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March 31: Look Ahead in Hockeytown

by Bill Roose / Detroit Red Wings
Now in his ninth season with the Red Wings; coach Mike Babcock has compiled a 411-196-90 record with the club. (Photo by Getty Images)

DETROIT – On Sunday evening, Mike Babcock earned his 411th victory behind the Red Wings’ bench, passing his mentor, legendary coach Scotty Bowman, to move into sole possession of second place in franchise history.

Babcock, in his ninth season with the Detroit organization, now trails Jack Adams by two wins for the most in club history.

“Scotty’s the greatest coach of all time in our business,” Babcock said when asked by reporters about passing his coaching idol. “The way the business was then and the way it is now, to have the amount of wins Scotty has is impossible and you’re not going to get to coach so many Stanley Cup champions.”

Bowman led the Red Wings to three Stanley Cup championships while coaching the team from 1993-94 to 1999-2002. In 30 years of coaching, Bowman held the reins of five different clubs all while establishing such astronomically high benchmarks that future coaches may never reach.

No coach has had his name engraved more times on the Stanley Cup than Bowman, who hoisted the Cup a record nine times, including five with the Montreal Canadiens in the 1970s. It’s quite conceivable that nobody will ever coach as many games (2,141) and win as many (1,244) as William Scott Bowman did.

“Scotty should be in a class by himself,” Babcock said. “It’s not like I wanted to pass Scott Bowman, but I’m honored. He’s a good friend of mine. I’m honored I get to talk about him here.”

The 50-year-old Babcock, who once coached the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim, now has 480 NHL wins, which is sixth amongst current league coaches. He led the Red Wings to seven consecutive 100-plus point seasons before the NHL’s lockout-shortened campaign last year.

This Saturday in Montreal, Babcock will become the fourth coach to reach the 700-game plateau in franchise history. Only Adams (964), Sid Abel (811) and Bowman (701) have coached more games with Detroit.

Injuries to star players Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk have defined this season, making it a tumultuous ride for the Wings’ front office and coaching staff. Yet, Babcock and the young up and coming stars from AHL Grand Rapids have made every game interesting.

Should the Red Wings fight their way into the Stanley Cup playoffs, thus keeping a string of postseason appearances intact since 1991, there could be an argument that Babcock deserves to win the award named for the man he soon will catch in team wins.

“The year you’re in is the most challenging one,” Babcock said last week. “It’s just like marriage. Don’t worry about the last one and you don’t worry about the next one, you worry about the one you’re in. it’s the same thing. You got to execute and you got to find a way to get wins. That’s all there is.”

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

Tuukka Rask
Tuukka Rask
Goalie  - BOS
Record: 34-14-5
GAA: 2.02 | Sv%: .931
WEDNESDAY – vs. BOSTON (52-17-6): Wednesday marks the third and final meeting between the Original Six foes. Detroit has won both matchups against the Bruins, a 3-2 victory in Boston on Oct. 14 and a 6-1 victory at The Joe on Nov. 27. … With a 4-2 win over the Washington Capitals Saturday, the Bruins clinched the Atlantic Division title behind 108 points. Boston has been nearly unstoppable since returning from the Sochi Olympics, winning 14-of-17 en route to the team’s 28th division title and seventh straight playoff berth. … The Bruins are currently on a 16-game point streak (15-0-1), including a 12-game win streak from March 2-22. The club is 18-1-3 in its last 22 games and boasts a 23-2-4 record in its last 29. The Bruins have won their last nine road games, surpassing the longest streak in team history, and have taken points out of each of their last 16 road games (13-0-3). The team’s last regulation loss on the road was a 4-2 victory in favor of Los Angeles on Jan. 9. … Boston’s GF/GA differential of plus-82 leads the NHL and includes a plus-47 third period differential, which is higher than the overall margin of all but five teams. … The Bruins have allowed two or fewer goals in 48 games this season (excluding shootouts), earning a 46-2-0 record in those matchups. … Six Bruins players currently rank among the top 10 plus-minus ratings in the NHL, including the top four spots – Patrice Bergeron (37), David Krejci (36), Jarome Iginla (34), Johnny Boychuk (33), Brad Marchand (29) and Milan Lucic (28). With two goals in Boston’s 4-2 victory over Washington, Iginla reached the 30-goal mark for the 12th time in his career. The forward has earned 31 points in the last 25 games.

