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Jan. 6: Look Ahead in Hockeytown

by Andrea Nelson / Detroit Red Wings
Daniel Cleary knows the Red Wings will need to play better in the second half of the season if they expect to make the playoffs in the spring. (Photo by Getty Images)

DETROIT – “We have to get winning,” forward Daniel Cleary said before embarking on Detroit’s five-game road trip that’s kicking off the second half of the season.

With a 5-1 victory over Dallas on Saturday, the Red Wings did just that, as they look to improve upon their 19-14-10 record earned through 43 games that was accompanied by a plethora of injuries.

“We’ve been with the injury bug for a little bit, probably more than a little bit,” Cleary added. “We obviously have to get going here. We don’t want to get too far ahead, but it’s a pretty big road trip. We’ve played well on the road so far this season now we just have to keep it going. It’ll be great for us actually.”

The Red Wings have found much success on the road this season (13-4-3), and hope to see a few players who have been sidelined with injuries back in the lineup this week in California.

Center Pavel Datsyuk is day-to-day with a lower-body injury, and after missing Saturday’s game in Dallas, is possible to return Thursday at San Jose.

“I’m assuming he’s possible to return Thursday night since we thought we were going to have him Saturday, so now it’s four days later and he’s going to play,” Wings general manager Ken Holland said. “That doesn’t mean he’s going to play. We have to get on the ice and see how he feels.”

Defenseman Danny DeKeyser (groin) practiced Tuesday and will be assessed after Thursday’s morning skate on whether or not he will be in the lineup against the Sharks.

After missing seven games with a concussion, Johan Franzen has been cleared to practice and joined his teammates Tuesday. Although there is no timetable for Franzen’s return, Holland isn’t ruling out this weekend for the forward.

“Now I’m assuming, if he goes three or four days in a row, practices full out and he feels great and we call the doctor Saturday morning and tell him he’s practiced four days in a row and has had no setbacks, no issues, he feels great and wants to play I’m assuming the doctor’s going to clear him,” Holland said. “That’s an assumption.

“We’re not far away, but what not far away means with these injuries I don’t know.”

Center Darren Helm and backup goalie Jonas Gustavsson have both been sidelined with sore groins, and while Holland didn’t have an update on Helm, Gustavsson will not be ready for Thursday’s game and will be reassessed later in the week.

“We’ll reassess on Friday and Saturday if he’s ready to go,” Holland said. “Depending on how practice goes Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday we’ll make an assessment. If he’s not ready to play Saturday we’re going to hold him out until the Rangers game.”

The Red Wings have a tough road trip ahead, as the three California teams they’ll face – San Jose, Los Angeles and Anaheim – are a combined 84-31-15 with an astonishing 46-6-7 home record.

“The first four games here are going to be huge, especially the last three,” captain Henrik Zetterberg said. “We have three games in four days but we’re looking forward to it. It’s teams that we played a lot before and we had some good battles against them.”

With that, here’s a look ahead to this week in Hockeytown:

Joe Thornton
Center  - SJS
Goals: 5 | Assists: 43 | Pts: 48
Shots: 58- | +/-: 12
THURSDAY – at SAN JOSE (27-10-6): The first of Detroit’s three games in California this weeks marks the second and final time the Red Wings will face the Sharks this season. San Jose has been dominant at home, posting a 15-1-3 record at SAP Center and stands near the top of the Western Conference standings in fourth place. … Despite winning seven of their last 10 games, the Sharks struggled in December (7-6-1), but have won two of three games this month. … The Sharks are 18-2-5 when scoring first, and rarely lose composure late in games, as they are nearly impossible to beat when leading after two periods (22-1-2). … San Jose ranks fifth in the league in goals scored (135), sixth in goal differential (+31), fifth in blocked shots (695), and is tied for third in faceoff percentage (53.2 percent), while leading in average shots per game (36.1). … The Sharks boast the league’s fifth best penalty kill at home, allowing only eight goals in their opponents’ 58 attempts. Joe Pavelski, who was named to the USA Olympic team on Jan. 1, leads San Jose’s power-play unit with seven goals and 11 assists. … Since Dec. 21, the trio of Pavelski, Joe Thornton and Brent Burns has accounted for 30 points. … The Sharks will be without center Logan Couture when they host Detroit, who will undergo surgery Wednesday with an upper-body injury. Couture scored the game-winning goal in a 1-0 overtime victory against the Red Wings in October and has recorded five points, including four goals, in San Jose’s last five games.

