In this 2013 season that has been condensed down to 48 games, each one has an added feeling of emphasis.
Out to a 1-2 start and already laden with injuries, the Detroit Red Wings should be feeling uneasy.
After falling to St. Louis on opening night by a whopping 6-0 margin, the Wings were able to regroup and beat Columbus 4-3 in shootout fashion.
Tonight, finally playing at Joe Louis Arena for the first time of the season, the Red Wings were topped by Dallas 2-1. It was Detroit’s first home-opening loss in four years.
There are several reasons for the slow start, but the injuries have already begun to play a factor for Detroit. An already shallow defensive unit has been further depleted by injuries to Jonathan Ericsson, Carlo Colaiacovo and Ian White.
While Ericsson and White are considered day-to-day and may play in the Wings’ next contest on Friday, Colaiacovo suffered a serious shoulder injury in Columbus and was wearing a sling tonight. He’s week-to-week at best.
Now, the same defense that lost Brad Stuart on top of Hall-of-Famer Nick Lidstrom in the offseason has to call on defensemen that are slightly less-known. Rookie Brian Lashoff and veteran Kent Huskins are the new faces on the Detroit backline, and both have filled in admirably.
Fresh off a flight from Charlotte (where he was playing for the Charlotte Checkers), Huskins played 15 minutes for the Wings against Dallas. Meanwhile, Lashoff put the Wings
New Captain Henrik Zetterberg has tried to spark the offense, but not much has clicked yet
on the board in Columbus with his first NHL goal.
Lashoff and Huskins have been valuable for Detroit, but the fact remains that this team misses Lidstrom dearly. The defensive lapses have led to easy goals, including three breakaway scores in the opener. With lots of new faces and even more shuffling of the defensive pairs, the Red Wings are fighting an uphill battle that the shortened season gives them little time to fight. The defense needs to be shored up quickly or Detroit will be in a world of trouble.
The defense has been porous, but goaltender Jimmy Howard has been anything but. Howard looks to be in midseason form already, especially in tonight’s game. Howard saved 30 Stars shots, including several beauties and a diving glove save on Reilly Smith, Brendan’s younger brother.
In addition to the poor defense, the power play has looked dismal, going 0-for-15 thus far. It seems the power play unit is missing #96 wreaking havoc in front.
There is simply no time for the Red Wings to wait around to get healthy. The shortened season won’t allow it. The Central Division won’t allow it. With the Blackhawks, Blues and Predators all vying for playoff spots, the Central is by far the best division in the West. And don’t sleep on Columbus; they looked the part of a hungry team against Detroit on Monday.
Luckily, the Wings shouldn’t have to wait much longer to get at least a little healthier. Along with Ericsson and White, winger Todd Bertuzzi and center Darren Helm have a shot at returning to the ice on Friday against Minnesota.
Once Detroit gets a bit healthier and Head Coach Mike Babcock finds the right line combinations, things will start to look up.
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Friday vs. Minnesota: 7:30pm, NHLN, FSD+
Sunday @ Chicago: 7:00pm, FSD
Tuesday vs. Dallas: 7:30pm, FSD+