DETROIT – Tonight will be the sixth time already this season a rested Red Wings squad will face a team that played the night before.
A four-goal first period paced Tampa Bay’s 7-4 victory at Columbus Saturday.
Detroit has certainly taken advantage of the extra rest against road-weary opponents. The Wings are 4-0-1 in those games with home wins over Boston (Oct. 9), Pittsburgh (Oct. 23), Los Angeles (Oct. 31) and New Jersey (Nov. 7).
The Wings know the importance of profiting from teams that have played the night before.
“Absolutely you have to,” defenseman Niklas Kronwall said. “We all know, we’ve all been there ourselves, it’s always tough to get the legs going in the beginning and we need to get better starts than we’ve had. If we can take care of that we’ll be just fine.”
The Wings have played only two sets of back-to-back games, but the first was the home and home against Toronto. The only time the Wings have played back to back against a rested team was Wednesday, in a 4-3 overtime loss to the New York Rangers.
For the second straight game the Wings will be without center Pavel Datsyuk, who has a sore groin. The good thing for the Wings is they have the next four days off after tonight’s game against the Lightning.
“We’re going to concentrate on getting fresh, for sure,” coach Mike Babcock said. “We’re going to practice tomorrow and then take Tuesday off, practice Wednesday, Thursday and get ready to go. We’ll spend a lot of time working on the contact part of the game. When you play every second day you don’t get to do as much box outs and D-zone coverage and the physical part of the game. We’ll do that both on Monday and Wednesday.”
First things first for the Red Wings as they host the red-hot Lightning, who are riding a five-game winning streak, outscoring opponents 27-15. Tampa Bay is playing the second half of a back to back for the fourth time. They are 1-2-0 in those scenarios this season.
“They have good skill in all their groups. They got good goaltending, (Ben) Bishop is one of the best puck-handlers in the league, so that helps them get the puck going as well,” Babcock said. “They play the game fast. Stammer (Steven Stamkos) is as good a player as there is in the league. They got good depth, good kids. It should be a lot of fun. They score like crazy. So let’s not race them to seven. Let’s play tight. That’s my tip for the day.”
The Red Wings get Kyle Quincey (ankle) back in the lineup. The veteran defenseman missed three games. Brian Lashoff, who filled in for Quincey, is a healthy scratch, along with forward Tomas Jurco, tonight.
“He’s a big body, he’s a good penalty killer, he’s a competitive guy,” Babcock said of Quincey. “When he’s playing real well he moves the puck good and he skates good. The biggest thing is when Q skates good the rest of the game looks after itself.”
Beginning next Friday – with the Chicago Blackhawks coming to Joe Louis Arena – the Red Wings will play every other night, a grueling stretch of 13 games in 24 days.
WINGS NOTES: On Friday, Jakub Kindl, Brendan Smith and Kronwall scored in Detroit’s 4-2 win against New Jersey, It was the first time three Wings defensemen scored in the same game since Nov. 12, 2011, when Kronwall, Brad Stuart and Ian White registered goals in a 5-2 win against Dallas.