Despite ending their three-game west coast swing with a 3-2 overtime loss to the Los Angeles Kings on Saturday night, the Detroit Red Wings had a successful trip as they picked up five of a possible six points.
The Red Wings beat the San Jose Sharks 4-2 on Wednesday and the Anaheim Ducks 4-0 on Friday. The win over Anaheim was behind a spectacular 41-save performance by goaltender Jimmy Howard,
Detroit returns to Joe Louis on Monday night for a rematch with San Jose in a nationally televised contest on Versus at 7:30 p.m.
It was Howard’s second shutout of the season – both against the Ducks – and fifth of his career.
That effort came in the 26-year-old’s 14th consecutive start and ran Howard’s record this season to 15-2-2. The 15 wins were second in the NHL to Montreal’s Carey Price after Saturday night’s action.
Howard allowed the Red Wings to win on Friday night despite the fact that they were outplayed. He also won those type of games last season while Detroit was ravaged by injuries.
The Red Wings haven’t had that kind of regular-season goaltending since the days of Dominik Hasek.
Johan Franzen and Valtteri Filppula each had a goal and an assist against Anaheim. Danny Cleary scored his team-leading 12th goal. Tomas Holmstrom scored a goal. And Henrik Zetterberg recorded his 500th career point with an assist.
Cleary has once again demonstrated his versatility recently. He has been moved up to the first line, with Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk, early and late in games and when the unit has been matched again a powerhouse opposition line. He replaces Tomas Holmstrom because Cleary is a better and faster skater, who can be the first man back defensively.
Holmstrom goes to the fourth line when Cleary joins Datsyuk and Zetterberg.
Cleary has also continued to play well in his usual third-line role with Justin Abdelkader and Jiri Hudler. Cleary carries the puck and is more of the focal point of the attack on that unit. With Datsyuk and Zetterberg, he gets loose pucks, gets it to one of them and goes to the net to create room for the pair..
Chris Osgood was in goal for the 3-2 overtime loss to Los Angeles on Saturday night. It was his first game back after being out five weeks with a groin injury. He made 25 saves and gave his team a chance to win a contest the Wings knew would be tough: The final game of the west coast trip after playing the night before.
Jonathan Ericsson and Todd Bertuzzi scored for Detroit before Anze Kopitar beat Osgood with the game winner 4:04 into overtime.
All three Red Wings’ defense pairings have been effective defensively and are moving the puck well.
The pairs all feature a skater/puck carrier/offensive type and a stay at home/physical or big-bodied player.
They are Nicklas Lidstrom-Brad Stuart, Brian Rafalski-Jonathan Ericsson and Niklas Kronwall-Ruslan Salei. For the most part, all three units can play against any line in the league. One of the exceptions is Anaheim’s dominant line of Ryan Getzlaf between Corey Perry and Bobby Ryan. Lidstrom and Stuart were matched against that line on Friday night. Also look for Lidstrom and Stuart to see most of the action against the Sharks’ Joe Thornton, Dany Heatley and Patrick Marleau on Monday night.
In addition, coach Mike Babcock says it is important that Lidstrom, 40, and the 37-year-old Rafalski are matched with someone with size. Stuart and Ericsson have most of the puck retrieval responsibilities in the defensive zone to save wear and tear on Lidstrom and Rafalski.
… Kris Draper made his season debut in the loss to the Kings. He underwent sports hernia surgery in October.