Detroit — It’s back on the road again for the Red Wings.
After finishing a season-long five-game homestand Saturday against Vegas, the Wings are back on the road beginning Sunday in Columbus.
And, as it seems is usually the case these days, it’s going to be another pivotal test for a Wings team that wants to remain deep in the playoff chase.
The Blue Jackets are struggling, decimated by injuries, and likely will be looking for revenge after the Wings defeated them, 6-1, in Columbus two weeks ago.
But games in Tampa, Florida and Dallas to round out the trip all will be stern tests for a Wings team that have challenging months of December and January, playing against many of the NHL’s best teams.
“We’re trying to grow as a team and it’s (about) playing these teams that are already there and established,” coach Derek Lalonde said.
Lalonde was concentrating, for the time being, on defeating Vegas and coming out on the positive side of this five-game homestand.
The Wings were 2-1-1 entering the Vegas game, with victories over Nashville and Arizona to begin the homestand followed by a loss to Toronto and overtime loss against Buffalo. The Wings remained in a playoff wild-card spot in a bunched-up Eastern Conference.
“Right now, we’re looking to win our homestand,” Lalonde said. “We’re 2-1-1. This could be a great homestand, this could be an OK homestand.”
The majority of these upcoming teams, while near the top the of the standings, also have deep forward lines. Those type of similar opponents have been match-up nightmares for the Wings, specifically on the road.
The Wings also found out Friday they’d be without forward Tyler Bertuzzi (upper-body) for six weeks after having surgery. Bertuzzi injured himself, it appeared, in the near his left hand after taking a shot off his hand in the third period of Wednesday’s loss to Buffalo.
“These teams that are three (lines) deep with skill have created some issues for us,” Lalonde said. “The three centers, it creates matchup issues.”
Playing against some of the NHL’s best also has exposed the Wings in where they stand in their development. Though the roster is improved and competitive, the Wings can’t afford to play sloppily or not at their best, in order to defeat the better teams.
“We’ve talked about margin of error, and everybody talking about where we are as a team,” Lalonde said. “This (a game such as Monday’s loss to Toronto) might pump the breaks and be realistic of where we’re at. We talked about being at our best to beat anyone in our league and how our margin is different than elite teams. Toronto is an elite team. It literally had two chances and both ended up in the back of the net (in the first period).”
Goaltender Magnus Hellberg, in his first start Friday for Grand Rapids after being sent on a conditioning stint, made 34 saves but Texas scored three third-period goals to defeat the Griffins, 4-1.
It was Hellberg’s first American League game since April 12, 2017, when Hellberg played for Hartford.
The Wings claimed Hellberg off waivers recently, adding to the organization’s goaltending depth.
… The Wings’ lines at Saturday’s morning skate were identical to what they showed during Friday’s practice, after calling up Austin Czarnik to replace Bertuzzi.
Dylan Larkin was between Dominik Kubalik and David Perron, Michael Rasmussen centered Pius Suter and Lucas Raymond, Adam Copp between Adam Erne and Oskar Sundqvist, and Joe Veleno anchored Jonatan Berggren and Czarnik.
Red Wings at Blue Jackets
▶ Faceoff: 6 p.m. Sunday, Nationwide Arena, Columbus.
▶ TV/radio: BSDextra/97.1 FM
▶ Outlook: Columbus (8-12-2) is coming off a 4-1 victory Friday in Winnipeg. … The Wings defeated Columbus, 6-1, earlier this season. … LW Johnny Gaudreau (eight goals, 17 assists) has been a productive free agent signing, while former U-M forward Kent Johnson (five goals, 12 points) has had a steady rookie season.