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Notebook: It's a crucial week for Wings

by Michael Caples / Detroit Red Wings
DETROIT – This week features what likely will be the Red Wings most important road trip of the season.

It begins Monday with a visit to Calgary for a crucial game between two teams fighting for a Western Conference playoff berth. The Wings then have three days to rest before games against Edmonton and Vancouver on Friday and Saturday.

On the bright side, the Wings head into Calgary with a new level of confidence. Brian Rafalski’s overtime goal on Saturday against Buffalo gave the Wings their fifth win in seven games since the Olympic break. The win moved Detroit into eighth place in the standings.

“We needed this one, big time,” Wings coach Mike Babcock said. “We needed the second point, that’s all there is to it. Any way you win makes you feel better and allows your confidence to grow.”

The Wings hope to use that confidence to beat the Flames on Monday, after their main competition for a playoff spot came to Joe Louis Arena last Tuesday and stole a 4-2 win.

“Every point is crucial here,” Rafalski said. “Obviously going into Calgary on Monday could decide the playoffs, so we want to make sure we got the points here.”

Throughout the course of the season, Babcock and the Wings have been saying that they needed to play well for an entire game, and not have any letdowns in any period. It has appeared that the Wings managed to do that in their last two outings against Minnesota and Buffflo, but Rafalski warned that looking at past games won’t benefit them at this point.

“It’s good, but it doesn’t mean anything if we come out and play a full 60 minutes on Monday,” Rafalski said. “That’s our focus, the next game, that’s all we can do. We can’t standings-watch, we got to go out and play the best we can every night, and that has to be our focus with 15 games to go.”

Much of the Wings’ recent success can be attributed to their special teams play. Rafalski’s OT goal stretched the Wings’ streak of scoring a power-play goal to nine straight games, and the Wings haven’t allowed a goal while shorthanded since their 6-2 loss against Vancouver on March 3.

Babcock said that the return of injured players Johan Franzen, Niklas Kronwall and Jason Williams have helped the power play tremendously.

“I think (special teams) been huge, and I think our penalty kill has gotten better and better and better as the year’s gone on,” Babcock said. “The guys do a real good job of blocking shots, they’re playing well in those situations. The power play since Mule has come back and since Kronwall and Williams have come back, we just have so much more depth, and it’s made it a lot easier for us to generate offense.”

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