Red Wings have nearly doubled their production during a five-game winning streak in February.
That rejuvenated offense could be tested, however, by the Minnesota Wild on Thursday night at Joe Louis Arena.
The Red Wings (36-11-7) are coming off one of their busiest offensive nights this season as they attempted a season-high 51 shots in a 5-3 win over Nashville on Tuesday. Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk each scored twice and Marian Hossa also added a goal for Mike Babcock's club.
The streak comes after the Red Wings went 0-4-1 from Jan. 17-31, averaging 2.8 goals. Starting with a 4-3 shootout victory over St. Louis on Feb. 2, Detroit has averaged 5.0 goals and held their opponents to just 13 over the last five games.
"I think our energy level is better," said Babcock, whose team outshot Nashville 27-8 in the first period. "We talked about that quite a bit. We had no energy there for a period of time. We have more energy now, and we're attacking better and I think that's real important."
Having Zetterberg back in the lineup has certainly helped. He was sidelined for three games from Jan. 29-Feb. 2, but has had points in four straight games since returning, totaling three goals and three assists.
Starting on Jan. 1 when he had a season-high three assists during a win over Chicago in the Winter Classic, Zetterberg has had six goals and 12 assists as the Central Division leaders went on to an 11-2-2 record.
Now, he'll look to continue his surge against the Wild (28-22-3), a team he's enjoyed great success against. Zetterberg has six goals and four assists in a seven-game run, leading Detroit to a 5-0-2 mark, and he's scored six goals in his last four home games versus Minnesota including a hat trick on Dec. 7, 2007.
The Red Wings begin play three points behind the Western Conference-leading San Jose Sharks, and might have a tougher time finding the back of the net against the Wild. Minnesota has won four of its last five, giving up nine goals during that stretch.
The Wild are coming off a 3-2 win over Colorado on Wednesday. Antti Miettinen scored with 1:11 remaining and Niklas Backstrom recorded 20 saves for his 27th win of the season.
"It was huge. We were pretty focused tonight," said Miettinen, who scored for the first time since Jan. 10. "I don't think we were quite at the top of our game, offensively ... but we still hung in there."
The Wild are looking to win three straight for the first time since Nov. 13-18. They're also in a tight battle in the crowded West, where 11 teams are separated by nine points.
"You can't afford to go on any slide," Wild forward Owen Nolan said. "Even losing a couple of games, you drop spots in the standings, so we're just trying to play consistent hockey right now and keep moving up."
Detroit beat the Wild 3-2 in a shootout at St. Paul on Jan. 3 to improve to 9-0-2 in the last 11 meetings between the teams. The Red Wings have not lost in regulation to Minnesota since falling 4-2 at Joe Louis on Jan. 3, 2006.