PLAYER TO WATCH: Thornton, the former first overall pick of the Boston Bruins in the 1997 NHL draft, extended his point streak to eight games with an assist on Jan. 5 at Chicago. Thornton has recorded 12 assists in San Jose’s last eight contests, and currently sits a top of the league with 43 assists. In his ninth season with the Sharks, the veteran is first on his team and tied for third place in the league with 48 points, having recorded a point in 26 of his last 30 games.

Anze Kopitar
Center  - LAK
Goals: 13 | Assists: 22 | Pts: 35
Shots: 104 | +/-: 22
SATURDAY – at LOS ANGELES (26-13-4): This is the first of two meetings between the Red Wings and Kings this season, as Detroit will host Los Angeles at The Joe on Jan. 18. The Kings currently sit in sixth place in the Western Conference, and their 56 points after 44 games is tied for the third best record in club history. … Los Angeles is 12-3-2 in their last 17 games at the Staples Center and is 12-2-2 vs. Eastern Conference opponents this season. … The Kings have held their opponents to two or fewer goals in 23 of their last 28 games, and have a 23-2-4 record when doing so. … Although their power play ranks No. 23 in the league, Los Angeles has scored four short-handed goals this season, which is tied for fourth best in the NHL. … Through 29 games, rookie center Tyler Toffoli ranks 12th among NHL rookies with 17 points, and his plus-14 rating is second only to Anaheim’s Hampus Lindholm. … After missing 24 games with a lower body injury, goalie Jonathan Quick stopped 27 of 28 shots in a 3-1 victory over Vancouver Saturday. In his place, backup Ben Scrivens posted a 6-4-3 record in 13 starts, ranking sixth in GAA (1.97) and tied for third in shutouts (3).

PLAYER TO WATCH: It’s a good sign for the Kings when center Anze Kopitar nets a goal. Los Angeles is 9-3-0 this season when Kopitar scores, and the 26-year-old has been doing so often. Kopitar has six points in the last seven games, including two goals, and dating back to early this season, he’s recorded 30 points in the last 35 games. The center leads the Kings with 38 points, and his plus-22 rating is tied for second in the league. Kopitar is a force on the Kings’ power play, scoring six goals on the unit this season, and is also 5-for-7 in shootouts with four game-deciding goals. Kopitar was named to the 2014 Slovenian Olympic team on Monday. The Sochi Games will be Kopitar’s first Olympic appearance.

Nick Bonino
Center  - ANA
Goals: 12 | Assists: 18 | Pts: 30
Shots: 80 | +/-: 7
SUNDAY – at ANAHEIM (31-8-5): The Red Wings will travel to Anaheim for the second of two meetings with the Ducks this season. Detroit fell at home to the Ducks in the lone meeting between the two teams in December, but Detroit was without Henrik Zetterberg, Justin Abdelkader, Gustav Nyquist, Danny DeKeyser, Jimmy Howard and Darren Helm in the 5-2 loss. … Anaheim sits a top of the league with a 31-8-5 record through 44 games, and has been dominant at the Honda Center this season. The Ducks are 17-0-2 at home, marking the best home start and longest home point streak in franchise history, and is the only NHL team that hasn’t lost in regulation at home this season. … Anaheim boasts a 16-1-5 record in one-goal games, and has seen much success when scoring first, as the Ducks are 18-3-4 when netting the first goal. … The forward-line combination of Saku Koivu, Andrew Cogliano and Daniel Winnik has produced 17 points and a plus-19 rating over the past six games. … Rookie Hampus Lindholm’s plus-22 rating is highest among all NHL rookies and is tied for second in the league. … Captain Ryan Getzlaf leads his team and is tied for fourth in the league with 48 points, including 20 goals.

PLAYER TO WATCH: Highlighted by two, two-point games, center Nick Bonino has recorded five points in Anaheim’s last three games, and ranks third on the team with 30 points through 44 games. After recording only five multi-point games over the past three seasons, Bonino achieved his fifth multi-point game of the season in a 4-3 victory over Vancouver Sunday. The 25-year-old is one of five Anaheim players who has appeared in all of the Ducks’ games this season, and ranks second on the team in faceoff wins (335) and third among forwards in average time on ice (16:17). He is also tied for first place on the team with 13 power-play points, notching three goals and 10 assists so far this season.

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