Red Wings brace for back-to-back games against Bruins’ juggernaut

Detroit News

Detroit — The NHL is the toughest hockey league in the world, with the best teams, and parity throughout the 32 teams.

Then, there’s what the Boston Bruins are doing this season.

The Red Wings face the Bruins for games Saturday (in Boston) and Sunday (at Little Caesars Arena) in what will be Detroit’s most difficult tests of the season.

And that’s no exaggeration.

The Bruins were going after victory No. 50 Thursday and are pace to break the single-season record of 62 set by the Red Wings (1995-96) and Tampa Bay (2018-19). The Bruins are on pace for 65 victories.

The Bruins have become the fastest team to reach 100 points, doing it in 61 games. The Bruins are on pace for 136 points, which would break the mark set by Montreal (132, through a 60-8-12 record) set in 1976-77. It took Montreal 62 games to reach 100 points that season.

“What they’re doing, it’s like Tampa a couple years ago when they were going for the record,” captain Dylan Larkin said. “All their big guys are playing real well. Their top players play two-way hockey and it bleeds through the whole lineup. They don’t really have any holes. With the additions they made, it’s even more of that.

“They’re gearing up for war and I really believe that. It’s pretty crazy what they’ve done, and how they’re playing, is no surprise.”

One of those additions, incidentally, if former Wings forward Tyler Bertuzzi, who was dealt to the Bruins last week at the trade deadline.

What did Bertuzzi tell Larkin it felt like playing for the Bruins?

“He said it’s cool playing on a good team,” Larkin said.

Coach Derek Lalonde was an assistant coach on the Tampa team that won 62 games — but got swept in the first round in four games by Columbus.

Lalonde has seen this type of consistent winning before, but he’s been impressed by how the Bruins are doing it.

“The parity in this league is unbelievable, and anyone can beat any other team, Team 32 can defeat Team 1 on any given night, especially in our sport,” Lalonde said. “But they’re pushing for some history. I experienced that in Tampa, where we had a chance for the Red Wings’ record, which we ended up tying. It was real, and the guys did not (scale back), and it might have hurt us, looking back, when we got swept by Columbus. We lost sight a little bit of the big goal, which was the playoffs.

“We’re not going to get a Boston Bruins night off. Sometimes you might catch an elite team sleeping. The way they’re pushing, you can see they’re playing for something every night and it’s real. We’ll get their best both nights.”

This Bruins team, Lalonde said, is better equipped to handle the pressures of setting records and having playoff success than Tampa was because of its experience.

“It’s an experienced, veteran group and that’s why they have very little letdown in their game,” Lalonde said. “When we played them early on (5-1 Boston win, Oct. 27), it was a good hockey game and we were right there. I knew they were a good team, and talking to my staff I told them this is the best team in the league. They are actually deeper than our Cup teams in Tampa, and that’s staying a mouthful.

“Did I see them doing this, especially in today’s parity and day and age? Absolutely not, and that’s a credit to their group and coaching staff. That’s a real good group that is primed to win, so it’ll be interesting to watch them down the stretch.”

Encouraging news

The Wings were encouraged Thursday regarding forward Robby Fabbri‘s injury.

Fabbri, who has had three ACL surgeries in his career, appeared to have suffered some sort of knee injury in the first period against Chicago, gingerly skating off the ice after a play along the boards.

Fabbri didn’t return to the game, and didn’t practice Thursday, but Lalonde was “encouraged” with the prognosis saying Fabbri’s availability is day-to-day.

“We’ll proceed cautiously,” Lalonde said. “With his past history the last couple of years, (but) there is some optimism on the injury. I don’t know if he’ll be available Saturday. We’ll get a better feel (Friday). That’ll dictate whether we call someone up (from Grand Rapids).

“Proceed cautiously, part of it seeing his reaction and his past history. (But) there is some optimism. It’s encouraging.”

Fabbri returned in January after missing the first half of the season rehabilitating from ACL surgery, after suffering the injury late last season.

“It really deflated the bench when that happened,” Larkin said of Fabbri getting hurt Thursday. “We’re hoping for good news. We got to see him before the second period, which was good. It made us all feel a lot better.”

Twitter: @tkulfan

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