DETROIT — Early home games could prove to be the ace up the Red Wings’ sleeve.
After winning the season opener at Joe Louis Arena, the Wings welcome the Anaheim Ducks to Detroit on Saturday. Following up Thursday’s win over the Boston Bruins with another victory over the weekend would put the team in great starting position in early October.
“The more points you can bank early in the season, you can stay a lot more calm later on," defenseman Niklas Kronwall said. "I though (the Boston game) was a good step for us in the right direction."
At the Wings’ convenience, five of the first seven regular-season games are at home, a place where coach Mike Babcock has a .697 win-percentage over his last 9-plus seasons. Getting an early jump on the competition at this point in the season can pay out major dividends later on and potentially take pressure off of the team in the months that follow. The Wings have had to scratch and claw their way into the playoffs the past two seasons, so being able to collect points at home in early October will prove to be important in April.
The Ducks — who finished second in the NHL last season with 116 points — are coming off of a high-scoring 6-4 loss at the hands of the Pittsburgh Penguins. Goaltending could be a potential concern because of youth at the position with American John Gibson but there is plenty of offense for the Wings to be worried about. Top line forwards Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry finished in the top five in the NHL in points last season and lit up the Penguins for a combined five points (Perry with 3 goals, Getzlaf with 2 assists) in Thursday’s loss.
“Getzlaf to me is one of the best players in the world and Perry is playing with him. Makes them a very dangerous duo to say the least. Any way you look at it that’s going to draw your focus,” Babcock said. “We’re going to see what happens at the start of the game. I always have a plan and I always have a B plan. If the A plan works, you stay with it. If it doesn’t you do something else. If that doesn’t work you do something else.”
The Wings’ game plan might also want to account for the Ducks’ newly acquired Ryan Kesler. Born in suburban Livonia, playing at The Joe is a homecoming of sorts for the center who has recorded five points in his last eight games against the Wings.
“Kesler’s a real good player, obviously, he’s from here, he likes to play well here," Babcock said. "(He) is a matchup center in the league, would free up the Sedins in Vancouver to play more. Maybe he’s going to be able to do that for Getzy.”
The Wings will carry some momentum into Saturday night after their low-scoring 2-1 win over Boston. However, the Ducks’ high-scoring offense loaded with weapons will present a different challenge. Scoring goals in bunches has yet to be seen from this group through the preseason so it will be an interesting test for the boys if they have to match the Ducks goal-for-goal.
The Wings’ top line of Henrik Zetterberg, Johan Franzen and Justin Abdelkader got off to a strong start, contributing on both of the team’s goals Thursday. A repeat performance from them will be important as the Wings have not beaten the Ducks at home in the regular season since Feb. 10, 2012.
DOMINANT: Thursday’s 2-1 victory over the Bruins is the Wings’ eighth win in their last nine regular-season meetings with their Original Six rival. The two teams will meet four more times this season, the next being on Wednesday in Detroit. After that, they will play two games in Boston before meeting for the last time in Motown on April 2.
NEW MULE: Franzen recorded assists on both goals against the Bruins, a quick start for the forward who scored 16 goals and 41 points in 54 games last season. It was his 18th multi-point game since the NHL lockout in 2012.