PLAYER TO WATCH: With a 4-3 shootout victory over Philadelphia Sunday, goaltender Tuukka Rask earned the 100th win of his career in the NHL. Rask made 28 saves for his seventh shutout of the season in Boston’s 3-0 victory over Chicago on March 27, a career season-high and the most in a season by a Bruins’ goaltender since Tim Thomas in 2010-11 (9). The goaltender currently ranks second in the league with a career goals-against average of 2.11 among all active goaltenders who have played in 25-plus career NHL games. Rask ranks second only to fellow Boston goaltender Chad Johnson (2.11) in the statistical category. – ANDREA NELSON

Johan Larsson
Johan Larsson
Left Wing  - BUF
Goals: 0 | Assists: 3 | Pts: 3
Shots: 17 | +/-: -1
FRIDAY – vs. BUFFALO (20-45-9): Friday marks the third of four meetings between Buffalo and Detroit, and the second and final matchup at The Joe. The Red Wings have won both of the previous meetings against the Sabres this season, a 2-1 victory at home in the season-opener and a 3-1 victory in Buffalo on Nov. 24. … The Sabres rank at the bottom of the Eastern Conference with 49 points, and have compiled a 1-10-1 record in their past 11 games. The club has struggled on the road this season, earning an 8-25-3 record away from First Niagara Center. … When trailing after two periods, Buffalo is 2-35-4, and has compiled a 1-17 record in three-goal games. But the team has experienced more success after regulation, as the Sabres are 9-9 in overtime and 6-4 in shootouts. … The club will arrive in Hockeytown amid a three-game road trip, as it will play in St. Louis on Thursday, Detroit on Friday and Philadelphia on Sunday. … Since Buffalo traded Ryan Miller to the Blues, the Sabres’ goaltenders have combined to post a save percentage of .927, including a .936 save percentage at even strength. … Center Tyler Ennis leads Buffalo in points (38), goals (19) and shots (178), while defenseman Christian Ehrhoff leads the club in assists (20) and shorthanded goals (3).

PLAYER TO WATCH: After being recalled on an emergency basis on March 27, rookie center Johan Larsson has earned two points (0-2-2) in Buffalo’s last two contests. Larsson’s recall was necessary after forward Torrey Mitchell sustained an undisclosed injury in Buffalo’s 2-0 loss to Montreal last Tuesday, and a back injury sidelined center Zenon Konopka for the club’s last three games. While Mitchell is out indefinitely, Konopka’s injury is day-to-day. Larsson was acquired from the Minnesota Wild on April 3, 2013, and has earned three assists in 23 games with the Sabres this season. – ANDREA NELSON

Max Pacioretty
Max Pacioretty
Left Wing  - MON
Goals: 35 | Assists: 19 | Pts: 54
Shots: 247 | +/-: 6
SATURDAY – at MONTREAL (43-26-7): This is the fourth game between the Red Wings and Canadiens. Detroit won the first two games, including a 2-1 overtime victory Feb. 26 at Montreal’s Bell Centre. The Canadiens have won five straight games and eight of the past nine to rebound from a stretch where they dropped four of five games. The winning streak has helped them ascend to second place in the Atlantic Division, two points ahead of Tampa Bay. … Montreal has 17 back-to-back games series this season. The Canadiens will conclude their 16th back to back when they host the Red Wings. So far, the Canadiens are 9-3-3 in the first games, and have an 8-7-0 record in the second games of the back-to-back series. … Goalie Carey Price registered his fifth shutout of the season with a 2-0 win over Buffalo (Mar. 25). He now has 20 shutouts over the past four seasons, becoming the first Canadiens’ goaltender to earn at least 20 shutouts over a four-season span since Ken Dryden did so during the final four campaigns of his NHL career. … The Red Wings’ all-time road record at Montreal is 70-173-43-0.

PLAYER TO WATCH: Max Pacioretty scored twice in the Canadiens’ 4-1 win at Florida Saturday, establishing a new career-high with his 34th and 35th goals of the season. He is currently riding a three-game goal-scoring streak, with his first tally Saturday standing as his 10th winner of the season to take over the NHL-lead. Pacioretty is the first Canadiens’ player to reach double-digits in winning goals since Vincent Damphousse scored 10 in 1993-94. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Pacioretty is the fifth Canadiens’ player in the last 18 seasons to score 35 or more goals in a season, joining Pierre Turgeon and Vincent Damphousse who each produced 38 goals in 1995-96. – BILL ROOSE

Follow Bill Roose on Twitter | @Bill_Roose

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