|Danny Cleary and the Red Wings head into Calgary looking to take two very important points in the standings from the Flames Tuesday night. (Photo by Getty Images) |
– With the All-Star break in the rearview mirror, the league-leading Red Wings left Detroit Monday afternoon for a pivotal four-game business trip to western Canada and Arizona over the next eight days.
This trip is crucial, especially since the Wings haven’t fared all that well away from Joe Louis Arena, where they possess the league’s third-best home record (20-2-1) behind St. Louis (21-3-4) and Chicago (19-6-4).
However, the Wings have posted a 13-14-0 road mark, something they know must be rectified in the last two months of the regular-season if they are to hold off Central Division foes like the Blues, Blackhawks and Nashville Predators, who all begin the second half of the schedule just three-points behind Detroit.
“Obviously we’ve had at least two or three road games that have been very uncharacteristic of us. Obviously, Montreal was terrible,” forward Danny Cleary
said. “You know our record speaks for itself on the road; we haven’t been good enough. We’re one-game under and for us to stay at the top we definitely have to get a better road record and here’s a good chance – four games – against four teams that are battling too, so it will be good for us, but we certainly have to get going on the road.”
This week is filled with possible pitfalls for the Wings who are headed to Calgary, Vancouver, Edmonton and Phoenix. The Oilers seem to be the team in this group that has the longest odds to make the playoffs this spring, but even Edmonton can throw a monkey wrench into the Wings’ plans. Meanwhile, the other three teams are battling for berths, or as is the case with the Canucks, vying for the Presidents’ Trophy.
The trip can also be quite fruitful for the Wings should that wrangle 6-8 points out of these next four games.
“You want to get going and you want to get some energy,” coach Mike Babcock said. “Winning is contagious, as you’ve seen we had a pretty good run going in and then dropped the ball our last game. One good thing about losing before you go it (to the break) is that you have plenty of time to think about it.”
Unfortunately for Babcock, turning around the Wings’ fortunes on the road isn’t as simple as waving a magic wand.
“We have to be a far better hockey club on the road and we just can’t hide from that,” Babcock said. “We just have to be better in our commitment to the defensive details of the game and starting on time and playing with more physicality in the offensive zone.
“We have four games in eight days. Calgary has beaten us twice already this year and it’s an opportunity for us to go in and play better. To me that’s the focus.”
Still, while the media continues to ask why the big difference between their success at home – which includes a 17-game winning streak – and the drawbacks on the road, the contrasts also has the players searching for answers.
“It seems that we definitely play with a lot more urgency at home, we play more disciplined, we play faster, we just play a lot better at home,” Cleary said. “We’re a team that is capable of doing it on the road, we keep talking about it, we have an experienced team, we’ve got good matchups, so that’s not an issue. We’ve got a good goalie. We have to be committed to winning on the road and sometimes it’s a lot harder than at home.”
For the players, the five days of rest afford by the All-Star break was important both physically and mentally.
“It’ll be good to get started again,” defenseman Niklas Kronwall
said. “Everyone should be refreshed and ready to go.”Follow Bill Roose on Twitter | @RooseBill