DETROIT – The Red Wings stand to end October on a very high note.
Should they pick up two points each at Washington and back home Friday against Los Angeles, the Wings would finish the first month of the season with a respectable 6-2-2 record and 14 points in 10 games.
“I’d be very impressed. We’ve done a great job so far,” said goalie Jimmy Howard, who will start against the Capitals. “We’ve let some points slip through our fingers as well. We have two more games, two real good tests and hopefully we can get some more points out of it. There are games we didn’t deserve points and we did and a couple where we didn’t think we’d get any and did. It all balances out.”
Detroit (4-2-2) is currently in third place in the Atlantic Division, trailing Montreal (14 points) and Tampa Bay (11).
With the exception of two games against Toronto and Wednesday’s game against the Caps, the first month of the Red Wings’ schedule has been a daunting one filled with seven games against six playoff teams from a season ago, including the top two regular-season finishers (Boston and Anaheim) and the reigning Stanley Cup champion Kings.
“I haven't even thought about it to be honest with you,” defenseman Niklas Kronwall said. “Sure, we're playing a lot of good teams but we feel like we're a good team in here. So we feel like we stack up well against anybody. When we skate, we know we can compete with the best and we should be right up there. Of course we're off to a decent start, we just gotta keep going here.”
As far as the scheduling goes, Kronwall said he prefers three-game weeks, especially this early in the season.
“The schedule hasn't been too crazy,” he said. “It's just the weird part those few weeks where in the beginning you play two games and then you have four days off of whatever and then you play a couple games and there's another few days off. It's better now when you get into it and there's games every other day or so.”
The schedule has seemingly worked for the Red Wings, who have dropped just two games in regulation – Oct. 11 to Anaheim (3-2) and last Saturday to Philadelphia (4-2).
The Red Wings have been among the stingiest defensive teams in the league, surrendering just two goals per game while owning the NHL’s most successful penalty kill. Detroit is now 25-for-26 when playing shorthanded. The first power-play goal scored against the Wings came in Saturday’s loss to the Flyers.
Coach Mike Babcock was less concerned with how his teams finishes the month and more worried about the upcoming contest in the nation’s capital.
“The way I look at it is we dropped our last game,” Babcock said. “We need a bounce back now. We feel we can be way better as a team and we want to keep getting better and that’s what we’re trying to focus on.”
Right Wing - DET
Goals: 4 | Assists: 1 | Pts: 5
Shots: 18 | +/-: 2
The Gustav Nyquist
on the second PP unit experience has ended. Nyquist and Tomas Jurco
traded places in practice Tuesday in advance of the Red Wings’ game at Washington Wednesday night.
Nyquist rejoins the first PP unit with Henrik Zetterberg, Pavel Datsyuk, Darren Helm and Kronwall.
“We changed it back, just trying to switch things around,” Nyquist said. “We haven't been scoring. My jobs are a little different on both units. Now I'm with Hank and Pav and I'm going to be the guy in the middle, trying to retrieve a lot of pucks and get the puck back to those guys for them to make plays and obviously be ready to shoot when I get in the middle.”
Through the first eight games, Nyquist has accounted for both goals on 30 chances for the Red Wings, whose power play is ranked No. 27 in the league.
Putting Nyquist back on the first unit was a tough decision, Babcock said.
“But when you’re scrambling sometimes you do things,” he said. “I thought it was a real good idea we took him away and then we haven’t got anything to go. We’ve got to attack the net so I just thought those are the guys that have been scoring for us. We put them in scoring positions and see what happens.”
FRANZEN UPDATE: Johan Franzen
Right Wing - DET
Goals: 2 | Assists: 3 | Pts: 5
Shots: 7 | +/-: 1
skated again Tuesday, but said he’s nowhere near returning to the lineup.
Franzen hasn’t played since suffering a groin injury midway through the Red Wings’ 4-1 win at Toronto Oct. 17. He skated for a bit Tuesday, but left the ice before practiced ended.
“I’ve just been trying, cruising around in shorts, seeing if it’s still there. Today was a step forward,” Franzen said. “I tried a few strides at 100 percent or close to it. It didn’t feel great doing that so I backed off. I’m going to start a little slower.”
Franzen would not predict a date for his return to action, though Babcock did offer some insight as to when the power forward may be back in the lineup.
“I think he’ll be ready in a couple days,” Babcock said. “The big thing is anytime you’ve been out – and I say this all the time, it doesn’t matter who you are – it’s tough getting back in. The Mule has trained like crazy. But when you get back in your fitness isn’t the same and there isn’t anything you can do about that. It was good to see him out there today.”
HOMER’S RETURN: The Red Wings had a special visitor drop by the locker room Tuesday afternoon.
Tomas Holmstrom, who retired following the 2011-12 season, is in Detroit this week. His kids are on fall break from school in northern Sweden, where the family moved to in the summer.
Enjoying his retirement, the 41-year-old Holmstrom remains close to the sport, helping coach his two sons’ youth teams while also lending his knowledge to Sweden’s national development program.
“I’m on the ice pretty much every day, coaching the boys and then doing some national team assignments, U15, U16 and helping out the elite team in Lulea. So I keep myself busy,” Holmstrom said. “It’s fun to work with driven kids who want to make it and take the next step. They want it, so it’s fun.”
Know as the Demolition Man for the way he wrecked havoc in front of opposing nets on the Red Wings’ power play, Holmstrom gave his assessment of the current team’s struggles with the man advantage.
“You know how it is, it goes up and down,” he said. “We’ve been there, I’ve been there. To be successful you can’t be one and done. You need to get the pucks to the net and usually when you get pucks to the net and you start all over then something happens.”