The Detroit Red Wings have been unable to build much momentum this season. A matchup with the punchless Columbus Blue Jackets gives them a golden opportunity to change that.
After cooling off one of the league's hottest teams, the Red Wings will try to beat one of the NHL's worst clubs Saturday night when they visit Columbus for the second time this season.
Since losing two of its first three games in regulation, Detroit (4-2-1) has been much sharper in its past four contests. The Red Wings posted consecutive wins for the first time with a 5-3 victory Friday over St. Louis, which had won four in a row.
Henrik Zetterberg notched his fifth career hat trick, and his second assist of the game set up Pavel Datsyuk's tiebreaking goal midway through the third period.
"Sometimes it's nice to have two days off, especially with a schedule like this," said Zetterberg, who missed practice Thursday because he wasn't feeling well. "I got a little extra rest, so I can't complain."
Zetterberg has five goals and seven assists during a six-game point streak. Detroit's new captain has at least one point in four straight contests versus Columbus (2-5-1), tallying two goals and six assists in that stretch.
Datsyuk has six points in his last three games against the Blue Jackets.
Jimmy Howard may make his eighth consecutive start despite games on back-to-back nights. He's 10-1-1 with a 1.78 goals-against average lifetime against Columbus, and coach Mike Babcock's other option is Tom McCollum, who has never started in the NHL.
The Red Wings' only win in three road games this season was a 4-3 shootout victory at Nationwide Arena on Jan. 21. Including playoffs, Detroit is 19-3-2 in the last 24 games in this series.
A slow start Thursday against the Blues doomed the Blue Jackets to a 4-1 loss in the opener of a six-game homestand. Columbus faced a 3-0 deficit less than 14 minutes into the game and never recovered.
The Blue Jackets have been outscored 10-2 in the first period this season.
"We didn't come out and play hard enough," Brandon Dubinsky said. "That's been a theme the whole year so far. We've got to come out with some fire, with some passion. And we didn't again tonight."
It didn't help that Sergei Bobrovsky had his worst game of the season, allowing three goals on 11 shots before he was replaced by Steve Mason.
"I'm disappointed. It was 3-0, but it wasn't necessarily just the score," coach Todd Richards said. "It was more how we were playing and how they were playing. Once they scored it seemed like we were right on our heels."
Since a season-opening shootout win at Nashville, Richards' team has lost six of seven and scored 11 goals during that span.
It comes as no surprise that the Blue Jackets have struggled offensively after the offseason trade of captain and perennial scoring leader Rick Nash to the New York Rangers. The forwards acquired in that deal - Artem Anisimov and Dubinsky - have combined for only two goals and six points. R.J. Umberger has no goals in eight games after he was second on the club last season with 20.
The Blue Jackets rank second-to-last in the league with 1.63 goals per game and have converted just 5 of 38 power-play opportunities.