With two of the best offensive players in franchise history no longer on the team, the Detroit Red Wings’ defense has helped keep them near the top of the Central Division.
The Red Wings look for their sixth staight win when they meet the Columbus Blue Jackets at Joe Louis Arena on Saturday night.
The Red Wings are 23-4-1 with a tie in the all-time series against the Blue Jackets and have outscored them 102-61. They have also lost just three of 14 meetings in Detroit, while scoring at least four goals in 11 of those contests.
Detroit (8-4-1) has finished first or second in its division each season since 1991-92, but is now playing without longtime captain Steve Yzerman, who retired in July after a 22-year career with the team.
Brendan Shanahan, who scored 309 goals in nine seasons with Detroit, left a week after Yzerman retired to sign a one-year contract with the New York Rangers. Shanahan leads the league with 12 goals this season.
Though their offense has struggled—Robert Lang, Tomas Holmstrom and Mathieu Schneider are tied for the team lead with just four goals each—the Red Wings’ defense, led by six-time Vezina Trophy-winning goaltender Dominik Hasek, has allowed just nine goals during a five-game winning streak.
Hasek finished with 21 saves on Thursday, and Henrik Zetterberg scored and assisted on Lang’s game-winner early in the third period as Detroit beat Chicago 2-1.
Detroit and Nashville are tied for the Central Division lead.
Zetterberg, who set career highs with 39 goals and 46 assists last season, had just two goals and an assist in Detroit’s first 12 games of 2006-07.
“I would be lying if I said it doesn’t feel good to score again,” said Zetterberg, who had two goals and four assists in six games versus the Blue Jackets last season.
Lang faced Columbus eight times last season, finishing with two goals and eight assists.
The Blue Jackets (4-6-1) have been shut out twice and outscored 11-3 while losing three straight on the road. They enter this contest after a 5-4 shootout victory over Calgary at home on Friday.
Manny Malhotra scored in the 11th round of the shootout—the second-longest in the league this season—to move the Blue Jackets out of last place in the Central, one point ahead of Chicago.
“We’ve been disappointing the hometown fans a little bit of late,” Malhotra said of the Blue Jackets, who had lost three of their previous four home games. “We just wanted to give them something to cheer about.”
David Vyborny had two of Columbus’ four power-play goals, which tied a franchise record.
Meanwhile, Rick Nash, who led Columbus with 31 goals in only 54 games last season, continues to struggle.
Nash hasn’t scored in his last eight games, his longest drought since Jan. 29-Feb. 20, 2004, and has just three goals in 11 games overall.
Facing Detroit may help him get back on the scoresheet. The top overall pick by Columbus in the 2002 draft, Nash had six goals in six games versus Detroit last season, including his only career hat trick during a 6-5 shootout loss on April 7.