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Wings meet soaring Bruins in Original Six showdown

by Dave Lozo
The Detroit Red Wings have been fighting it lately. So have the Boston Bruins, but in an entirely different way.

The Red Wings are just 5-7 in their last 12 games and have been unable to find any consistency. Pavel Datsyuk returned to the lineup for Monday's 4-3 win against the New York Rangers, but his presence didn't make a difference when the Wings were handled Wednesday by the Nashville Predators 4-1 at Joe Louis Arena.

The Bruins have been beating teams on the scoreboard and with their fists the past two weeks. They've won four of five, including an 8-6 win against the Montreal Canadiens on Wednesday that featured 172 penalty minutes and a fight between goaltenders Tim Thomas and Carey Price. Six days earlier, the Bruins beat the Dallas Stars 6-3 in a game that had three fights in the first four seconds.

A line brawl isn't likely to happen during a home-and-home series between the Bruins and Red Wings that starts Friday at 7 p.m. ET in Boston and concludes Sunday in Detroit as NBC's NHL "Game of the Week" at 12:30 p.m. will also stream Sunday's game live.

"You're not going to be successful in any walk of life working that hard. It's beyond ridiculous. Obviously we got tons of work to do." -- Detroit coach Mike Babcock

But after hearing Red Wings coach Mike Babcock lay into his team following Wednesday's loss to the Predators, perhaps his players will take the ice against the Bruins with something to prove.

"It's absolutely unacceptable to compete like we did," Babcock said. "You're not going to be successful in any walk of life working that hard. It's beyond ridiculous. Obviously we got tons of work to do. I thought we were coming out of what we were in but obviously we're not.

"We'll have to get to work in practice. We're not going to work in games, but you can bet we'll work in practice. We're going to get some work ethic back because there's no way we're going to have 22,000 people watching us work like that. That's absolutely unacceptable. We're awful."

Red Wings goaltender Jimmy Howard allowed four goals on 16 shots before Babcock replaced him with Joey MacDonald. There wasn't much Howard could do on three of the goals, but he was especially hung out to dry on the goal that put the Predators up 3-0. Colin Wilson was all alone in front when he scored with the Red Wings' trio of Jakub Kindl, Ruslan Salei and Darren Helm trapped behind the goal line.

"We're all in it together," Babcock said, making sure not to place the blame for the loss solely on Howard. "I know when three guys are behind the net and they're shooting in an empty net, that's probably not anything to do with the goaltender. Obviously we were not prepared mentally to play and to compete at a high enough level."

That will need to change in a hurry with two games against the Bruins on the horizon.

The Bruins are 10-4-0 since Jan. 10 and have scored 56 goals -- a whopping 4 per game -- during that stretch. To put that type of offensive firepower the Bruins have displayed in perspective, the Philadelphia Flyers lead the League in goals per game at a mere 3.38.

Considering the Bruins have employed an old-time hockey style with all of their recent fights, it's only fitting that they're scoring goals in the same fashion.

"It's crazy," Boston's Nathan Horton told WEEI. "I've never been involved in games like these where everybody's got each other's back. It's great to be on a team like this and be on the ice. You know that your teammates are going to stick up for you. That's what you want and that's what you need."

It's a recipe for an explosive pair of games between these two historic franchises.

"There's always an extra buzz in the building for an Original Six game, an extra bounce in the step," said NBC's Eddie Olczyk, who will call the game Sunday along with Mike "Doc" Emrick. "The Bruins are a fun team to watch. They can play anyway the game dictates: finesse, chip and chase, drop the gloves; they'll play it. Tim Thomas is having a great year. Detroit has hit the dog days, but are starting to get healthy which will help them turn it around. Both teams are legitimate contenders when the playoffs come around."

Follow Dave Lozo on Twitter: @DaveLozo
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