February was a pretty good month for Mike Babcock, who won a gold medal as coach of the Canadian Olympic team and helped his Detroit Red Wings climb back into the Eastern Conference playoff race.
Babcock is hoping to carry those good fortunes into March, starting Tuesday night when the Red Wings travel to New Jersey to face the Devils.
The Red Wings (28-20-12) have won both games since returning from the Olympic break and finished February with a 4-1-1 record. Leading the way of late has been Johan Franzen, named the NHL's first star of the week after a two-assist game in a 2-1 win over Montreal on Wednesday and a hat trick in a 6-1 victory over Ottawa on Thursday.
Franzen has missed 27 games and the Olympics because of complications as a result of concussions.
"He's an important player for us," Babcock said. "He has the ability, he has the touch. Lots of guys play real hard and can't score. He can score."
Detroit may need his scoring touch against the Devils, one of the better defensive teams in the East with 153 goals allowed. The Red Wings' season-long battle with injuries has continued, as they're missing centers Pavel Datsyuk (knee) and Stephen Weiss (groin injury).
Detroit is holding down the second wild-card spot in the East, and both key players should be able to return soon. Detroit will need them with leading scorer Henrik Zetterberg expected to miss the remainder of the regular season due to a back injury suffered during the Olympics.
"We're looking for two points every night," defenseman Niklas Kronwall told the team's official website. "It doesn't always matter how you get them, it's a matter of getting the two points."
The Devils (26-23-13), three points behind Detroit, failed to win a third straight Sunday and fell 4-2 to San Jose. Adam Henrique and Patrik Elias had goals but the Sharks scored twice on four total shots in the third period.
"You have to have a short-term memory this time of year," coach Peter DeBoer said. "We gave ourselves a chance to win and we didn't.
"We have to regroup and be ready for (the Red Wings) because they're all big."
Henrique has four goals and two assists in the past three games while Elias has recorded two goals and four assists during that stretch.
Detroit and New Jersey are tied with Chicago for the league lead with eight shootout losses. The Devils have scored one goal on 25 attempts in the tiebreaker.
The Red Wings won the first meeting of the season with New Jersey 3-1 on Dec. 6. Detroit has taken seven of the last nine matchups.
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