DETROIT - The last time the Red Wings faced the Columbus Blue Jackets, the Blue Jackets were in the middle of their 16-game winning streak.
The Wings were the fifth victim in the streak, losing 4-1 despite peppering Columbus goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky with 33 shots.
"He's obviously a great goalie, I think everyone knows that," Wings defenseman Xavier Ouellet said. "He's a big guy. He seemed to play a really good game last game when we played against them but we just need to put pucks at his feet and try to get the rebounds, get the dirty goals."
Bobrovsky is tied with Minnesota's Devan Dubnyk for the league lead in wins with 28. He ranks third in save percentage at .926 and tied for fourth in goals-against average with San Jose's Martin Jones at 2.19.
"He's been a real good goalie for a number of years, had a tough start last year but then after that I thought he played good," Wings coach Jeff Blashill said. "When they came into our building late in the year, I thought their team was excellent. There's no question that Bobrovsky's a guy who can be one of the elite goalies in the league. He's technically sound, he doesn't usually let weak goals in. So with their team and with him, you got to do an unreal job of being ultra-determined to get to the inside ice and get to the net and if you don't do that, you won't score. If you do do that, you've got the best chance to score."
The Blue Jackets have not been quite as hot since then, going 4-5-1 in their last 10 games.
They have lost their last two games, one in overtime at Pittsburgh and the last one at home to the New Jersey Devils.
However, the Blue Jackets have not lost three in a row all season.
The Blue Jackets have been extremely successful early in the game, scoring the first goal 32 times, fourth most in the league.
The Wings have surrendered the first goal 31 times this season.
"It's huge," Anthony Mantha said. "It's so important every game. You would way rather have the lead than trailing by one or two. So for us to have a good first period and if we could go get one or two goals to get the lead, it would be a great start for us, especially in the last few games. We showed in Nashville that we could hold a 1-0 lead for the whole game. We need to do the same thing tonight."
The Blue Jackets have outscored opponents 53-30 in the first period.
"We need a good start again," Ouellet said. "We did a good job the last two games to start right from the beginning. That's the key for us, we get a good start and then we'll go from there. We just can't let anything affect us. We need to play a good 60 minutes."
This is the last visit to Joe Louis Arena for the Blue Jackets, who are 12-24-5 here, but 5-1-1 in their last seven.
The Wings will see the Blue Jackets again this weekend at Columbus Saturday.
VANEK IN DISCUSSION: While the Wings are still in the playoff hunt, there has been some discussion that if they are not in the hunt by the trading deadline March 1 that they could make a trade.
Thomas Vanek is one obvious candidate as he is second on the team to Henrik Zetterberg in points with 32 and is playing on a one-year contract.
"You try not to think about it, but I think anyone will," Vanek said. "It would be a lie if they tell you they don't think about it. Obviously, you think about it. Again, it's not like it would have been 10 years ago if you had a wife or girlfriend and you just pack your stuff and move on. It gets hard as you get old. I got three boys, they're all in school. I like it here, it's comfortable. It's definitely a place I could see myself being here. But, again, at the end of the day it's business. I signed a one-year deal, so even before the year I knew there would be a chance I could be traded. But it's something you can't focus on too much, but it's definitely in the back of your head."
Blashill understands that the human element comes into play but trusts a veteran like Vanek to not let it affect him.
"I think anytime any player has an unknown future in any capacity, it's hard," Blashill said. "That's just reality of life. But I also know that he knows how to manage himself, he's been around the league lots. Our focus is winning a game tonight and putting ourselves in the playoff picture so there's no chance that that happens."
Vanek has scored 40 or more goals twice in his career and is one of the most creative offensive players the Wings have.
"I think I've learned tons from the players I've had the opportunity to coach over the years and certainly he's right up there with some of the real good ones," Blashill said. "His offensive mind is excellent. The thing about Thomas is he's not afraid to say his opinion and I love that, because then through the discussion of opinions usually you come to the best answer. He's also not afraid to listen and admit when there's other ways to do it better. So, Thomas has had a great influence on me, I think he's had a great influence on this team."
Vanek has just one assist in his last six games but said he isn't worried about it.
"To me, it's not about individual stats," Vanek said. "I think right now I'm struggling a bit, our line hasn't produced but we're winning, so that's good, that's what you want, because everyone is going to struggle through five, six, seven, eight games. But that's when good teams find ways to win and let ourselves find the game again. Again, I don't think we're there yet. We know that as a team, we're growing, we're learning to win tight games like we did in Nashville. You could tell, especially for us it starts from goaltending out. Goaltending has been good lately."
OPTIONAL SKATE: The Wings held an optional skate Tuesday morning but Petr Mrazek will get his third straight start in goal.
Steve Ott, just activated from injured reserve, will not play as Tomas Jurco will play in his 15th game.
"Cheli (Chris Chelios) told me Badger Bob Johnson never changed a winning lineup, so that's one thing," Blashill said. "I think Jurcs played with the most confidence I've seen him play all season. It's a hard spot to be in to play with lots of confidence. It's a hard, hard thing. I thought with that type of confidence I wanted to keep him going, not send a mixed message that you played good but you're coming out, and then make sure that Ott has as many days as he can that when he gets his opportunity he's ready to go."