DETROIT — Xavier Ouellet wasted no time making an impact and leaving his mark on the Red Wings’ season.
The rookie defenseman picked up his first career point in the NHL on Saturday night against the Toronto Maple Leafs. Ouellet’s strong play and first impressions could keep him in Detroit as the Wings play six of their next seven games at Joe Louis Arena.
“He’s a good hockey player,” coach Mike Babcock said. “He’s smart. You add it all together, I don’t know how big he is, I don’t know how good he skates, but he knows how to play, he looks like a veteran, he moves the puck, doesn’t make a whole lot of mistakes.”
The six-feet, one-inch, 200-pound Ouellet has played in six games for the Wings in the last two seasons and at 21 years old is the youngest member of the defensive corps. His teammates have taken notice in his abilities, proving that age really is just a number.
“X looks great,” defenseman Niklas Kronwall said. “He’s making the right plays, the right decisions all the time. He looks like a veteran already.”
Ouellet’s ability to step right into the mix should come as no surprise, especially after a strong showing in four games of relief last season.
“We saw that last year with him,” goalie Jimmy Howard said. “We know whenever he gets called up what we’re going to get out of him. He played real well stepping in for us in his time last year and he’s doing the same this year. He’s not tall in stature but he’s pretty tough and he’s hard to knock off the puck. He just makes smart plays and he makes a good first pass.”
A return home — where the Wings have picked up a point in eight of 10 games at The Joe this season — is just what the team needed. Sitting in fourth place in the Atlantic Division and just one point behind the Boston Bruins, a handful of home games would help the Wings bounce back after a tough 4-1 loss to Leafs.
With that, here’s a look ahead to this week in Hockeytown:
MONDAY vs. OTTAWA (9-6-4):
Left Wing - OTT
Goals: 8 | Assists: 6 | Pts: 14
Shots: 45 | +/-: -4
The second of four meetings between the Wings and Senators, it will be the start of a five-game road trip for Ottawa and first of two games on consecutive nights. The Senators are a combined 0-2-2 for the season in games on consecutive nights and will look for a repeat performance after defeating the Wings 3-1 in their previous meeting. Ottawa is among the most penalized teams in the league, averaging 12.4 penalty minutes per game but have a top 10 efficiency-rating killing off 83.6 percent of penalties. The matchup will be an important one as the Senators trail the Wings by three points in the standings; an opportunity to close the gap for Ottawa as much as it is a chance to pull away for the Wings.
PLAYER TO WATCH: Forward Clarke MacArthur leads the way for the Senators in points (14), goals (8), and power-play goals (4). Entering his ninth season in the NHL with his fourth different team, MacArthur is coming off of a 2013-14 season where he posted a career-high 24 goals. The six-feet, 195-pound MacArthur has picked up four points in the Senators last five games and only gets better when the team goes on the road. MacArthur is tied for the team lead with four goals and eight points through the Senators’ first nine road games and scored an empty-net goal the last time he played the Wings.
WEDNESDAY vs. PHILADELPHIA (8-9-2):
Center - PHI
Goals: 6 | Assists: 18 | Pts: 24
Shots: 89 | +/-: 8
The Flyers have limped through the month of November, posting a 4-5-0 record and have lost their last four road games. Much of that is due to their special teams struggles as they have the worst penalty kill in the NHL at 72.1 percent — giving up nine power-play goals on the last 19 penalty kills — and it only gets worse when Philadelphia goes on the road. The PK unit drops to a mere 55.6 percent efficiency in their eight road games this season. The Flyers still pose a threat and can strike at any moment with a 6-0-1 record when scoring the first goal of the game. The team also recorded 39 shots on goal in Thursday’s 3-2 loss to the Minnesota Wild. It is the fourth time they’ve recorded 39 or more shots in a game this season and are 14-8-5 when recording at least 39 shots since the start of 2011-12 season
PLAYER TO WATCH: Center Claude Giroux recorded his 400th and 401st career NHL points with a pair of assists in Saturday’s 4-2 win over the Columbus Blue Jackets. Playing on a line with Jakub Voracek — the NHL’s leader with 29 points —Giroux has been the go-to guy for the Flyers in the faceoff circle, taking 41.9 percent of the team’s faceoffs this season. That’s by far the most faceoffs taken by one player for any team in the league — Mikko Koivu is next on that list, having taken 36.6 percent of Minnesota’s faceoffs this season. Giroux also leads the NHL in average time on ice per game among forwards at 21:41.
FRIDAY at NEW JERSEY (9-9-3):
Goalie - NJD
GAA: 2.58 | Sv%: .914
Like the Senators, the Devils will also open up back-to-back games on the week’s schedule with the Wings before playing the New York Islanders the following night. The Devils are 2-2-1 in the first game and 2-2-1 in the second game when playing on consecutive dates and will play their sixth of 18 sets of back-to-back games on the schedule this season. With the 29th ranked PK unit at 73.4 percent, the Devils surrendered two power-play goals to the Wings in the 4-2 loss on Nov. 7, the last time these two met. The Devils' roster features five defensemen who are 24-years-old or younger: Seth Helgeson (24), Eric Gelinas (23), Jon Merrill (22), Adam Larsson (22) and Damon Severson (20).
PLAYER TO WATCH: Goalie Cory Schneider recorded his second shutout of the season, fifth with the Devils and the 14th of his NHL career in a 2-0 win over the Edmonton Oilers on Friday. Schneider started his 20th straight game and established a new a team-record for consecutive starts to open a season (previously, Martin Brodeur. Since 2005-06, only two other goaltenders have started 20 or more straight games to begin a season: Evgeni Nabokov (San Jose, 2007-08, 43 straight) and Miikka Kiprusoff (Calgary, 23, 2007-08, 23). The streak ended on Saturday night when backup Scott Clemmensen made his first start of the season in a 5-4 shootout loos to the Flames.
SUNDAY vs. VANCOUVER (14-6-1):
Left Wing - VAN
Goals: 4 | Assists: 16 | Pts: 20
Shots: 60 | +/-: 5
The only meeting in Detroit this season between these former Western Conference foes, the two will meet again on Jan. 3, the Wings’ first game of 2015. The Canucks are 7-3-1 in the month of November and moved into second place in the Pacific Division with a win over the Chicago Blackhawks on Sunday night. The Canucks have outshot their opponents 13 times this season and have posted a record of 10-3-1 when doing so; they are 4-3-0 when outshot by their opponents. 21 of the 23 skaters that have appeared in the lineup this season have tallied at least one point and the Canucks are 7-0-1 in one-goal games.
PLAYER TO WATCH: Forward Daniel Sedin played in his 1000th career regular season game on Sunday against the Blackhawks, joining his brother Henrik Sedin and 50 other players in NHL history to reach that mark. The Sedins and Radim Vrbata have combined for 58 points between them this the season. Daniel is second on the team in scoring with 20 points and is tied for fifth in the NHL with 14 assists. In his 14th season with the Canucks, Daniel is second in franchise history with 825 career points and is three power-play goals shy of surpassing Markus Naslund for most all-time by a Canuck.