A scoring slump in January had the Detroit Red Wings mired in their worst slide of the season. Three weeks into the new month, they’ve clearly regained their offensive touch.
The Red Wings seek their third straight victory Saturday night as they visit the Minnesota Wild, whose usually-reliable defense has faltered lately.
Detroit (39-12-8) sits one point behind San Jose for the top spot in the Western Conference and two behind East-leading Boston for the NHL’s best record. The Sharks and Bruins both play before the Red Wings on Saturday.
A league-high 226 goals scored—no other team has broken 200 yet—has helped vault the Red Wings among the NHL’s elite. They were limited to just 14 tallies during an 0-4-1 skid from Jan. 17-31, but have regrouped by scoring 46 en route to an 8-1-1 record in February.
Detroit improved to 15-1-2 when scoring at least five goals following a 5-2 triumph over visiting Anaheim on Friday. Henrik Zetterberg had a goal and two assists and Pavel Datsyuk added a goal and an assist.
“It seemed like the puck was bouncing our way,” said Zetterberg, who has six goals and nine assists in his last 13 games and is third on the team with 54 points. “We just have to enjoy this because we’ll have some nights when it doesn’t all go our way.”
That hasn’t been the case recently against the Wild (28-24-4).
Detroit has outscored Minnesota 42-23 while going 10-0-2 since Jan. 30, 2006. The Red Wings have won three straight overall, including both matchups this season, most recently 4-2 at home on Feb. 12.
Zetterberg has 11 goals and seven assists in 19 career games versus the Wild.
Datsyuk, the Red Wings’ leader with 74 points, has nine goals and 23 assists in his last 20 contests, but has been kept off the scoresheet in three straight against Minnesota.
The Wild are second in the league with 2.4 goals allowed, but has yielded 12 during a three-game slide. They’ve been particularly generous at Xcel Energy Center, conceding 77 goals compared to 54 on the road.
Jacques Lemaire’s team gave up at least three goals for the 24th time in Thursday’s 3-2 overtime loss to Calgary. Though it dropped them to 0-1-1 on their current three-game homestand, they still moved within two of eighth-place Edmonton in the West.
“You want two points every night and you can’t really lose games anymore,” goaltender Niklas Backstrom told the Wild’s official Web site.
Backstrom is 0-2-1 with a 4.00 goals-against average in four career games versus the Red Wings. Backup Josh Harding, though. has started both contests against them this season.
He matched up twice against Detroit’s Chris Osgood, who won’t dress Saturday as he’s been given time to try and improve his .879 save percentage—the worst among goalies who have played regularly.
Conklin stopped 24 shots against the Ducks, winning his fifth consecutive game overall and improving to 10-2-0 with a 1.98 GAA in his last 13. He’s 1-4-1 with a tie, a shutout and a 2.19 GAA in 10 career appearances against the Wild.
Minnesota left wing Andrew Brunette is listed as “possible” after suffering a lower-body injury Thursday. The 35-year-old winger played in 509 consecutive games - the longest active streak in the NHL.