DETROIT – Mike Babcock takes ‘em as they come, but the players are very aware of what this month can do for the Red Wings’ success this season.
“It’s important to get our wins now while we can and have a good Christmas, because we know after Christmas we’re going to be putting the boots on and going to work,” defenseman Kyle Quincey said. “We’re going to go on the road for probably close to 30 days. We know to get these wins right now is so important.”
It’s imperative that the Red Wings take advantage of the December’s schedule, which is stacked in their favor with 10 of 14 games slated for Joe Louis Arena. Unfortunately, the schedule maker has the last laugh, as after Christmas the Red Wings will have just 19 home games remaining in the final 15 weeks of the regular season.
Detroit’s schedule in January and February is a treacherous minefield filled with 17 of 23 games on the road, including 16-combined days that make up two lengthy trips to Western Canada and California.
“We’re going to be packing the bags for January,” Quincey said.
So far, the Wings have taken care of business.
Since losing 4-1 at Toronto last month, they are on a 7-1-0 streak, which has included a new offensive pulse that has registered three or more goals in eight straight games. It’s the team’s second such scoring stretch since the 2010-11 season.
“We didn’t play good. It’s like anything, sometimes you don’t play good,” Babcock said. “What we tried to do is try to get better each and every day. We had a tough one against Florida here the other night. You try to let your ups be longer than your downs. It doesn’t matter what you do, sometimes you’re not as good as you want to be or are capable of being, so you try to refocus and get your group to play better., Obviously, the good teams play better most nights.”
Tonight, the Atlantic Division-leading Red Wings host the Maple Leafs, who trail Detroit by six points in the standings. It will be Wings’ fifth game this month and fourth at home, where they own an 11-3-2 record – the league’s best home mark this season.
“These are big, big games coming up here," Gustav Nyquist said. "Every game against a division opponent is big, especially a team like Toronto that is chasing us and looking to be in that playoff once it starts. Every game is important, especially against these division opponents. Hopefully we’ll be ready for tonight.”
With Sunday’s 3-1 win at Carolina, the Red Wings concluded a successful stretch of 13 games in 24 days with a 10-3-0 record. Things are going the Wings’ way and Babcock says the team needs to continue doing what they’ve done to this point.
“Let’s stay focused and do what you can,” Babcock said. “Confidence is a big thing. If you get to feeling good about yourself and get used to winning and expect to win that becomes the standard for you. That’s what we’re trying to do. That’s what good teams do is they expect to win. They prepare to win. They play hard enough to win and in the end they do win.”
Since losing to the Leafs on Nov. 22, the Red Wings have blitzed opponents with a 4.12 goals-per-game scoring average. In that span, 10 different players have registered at least five points each: Pavel Datsyuk (11 points), Stephen Weiss (10), Tomas Tatar (8), Darren Helm (8), Henrik Zetterberg (7), Riley Sheahan (6), and Quincey, Tomas Jurco, Niklas Kronwall and Johan Franzen with five points.
“We have a lot of guys in here who can score goals, but in my opinion, all our lines can produce offense for sure,” said Nyquist, who is sixth in team scoring with 12 goals and 16 points. “I don’t think it really matters who you put out there on any given night, every line has a chance to score goals. It’s great to see that we are scoring goals. It helps the team defense out a little bit though we want to sharpen that up a little bit. … If we can keep scoring the way we are and sharpen up the team defense a little bit we’ll be good.”