DETROIT — A new month presents a new set of challenges for the Red Wings.
In the midst of their first extended road trip of the season — playing three games in four days away from home — the Wings find themselves in an unfamiliar place. On-ice practices and games had been the main focus through the first 10 games but life on the road presents off-ice tests yet to be experienced by this team.
“We had a little meeting before practice (on Saturday) about how to take care of ourselves,” defenseman Jonathan Ericsson said. “We have to be professional not just practicing and playing games, we have to take care of our bodies. If its sleeping enough, eating enough and then eating right and at the right times. We’ve gotta be professional with whatever we do.”
The life of a professional athlete extends further than the playing surface. Body maintenance, health and upkeep become a major point of emphasis when the team turns its attention to road trips. Living out of suitcases and hotels can make it problematic for Wings players to eat right, get rest and prepare for a lot of hockey in a short amount of time.
“It’s a little bit different grind, (not) sleeping in your own bed,” center Darren Helm said. “You’re not familiar with places, the dressing room, different situations may pop up. You just have to adapt. It’s more of a mental grind than anything. Nothing that we all haven’t really faced but something new for this year. We haven’t had our first trip. So eating right, getting sleep, just things that we need to be conscious of.”
Having picked up a point in three straight games now, The Wings are 2-1-2 on the road this year and hope to build off of that after going 21-15-5 last season.
“We feel like we’ve got something good going,” Ericsson said. “We’ve had a pretty tough schedule with teams we’ve played here (in Detroit) but nothing is easy in this league, we’ve noticed that. We have to play at the top of our game to beat anyone and when we do, we can beat anyone.”
Winning on the road is never easy but having the ability to take care of business in the opposition’s building is paramount for a team to have success. Away games take teams out of their comfort zones and the Wings can find out a lot about themselves during this road trip. A strong showing this week would add yet another piece to the puzzle, proving their ability to compete in future road games.
“I’m conscious of what the schedule is but we’ve caught four teams on back-to-backs already this year,” coach Mike Babcock said. “We’ve had an unbelievable schedule. New York is going to catch us back to back but I don’t worry about all that stuff…I always say, year-after-year, day-after-day, if you win today everything’s OK and that’s what we’re going to try to do.”
With that, here’s a look ahead to this week in Hockeytown:
TUESDAY at OTTAWA (5-3-2):
Defense - OTT
Goals: 3 | Assists: 5 | Pts: 8
Shots: 42 | +/-: -7
The first of four meetings, the Senators have picked up at least one point in each of their four home games this season. They split the season series in 2013-14 with the Wings two games apiece, with the road team winning all four contests. The Wings won the most recent matchup 6-1 on February 27, 2014, the last time these two played in the Canadian Tire Centre. The Senators are giving up 35.9 shots per game, the second-most in the NHL and are among the most penalized teams with 13.7 penalty minutes per game. Don’t sleep on the Sens, they’ve scored 14 third period goals, tied for the second-most in the league.
PLAYER TO WATCH: Named the ninth captain in Senators franchise history before the start of the season, defenseman Erik Karlsson has played in 95 consecutive regular season games. The 2012 Norris trophy winner as best defenseman, Karlsson leads the team with 27:17 of ice time per game, three minutes more than the next highest for player on the Senators. Entering his sixth season, Karlsson has led all NHL defensemen in scoring twice including last season when he recorded 20 goals and 74 points in 82 regular season games. With a negative-seven rating through the first month, he is susceptible to being overly offensive and in turn, giving up goals to the opposition.
WEDNESDAY at NEW YORK RANGERS (5-4-1):
Left Wing - NYR
Goals: 9 | Assists: 2 | Pts: 11
Shots: 31 | +/-: 6
Coach Alain Vigneault led the Rangers to the Stanley Cup finals in his first season with the organization. In year two, however, his Rangers squad is off to a slow start being outscored 31 to 27 in their first 10 games. The first of three meetings, the Rangers swept the season series in 2013-14 including two shutouts at Madison Square Garden. In fact, the Wings have only scored one goal in their last three games at MSG and haven’t won in that building since December 6, 2009. The Rangers have won 78 home games in the last five seasons and like the Senators, are strong in the third period. They’ve scored 14 third period goals — tied with Ottawa — while scoring 11 in the other two period combined.
PLAYER TO WATCH: Entering his third season with the Rangers, forward Rick Nash is emerging as the goal scorer New York was hoping for. He is second in the NHL with nine goals in 10 games and has a team-high 11 points. The first overall pick of the Columbus Blue Jackets in 2002, Nash is quite familiar with the Wings having played 57 career games against them. The six-feet, four-inch forward has scored 25 goals and 48 points against the Wings in his 12-year career but hasn’t recorded a point against them since the 11-12 season.
FRIDAY vs. NEW JERSEY (6-3-2):
Center - NJD
Goals: 4 | Assists: 5 | Pts: 9
Shots: 23 | +/-: 4
The Devils are scheduled to play the Wings three times before the end of 2014, with the final meeting being a New Years Eve matchup. The Devils are 3-5-1 against the Wings since 2006, all three of their wins were by a one-goal margin. With the NHL’s second-ranked power play, the Devils have scored 20 goals on the man advantage. The penalty kill, however, is among the worst in the league with a 68.8 percent giving up 15 power-play goals—the most in the NHL. The Devils haven’t won at Joe Louis Arena since April 7, 2012 and have a 4-2-0 record on the road this season.
PLAYER TO WATCH: Center Adam Henrique leads the team with four goals and nine points this season and is coming off of career-highs in games played (77) and goals scored (25) last season. Henrique is a talented two-way center, having scored 12 career power-play goals and nine career shorthanded goals making him a versatile scorer. In 104 career road games, Henrique has scored 20 goals and 55 points including three goals against the Wings last season.
SUNDAY vs. TAMPA BAY (8-3-1):
Defense - TBL
Goals: 1 | Assists: 8 | Pts: 9
Shots: 18 | +/-: 13
Tied for first place in the Eastern Conference with 17 points, the Lightning will play the Wings for the first of four meetings this season. Last season, Tampa Bay went 4-1-0 in the series winning the first four games before the Wings won the finale 3-2 on March 30. Ranked second in the league in scoring with 3.50 goals per game, the Lightning put up goals in bunches while limiting the opponent’s opportunities. They surrender the fifth fewest shots per game at 27.3 and are seventh in penalty minutes at 9.6 per game, so this Lightning team is well-coached by third-year man John Cooper.
PLAYER TO WATCH: Defenseman Anton Stralman signed with Tampa Bay in the offseason after a trip to the Stanley Cup finals with the Rangers. He doesn’t show up on the stat sheet often with only 19 goals and 121 points in 406 career regular season games, but logs some big minutes for the Lightning with a team-high 22:36 per game. Under six-feet and 190 pounds, Stralman doesn’t play a physical game but has been efficient and a key component on the Lightning’s back end with an NHL-leading plus-13 rating. He could spend a lot of time defending against the Wings’ top line forwards.