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Wings a game off last season's record pace

by Bill Roose / Detroit Red Wings
DETROIT – Despite a few roster changes from last season’s Stanley Cup championship team, the Red Wings have been on par in the victory category through this season’s halfway mark.

The Red Wings reached the midway point of the NHL season Saturday with a 3-1 win over the Buffalo Sabres at Joe Louis Arena.

Detroit now has 29 victories at the 41-game halfway point of the regular-season. Last season, the Red Wings’ 30-8-3 record set a new NHL mark for highest win total ever after 41 games.

The Wings’ league record was a short-lived one as they have been joined by the Boston Bruins (30-7-4) and San Jose Sharks (30-5-5), who equaled the 30-win plateau this season. The Sharks -- led by new head coach Todd McLellan, who spent the last three seasons with the Red WIngs as an assistant coach -- can leapfrog the Wings' record with a win Saturday night at Vancouver.

An obvious change for the Wings has been the way they have won this season. Last year, the Wings were the kings of blowout win, raking-up 22 wins at margins of three goals or more.

This year, the Wings’ noticeable winning trend has been of the one-goal variety. Detroit is 15-3-5 in one-goal games – that’s a .760 winning percentage, which is a far cry from how they fared in one-goal games last season (18-11-7).

The Wings’ special teams continue to lead the league. It’s been a staple of Mike Babcock’s philosophy since he arrived in Hockeytown 3 1/2 years ago. Through their 41-games, the Wings’ power play has scored 27.9 percent (48-of-175) of the time.

Individually, the Wings have several players among the league leaders in many statistical categories, Prior to Saturday's game, Pavel Datsyuk, who last week was selected to play in his third All-Star Game, tops the league in takeaways with 48, he ranks eighth in assists (29) and seventh in points (47). Forward Johan Franzen is fourth in game-winning goals (five) and back-up goalie Ty Conklin ranks fifth with four shutouts.

Wings newcomer Marian Hossa, who signed a one-year contract with the team in July, leads Detroit with 20 goals. Franzen and Datsyuk have 18 goals each, with Henrik Zetterberg and Jiri Hudler with 16 goals apiece.

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