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Wings aim for franchise-record 15th straight home win

by Brian Hedger
DETROIT -- It looks like one of those "sure wins" for the Detroit Red Wings when you look at Monday night's matchup against the Buffalo Sabres on paper.

Detroit has won 14 straight games at Joe Louis Arena -- which tied a club record set in 1965 -- and holds a 17-2-1 mark on home ice for the season. The Wings have also outscored their visitors this season by a 62-21 aggregate, with nine wins out of those 14 straight coming by three goals or more.

Buffalo, meanwhile, is just 1-7-2 in its last 10 trips to the Motor City and has lost eight straight games in regulation on the road for the first time in franchise history. The Sabres have also scored the least amount of goals on the road (36) in the entire League -- a paltry average of 1.9 goals a game.

"It's scary isn't it?" Babcock said on Monday morning, when the stark differences in each team's trends home and away were pointed out. "We have a game today. You can look at what you did over the last 15 or what they did … to me that doesn’t make any difference. They're getting prepared. We're getting prepared, and the team that plays the hardest is going to win. The onus on us is to play a real good game here tonight. You've got to find a way to win."

Luckily for Detroit, that hasn't been a big problem once they take the ice at home. It's been a much bigger issue in other rinks, where the Red Wings have a road record of just 11-13-0 so far -- a night-and-day difference that even strikes Buffalo coach Lindy Ruff as odd.

"Anytime you can win 14 in a row in your own building is an amazing feat, because you can get beat by a hot goaltender some nights," Ruff said. "The amazing part is to have that record and then to look at the road record and think, 'How come the road record isn't near as close as the home record?' But a lot of that has to do with getting your matchups and getting your personnel on a consistent basis. When they get their matchups with the personnel they have, they can take advantage of some tough situations."

A year ago, the Wings were better away from Joe Louis Arena than they were inside it. It's completely flip-flopped this season and Babcock just hunches his shoulders when asked for theories on why. Are the Wings actually playing their simpler "road game" on home ice and trying to be too fancy on the road?

"It's a good question and that's what we said about our team last year, when we were great on the road," Babcock said. "This year we're good at home and we don't know why we're not good on the road. I'd like to tell you I have all the answers. I don't. The bottom line … if you play well without the puck, I don't care if that's at home or on the road, you're going to win a lot of games. We've been way better without the puck in our own building than we have been on the road, and to me that's why we’re winning."

Detroit captain Nicklas Lidstrom took it a step further. He said the Wings get after opponents more and take the action to them more on home ice this season than they do in other rinks. Part of that, he said, has to do with the current home winning streak boosting their confidence when playing in front of the home crowd.

"You always want to have that edge when you're playing at home," Lidstrom said. "Our fans have really been supporting us and been behind us and we've been real aggressive at home. We're going after teams a little bit more than we have on the road."

They ought to be just as hungry to get after the Sabres on Monday night, with the chance to set a record with a 15th straight home win that no other Red Wings team has done before in the 86-year history of the franchise.

"Looking at the teams we've had here in the last couple of decades, we've had some great teams back in the 1990s and early 2000s and we're still able to win 14 straight with the team we have today," Lidstrom said. "It proves we have a good team this time around, too."
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