Well, not really that rare.
Actually, this is the second straight three-game week – in a lockout-shortened season seemingly dotted by eight- and nine-game fortnights. And like last week, this week will conclude out west, when the Wings wrap-up the last two games of their season-series with the Pacific Division-leading Ducks at Anaheim’s Honda Center.
Now that’s rare. With a unique twist to this year’s schedule, the Red Wings and Ducks will face-off twice in three nights. It’s been seven years since the Red Wings last played consecutive games against an opponent in the same venue. In 2005, Detroit skated away with back-to-back wins at Columbus.
If this week plays out like last week, Detroit could be sitting pretty in the Western Conference playoff race. Coming off a three-game swing through western Canada, where Detroit picked up four of a possible six points with big wins, this week could be just as fruitful.
Getting healthy players back from injured reserve, especially forwards Johan Franzen and Valtteri Filppula, helped the Red Wings win eight-plus periods last week.
“For sure it's confidence,” said coach Mike Babcock about getting guys back in the lineup. “Our team is better personnel-wise than it was two weeks ago. You put Mule and Fil back in the lineup, now Z and Pav got a legitimate player to play with. For a while there it was heavy sledding for those guys.”
With the exception of the third period in Calgary, the Red Wings played their style with plenty of energy to spare in eight-plus periods.
“Our best start and most dominant effort was the game we lost,” Babcock said. “Who knows why it works that way. We tried to hang in here the best we (could) while we got players away and when they come back we think we're going to be better.”
Now, Babcock is confident that Darren Helm, whom the Red Wings’ coach calls, “The best third-line center in the NHL” will be back soon from a lower back injury that has sidelined him for all but one game this year.
“It's going to take Helmer a while but he's a huge factor,” Babcock said. “He flat out can dominate on the bottom six. We look forward to having him back this week.”
The Ducks, like the Chicago Blackhawks, are running away with the Pacific and Central divisions, respectively. The Red Wings played Anaheim once already this season, and come out on the short end of a 5-2 loss at Joe Louis Arena on Feb. 15.
But first things first.
With eight home games left, the Wings will host the Minnesota Wild on Wednesday. It’s the team’s only home game in a 20 day stretch. Wednesday’s game is also the last in the season-series between the Wings and Wild, who split the previous two meetings this year.
So, with that, here’s a look ahead to this week in Hockeytown:
WEDNESDAY – vs. MINNESOTA WILD (15-10-2):
Defense - MIN
GOALS: 2 | ASST: 21 | PTS: 23
SOG: 46 | +/-: -3
The Wild has won four of their past five games, and is 11-5-1 since Feb. 9. They’re one of the league’s best when leading after two periods with a 10-1-1 record this season. … Minnesota has scored the opening goal in seven straight games, tying a franchise record originally set in October 2007. The Wild is 10-4-0 when scoring first this year. … They’re also perfect on the penalty kill in 10 of its last 13 games, killing 31-of-34 chances in that stretch. Minnesota’s penalty kills ranks fourth in the league. The Wild is 11-5-1 when not allowing a power-play goal. Especially stingy on the road, Minnesota has yielded just 31 shorthanded chances in 13 games. … Minnesota has scored power-play goal in eight of its last 10 games, going 8-for-35 in that stretch. Minnesota is 8-5-1 when scoring a power-play goal and 7-5-1 when it is stopped on the advantage.
PLAYER TO WATCH: Defenseman Ryan Suter has a point in nine of 10 games, with 14 points (2 goals, 12 assists) in that span, including a seven-game point streak. Prior to his arrival during the off-season, no Wild defenseman had a point streak longer than four games. Suter matched his career-high with three assists last Thursday against Colorado, while skating to a plus-3 rating. The alternate captain leads the Wild with 21 goals and has 23 points this season.
FRIDAY – at ANAHEIM DUCKS (20-3-4):
Center - ANA
GOALS: 10 | ASST: 21 | PTS: 31
SOG: 58 | +/-: 13
The Ducks are riding an 11-game home winning streak, which equals the club record set during the 2009-10 campaign. Since the start of the 2009-10 season, only four teams have won as many as 11 straight home games, including the Red Wings, who won 23 straight at Joe Louis Arena last season. … In mid-February, the Ducks ranked ninth in the NHL on the power play (9-for-44). But in the last month, the Ducks’ special team has skyrocketed to league lead, going 11-for-34 on the power play for a 32.4 percent success rate over the last 12 games. In all, the Ducks are 20-for-78 on the power play with a 25.6 percent success rate.
PLAYER TO WATCH: Earlier this month, Ryan Getzlaf signed an eight-year contract extension to remain with the Ducks through the 2020-21 season. In 538 career NHL games, Getzlaf has produced 503 points with a plus-80 rating. He leads the Ducks this season in scoring with 31 points, and assists (21), and co-leads in goals (10). He’s currently riding a season-high home scoring streak, with six goals and 12 assists in 10 straight games. In addition, he has collected points in four of the last six games and has picked up 22 points with a plus-10 rating in the last 15 games.
SUNDAY – at ANAHEIM DUCKS (20-3-4):
Center - ANA
GOALS: 10 | ASST: 7 | PTS: 17
SOG: 44 | +/-: 16
The Ducks have won 13 games this season when trailing. Incredibly, they are 11-2-1 when opponents score first. Conversely, Anaheim was 1-10-2 through 26 games last season in the same such situation. According the Stats, Inc., both of those win totals (13, 11) are the most by any NHL team through the first 26 games of a season since 1987-88.
PLAYER TO WATCH: Center Andrew Cogliano has points in six of his last eight games, earning with a plus-10 rating since the beginning of March. He scored his 10th goal of the season last Thursday, matching Ryan Getzlaf for the team lead in goal scoring. It marks the Cogliano’s sixth consecutive season reaching double digits in goals as he now sits only three shy of his personal best – 13 goals in 2011-12. The former University of Michigan star has not missed a game since his NHL debut with Edmonton on Oct. 4, 2007, appearing in 436 consecutive games.
Follow Bill Roose on Twitter | @Bill_Roose