VANCOUVER – The last time the Red Wings were at Rogers Arena, the Canucks set a franchise record when they scored six-seconds after the opening face-off.
“They will come out really fast from the start,” captain Henrik Zetterberg said. “You want to be ready for the first 10 minutes because they come out really fast here at home and will have the crowd behind them.”
Slow starts have plagued the Red Wings in stretches this season. For a team that is desperately trying to scratch and claw its way into a 22nd straight postseason, the Wings can least afford to give any ground in the standings. With five games remaining, fast starts will be critical for the Wings, who have gone five straight games without scoring a first-period goal.
“We have to play with more desperation than we have and put ourselves in a good spot here,” said defenseman Niklas Kronwall, following Friday’s practice as the Red Wings prepare to face the Canucks on Saturday night.
The Red Wings woke-up Friday as the No. 10 seed in the Western Conference standings, two-points behind Columbus, who currently hold the eighth and final playoff spot.
Following their 3-2 loss at Calgary on Wednesday, the urgency inside the Red Wings’ locker room is heightened to unprecedented levels, especially for a franchise that takes tremendous pride in being the only professional team in North America’s major sports leagues to reach the postseason for 21 consecutive seasons.
“If you’re Henrik Zetterberg and it’s your first year as the captain you don’t want it on your watch,” said coach Mike Babcock, of the possibility that the streaks ends. “If you’re Mike Babcock and you’re in your eighth year as coach, you don’t want it on your watch. If you’re one of these players who has a stake in the Red Wings, especially the ones who have put in a ton of time, they don’t want it on their watch either.”
Still, the Wings control their own playoff destiny. If they win out, including the season finale in Dallas next Saturday, they will extend their remarkable playoff streak. But if they stumble, then a team like the Dallas Stars – who currently hold the tiebreaker over the Wings – could slip into the No. 8 seed.
“If we win out-right we’ll be OK,” said Todd Bertuzzi, who has been sidelined with a bad back since early February. “The only thing that you can worry about is our individual play. We have a huge game tomorrow and we have to take care of that, then we have a homestand for a bit, and then one game in Dallas. It’s right there in front of us.”
The Wings seemingly have owned the Canucks this season, winning the two previous games by a plus-8 goal-differential. However, the Canucks are 14-1-4 when taking a lead into the first intermission. And while their one loss came after taking a 3-2 lead at Joe Louis Arena on Feb. 24, the Wings know the importance of building a lead Saturday night.
“It makes it a lot easier to not play catch-up hockey,” Zetterberg said. “We can talk about it as much as you want, you just got to go out and play well, play good from the start, hopefully get the lead and go from there.
“You're basically playing playoff hockey now. It's a good experience for some of the guys here to be a part of that and prepare for the postseason.”
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