NEWARK - The first quarter of the season is in the books for the Red Wings.
Through 20 games, the Wings are 9-10-1, sitting seventh in the Atlantic Division, just ahead of the Buffalo Sabres, whom the Wings beat in a 2-1 shootout Wednesday.
"Not where we want to be, for sure," Justin Abdelkader said. "We're on the wrong end of some close games where some leads that we've had we've given up. I think we're close. We just got to execute a little better, better especially toward the end of those games. I know goal scoring is an issue but I think we've just got to keep forcing the net and putting pucks there. I think the same thing with our power play and we'll start scoring some more."
No one is scoring like the New York Rangers are (82 goals in their first 21 games) but the Wings have 48 goals in the first 20 and would like to be closer to where the Pittsburgh Penguins are with 60 or the Toronto Maple Leafs with 62.
In the morning skate, Wings coach Jeff Blashill kept the lines of Thomas Vanek-Dylan Larkin-Gustav Nyquist and Tyler Bertuzzi-Riley Sheahan-Steve Ott intact.
"I thought Larks did a real good job of accountability of 200 feet," Blashill said. "I thought he was still able to use his speed and I think Nyquie and Vanek when they've played together have been excellent together, so it was a good combination for us."
Vanek and Nyquist teamed up for the Wings' only goal in regulation in Buffalo.
"He's obviously a real good player, really dangerous offensively, makes really smart plays," Nyquist said. "I think we kind of think the game offensively a little bit the same so it's been fun playing with him."
Blashill moved Abdelkader to a line with Frans Nielsen and Luke Glendening and placed Tomas Tatar with Henrik Zetterberg and Anthony Mantha.
"I haven't played a ton with him this year," Abdelkader said of Nielsen. "He's a player that likes to get going up ice, plays a north-south game, really responsible defensively. It's a little bit of different line combination. Glennie can provide a lot of skating and forecheck and hopefully I can do the same and we can be a hard line to play against."
It's been a challenge to find the right line combinations, especially with injuries to Vanek, Darren Helm and Andreas Athanasiou.
"We're slowly but surely hopefully getting to spots where we like our line combinations," Blashill said. "Obviously, with injuries they prevent you from having the stability you want in totality. With Abby, Nielsen and Glennie, that's three kind of straight-ahead players, putting Tats with Z and Mantha, at times they think the game a little bit different. We're just trying to get the right combinations."
HOWARD AGAIN: Blashill said Jimmy Howard would start against the New Jersey Devils, his eighth start in the last nine games.
"He's done a good job," Blashill said. "Going back to the summer, putting work in and making sure - the year didn't go the way he wanted it to last year, so he said I'm going to go to work, and he went to work. It's important for every athlete to continue to get better and continue to make sure their habits are great and he's done that. I think he put himself in position to be successful and now he goes out and has confidence that's been earned through the work he's put in."
Howard is 3-2-1 with a 2.55 goals-against average and .892 save percentage in seven career games against the Devils. Howard is seventh in the league in goals-against average at 1.76 and is sixth in save percentage at .943.
"Howie's been great," Danny DeKeyser said. "We've been pretty lucky here to have two really good goalies that at any time can play and are capable of stealing games. But we got to help him out for sure. He's done so much for us this year, we haven't supported him hardly at all. We got to get goals up on the board for him."
The Wings return home after the New Jersey game to take on Carey Price and the Canadiens at home Saturday in the second half of a back-to-back.
THE Q FACTOR: New Jersey defenseman Kyle Quincey was drafted by the Wings and spent the last five seasons with them.
But the Wings decided not to re-sign Quincey this past offseason and he landed in New Jersey.
"I was hoping to come back," Quincey said after Friday's morning skate. "They didn't have room for me, I guess. Got a chance for a new chapter here. It's exciting, great group of guys and I'm happy to be here."
Quincey, who has two goals and three assists in 19 games, said he's enjoying his new team.
"Great group of guys," Quincey said. "We're just having fun right now. Things are rolling. We had kind of a rough road trip but played some good teams. It's always fun to come back to this rink. We're doing well here."
Even though he's done it before, Quincey admitted it will be a little tough to play against his former team.
"It's different just because I've done it before and I've gone through the whole process a few times now," Quincey said. "It's always difficult to play against the guys you've been battling with for forever. But the other side of it, it's just good to see the guys again. I've missed these guys. I haven't seen them since Danny's wedding so it's been a while."
The Danny Quincey is referring to is DeKeyser.
"It'll be good to see him," DeKeyser said of his former defense partner. "It's not a big deal, you just go out there and play, no matter who it's against. Everybody's got to keep their job, so just got to do what you got to do to stay out there."
TOUGH AT HOME: The Devils are the only team in the league that has not lost a game at home in regulation.
They are 7-0-1 at the Prudential Center. "I don't know if we have a secret," Quincey said. "It's just the fans have been great, good atmosphere to play in. We definitely play a little bit better, I guess, at home. I'm not sure why."
The Devils will also get back forward Kyle Palmieri, who missed two games with upper-body soreness.
Palmieri has three goals and four assists in 17 games.