There’s nothing better for bonding than winning, and the Detroit Red Wings return home with a chance to turn their closeness into a competitive statement.
They enter Thanksgiving week — U.S. Thanksgiving, as the Canadian version of the holiday falls in October — at 9-5-4, good for fourth place in the Atlantic Division and the first wild card spot. The Wings still seem a long shot to play past the end of the regular season — they don’t have the mature superstars of a contender — but they have a chance to show they’re going to stick around if they take advantage of a five-game homestand which begins Wednesday against the Nashville Predators. After that, the Wings host the Arizona Coyotes on Friday, followed by the Toronto Maple Leafs (Nov. 28), Buffalo Sabres (Nov. 30) and the Vegas Golden Knights (Dec. 3).
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The Wings are 5-2-2 at home, though their last game at Little Caesars Arena they were routed, 8-2, by the New York Rangers, part of a four-game losing streak that broke with road victories at San Jose and Columbus.
The Wings begin their homestand with as much confidence as they’ve had since starting the season with points in five straight games: The defense has been dynamic, providing six goals and four assists over the past two games. Filip Hronek has distanced himself from his subpar performance last season, looking more like the feisty and productive (14 points in 18 games) defenseman the Wings need him to be. Moritz Seider celebrated his 100th game with three assists to put him at nine points in 18 games. Those two are key parts of the rebuild, and the Wings need them to thrive.
Up front, Dominik Kubalik continues to prove general manager Steve Yzerman a genius for his signing after Kubalik was discarded by the Chicago Blackhawks; the 27-year-old leads the Wings with nine goals and is second with 21 points, one behind Dylan Larkin. Tyler Bertuzzi looks like he’s rounding into form after missing a month with a broken hand; his return was marred by his turnover in overtime Tuesday that led to a loss at Anaheim, but he was part of the scoring barrage Saturday against the Blue Jackets. Lucas Raymond had two points his first seven games; now he has six points his last six games. Andrew Copp, who has struggled to assert himself, may be on the upswing after his two-point outing in Columbus.
In goal, Ville Husso (2.55 goals-against average, .916 save percentage) has distanced himself from that Rangers loss, while Alex Nedeljkovic (4.33 goals-against average, .873 save percentage) will have a chance to work himself out of a slump at home.
This homestand offers a mix of teams below the Wings in the standings (Predators, Coyotes and Sabres) and above (Leafs, Golden Knights), not that there’s much separation right now — in the Eastern Conference, Nos. 3-11 are separated by five points. If the Wings want to keep being in the conversation for a playoff spot, they need to take advantage of being at home for two straight weeks.
Her latest book, “On the Clock: Behind the Scenes with the Detroit Red Wings at the NHL Draft,” is available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Triumph Books. Personalized copies available via her e-mail.