Every team goes through slumps during an 82-game regular season. The Detroit Red Wings, though, have been immune to them more than most teams.
The Red Wings hope to avoid losing four straight games in regulation for the first time in nearly nine years when they face the Columbus Blue Jackets on Sunday night at Nationwide Arena.
As one of the league’s elite teams for more than a decade, the Red Wings (13-5-1) have mostly avoided long losing streaks, making their current three-game skid so surprising.
Detroit lost four straight late last season but two of those defeats came in a shootout. The Red Wings haven’t gone four consecutive games without a point since dropping five in a row from Dec. 18-26, 1998.
Chicago is one of the teams Detroit has dominated recently. That trend, however, has come to abrupt end this season with the improved Blackhawks winning the first four meetings, including a 5-3 victory Saturday at Joe Louis Arena.
The Red Wings set a dubious franchise record by allowing three short-handed goals, and six-time Vezina Trophy winner Dominik Hasek stopped only 12 of 16 shots.
“If you play like we did tonight, most every night it’s going to turn your way,” Red Wings coach Mike Babcock told the team’s official Web site. “A little adversity is not going to kill us, let’s fight through it. We’ve got a game tomorrow.”
Although Hasek remains the Red Wings’ No. 1 goaltender, he has been badly outplayed this season by backup Chris Osgood. While Hasek is 5-4-1 with a 2.89 goals-against average, Osgood is 8-1-0 with a 1.58 GAA.
“I don’t know what to say,” said Hasek, who’s allowed eight goals on the last 23 shots he’s faced. “Of course when you give up so many goals on so few shots, you can’t say you played well. I have to make more saves.”
Osgood, who likely will start Sunday, is 11-5-2 with a 2.21 GAA in 19 career games against Columbus.
After having his 17-game point streak snapped in Tuesday’s 4-3 loss to St. Louis, Zetterberg picked up his 14th goal and 15th assist Saturday. He has seven goals and nine assists in 10 road games this season.
Columbus (9-7-3) has cooled off since a 5-0-1 stretch from Oct. 23-Nov. 4, winning one of its last six games.
Failing to score on a two-man advantage for 1:36 midway through the third period was a key to the Blue Jackets’ 3-2 loss Friday at St. Louis.
“We have to do better, we have to score, that’s a must goal,” said the Blue Jackets’ Rick Nash. “It’s almost impossible not to get a goal, or even a better scoring chance.”
Curtis Glencross and Nash had goals for Columbus, which is 6-2-1 overall at home this season but 2-8-0 in its last 10 there against Detroit.
One of the keys during the Blue Jackets’ fast start was the stellar play of goaltender Pascal Leclaire, who earned shutouts in five of his first nine starts. Leclaire, though, is 0-3-0 with a 4.16 GAA in his last three games against the Red Wings.
Daniel Cleary scored twice in Detroit’s 4-1 home victory over Columbus on Nov. 9. The Red Wings have won three straight and five of the last seven meetings.