Red Wings come off the road to face Blue Jackets
DETROIT -- The road warriors of the NHL are finally coming home for a spell, and they recognize that if they don't brew up success from their home cooking, it will once again spell doom in terms of their playoff chances.
The Detroit Red Wings had played 12 of their first 17 games this season away from their new digs at Little Caesars Arena, joining the Pittsburgh Penguins for the current league high in road games. The Red Wings will launch a five-game homestand Saturday against the Columbus Blue Jackets and play 13 of their next 15 games on home ice.
The Wings (8-8-1) own a decent 6-6-0 slate on the road but are a middling 2-2-1 at home. They realize that won't cut it if a return to postseason play is to be in the cards.
"On the road if you go .500, you're doing pretty good," Detroit coach Jeff Blashill said. "You can't expect to go .750, so you've got to win more games at home, and we haven't been good enough at home in the last two years.
"It's a point of emphasis for us."
Last season, a 17-17-7 home record in their farewell season at Joe Louis Arena left the Red Wings 28th overall in the NHL in home wins and marked the fewest wins on home ice posted by Detroit since a 10-26-4 slate in 1985-86 during the most recent season in which the club finished in last place in the NHL.
Their poor performance of a year ago included a 2-10-2 slump at home from Nov. 15 to Dec. 15, a run of failure that greased the skids for Detroit's first absence from the Stanley Cup playoffs since the 1989-90 season.
After a 2-2 Canadian road trip that saw impressive performances in wins at Vancouver and Edmonton, the Red Wings believe they are on the right track to getting their team game to the place it must be in order to achieve long-term positive results.
"I think we're definitely finding more structure in our game," Detroit defenseman Niklas Kronwall said. "Everybody is playing more on the same page.
"There's still some areas that we can clean up, but overall I think we've taken some big steps forward in the right direction. We've just got to keep plugging away."
Getting their home slate straightened out against the Blue Jackets might prove a tall order for the Red Wings. They are 1-3-1 in their last five in Detroit against Columbus, including an 0-1-1 mark last season.
On the other hand, the Red Wings might be catching the Blue Jackets (9-7-1) at precisely the right time. After Friday's 3-1 loss to the Carolina Hurricanes, Columbus has dropped four in a row.
Nonetheless, Blue Jackets coach John Tortorella felt their recent struggles could prove invaluable as a learning tool for some of the club's younger players.
"You're better ready for the playoffs when you go through some of the bumps," Tortorella told The Columbus Dispatch. "So I don't mind this.
"You hate losing, but they're good teaching games, and it's a good situation for a young team (to see) how you handle yourselves."
Updated November 10, 2017