Among the encouraging trends for the Detroit Red Wings as they approach the middle of February with April on their minds: their recent success on the road.
They play at the Minnesota Wild on Monday, come home, and then play at the New York Rangers Thursday. Both teams entered the week above the the playoff line, which is where the Wings (22-21-6) hope to be when the season ends in 33 games. They’re in position to challenge for a wild-card spot, buoyed by a two-game winning streak that has created a wave of confidence.
“I’d like to carry that over, which I think we will,” coach Jeff Blashill said Sunday. “Guys feel good about themselves — they have fun. The mindset is in a good spot.”
[ FANNING PLAYOFF HOPES: Detroit Red Wings thinking ‘April in the D’ and Moritz Seider is the difference ]
The Wings may have to make a lineup change, as Vladislav Namestnikov (undisclosed) is questionable for the Minnesota game. Joe Veleno skated in Namestnikov’s spot next to Michael Rasmussen and Adam Erne on Sunday, and Gemel Smith subbed into Veleno’s spot centering the fourth line, next to Givani Smith and Sam Gagner. If that stays intact, it would mark the first game with the Smith brothers in the same lineup at the NHL level.
[ FINDING CHEMISTRY: Red Wings finally appear to have four lines with identity ]
The Wings are coming off back-to-back wins against the Philadelphia Flyers and have banked points in five of their last six games on the road. They struggled to win away from Little Caesars Arena in the first half that, even with such success, they’re still only 7-12-3 on the road.
“It’s just coming out and playing the way we do at home, on the road,” Robby Fabbri said. “We’ve been a lot better lately on the road, and we have to make sure we’re ready to take it to them.”
As they prepare to take on the Wild (29-11-3), a team that averages 3.7 goals per game, the Wings only need look back to Jan. 28. That night in Pittsburgh, they held the Penguins, averaging just under 3.4 goals a game at the time, to two goals in a 3-2 overtime win.
[ SPIRIT OF ’72: 50 years ago Sunday, Mark Howe made Olympic hockey history ]
“The key to winning on the road, and winning in playoffs, is you don’t give up much,” Blashill said. “The good teams that find a way to have a success and be near the top of the standings always make sure they don’t give much up. It’s something we’re trying to grow at. We’ve got to keep growing at it if we want to go on the road and beat good teams like Minnesota.”
Contact Helene St. James at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @helenestjames. Read more on the Detroit Red Wings and sign up for our Red Wings newsletter. Her book, The Big 50: The Detroit Red Wings is available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Triumph Books. Personalized copies available via her e-mail.