SAN JOSE, Calif. – The Red Wings are riding a high as they enter the California leg of their season-long, six-game road trip.
Detroit will go for a third straight road win when they face-off against the San Jose Sharks at SAP Center on Thursday night. A win would also tie the Wings’ longest road winning streak of the season. Detroit won consecutively at Vancouver (Oct. 24), Ottawa (Oct. 31) and Toronto (Nov. 6).
The Wings felt good about the direction that their structure and process has taken in recent one-goal wins at Buffalo and New Jersey. Coach Jeff Blashill said that confidence will only grow with continued success over the next eight days at San Jose, Anaheim, Los Angeles and Arizona.
“As you win and you play the right way and play good hockey, that grows your confidence and when you lose, it deteriorates your confidence,” Blashill said. “You're kind of going through the season and you see it, like Florida right now, they're 10 (wins) in a row. Their confidence I'm sure is just growing, growing, growing. Montreal at the beginning of the year, that's how it was and all of a sudden, when you start losing, it deteriorates so you got to do everything you can to nip any kind of losing in the bud as fast as possible and you want to get on stretches where you're winning lots of games. Can we build off those two wins? Yes. Does it guarantee us success? No chance."
A month ago, the Wings went on a hot streak of their own, earning at least one point in 13 consecutive games, which catapulted them near the top of the Atlantic Division standings. Since then, Detroit is 4-5-1 and now heads into Thursday’s game in third place with 47 points – two behind Montreal and five behind division front-runner Florida.
“We have to play good if we want to go in and get points on the West Coast,” captain Henrik Zetterberg said. “It’s going to be tough games. For us as a team, it’s good timing to go on the road. I think it’s good for us to get some time together and play some road hockey.”
The Wings leadership group – led by Zetterberg and Nicklas Lidstrom before him – have always believe that these lengthy road trips help build camaraderie among teammates. The hope is that the player bonding will pay dividends late in the season and into the Stanley Cup playoffs.
“We have a pretty good feeling in our group,” Zetterberg said, “but it’s nice to go on the road a little bit, especially when we get a couple of days here and there and we can spend some time together off the ice.”
The Wings and Sharks will meet for a second and final time this season. The Wings suffered a 3-2 loss to San Jose at Joe Louis Arena on Nov. 13.
But so far this season, the Sharks have struggled at SAP Center with a league-worst 5-11-0 home record and a 29th ranked penalty kill (72.7 percent).
Blashill isn’t as concerned with the Sharks’ deficiencies as he is with his team’s execution.
“First and foremost, it's again us doing what we do well,” he said. “So one, we've got to continue to manage the puck well, and two, we got to make sure our competitiveness level is at a real high spot. San Jose, I think they're very well-coached. If they get a lead on you, it's hard to create lots on them. We saw that in our building, although I thought we played a pretty good game. Once they had the lead, it got locked down pretty good. So we got to make sure we're ready from the drop of the puck. You can't guarantee yourself that you're going to score first but we got to be ready from the drop of the puck, be ready to go for 60 minutes."