They were right, and weren't up for the challenge.
Allen York stopped 29 shots and earned his first NHL victory in an emergency start, and the Blue Jackets beat the Red Wings 4-2 on Wednesday night.
What a difference two days makes.
Columbus' top goalie Steve Mason was injured Wednesday morning when he was struck in the mask by a shot from teammate Colton Gillies. With Curtis Sanford already out with a leg injury, the Blue Jackets turned to York, who spent time this season in ECHL and American Hockey League. York made his eighth appearance and second start for the Blue Jackets.
''We weren't happy with our performance,'' Detroit captain Nicklas Lidstrom said. ''We knew they were going to be better. We as a team didn't respond well to that. We made some mistakes early and that they capitalized on and that gave them a lot of momentum.''
York shook off his nerves and came out on top, even if he was a bit tired.
''I couldn't nap today at all,'' he said. ''I tried to make it a normal game day but I was so excited I couldn't sleep. I probably woke up seven times.''
He was wide awake, especially in the third period when the Blue Jackets held a 4-1 lead and he was peppered by 18 shots. York allowed only Niklas Kronwall's power-play goal that made it 4-2 at 9:34 of the third.
''I thought we got exactly what we deserved,'' Blue Jackets interim coach Todd Richards said. ''We came out and played hard against a good team ... As bad a feeling as it was after Monday's game, it was a great way to respond.''
Vinny Prospal and Derek Dorsett scored in the first period, and Derick Brassard and R.J. Umberger added goals in the second. The Red Wings also got a first-period goal from Henrik Zetterberg.
The Red Wings had a two-game winning streak snapped and missed an opportunity to increase their fourth-place standing in the Western Conference.
Detroit has 97 points, Nashville is one point behind, and sixth-place Chicago trails by four points. All three teams have five games remaining.
York, a seventh-round pick by Columbus in the 2007 draft, has stopped 50 of 53 shots in his past three games for a .943 save percentage and a 1.62 goals-against average. He played three college seasons for RPI before signing with the Blue Jackets in 2010.
Red Wings coach Mike Babcock thought his team got what it deserved.
''That was a poor effort,'' he said. ''We weren't good throughout our lineup. Give (Columbus) credit. They were embarrassed in our building the other night and they came out as true professionals and played hard.''
Columbus, assured of the NHL's worst record, got off to a better start after the lopsided loss at Detroit in which the Blue Jackets trailed 4-0 in the first period.
Columbus took a 2-0 lead in the first period of the rematch before Zetterberg scored at 16:23 on the power play.
The Blue Jackets took a 1-0 lead at 6:26 when Prospal corralled his own rebound and fired a shot past former Columbus goalie Ty Conklin.
Dorsett padded the lead at 14:17. The forward, who leads the team with 210 penalty minutes, scored his 11th goal after Ryan Johansen stripped the puck from defenseman Brad Stuart in the neutral zone and sent Dorsett in alone.
''Tonight was another example where everybody counted us out, but we fought to the end,'' Umberger said. ''We got the kid (York) his first win. That was a lot of fun.''
Detroit responded after Todd Bertuzzi drew a hooking penalty against ex-Red Wings defenseman Brett Lebda. Detroit needed 18 seconds to take advantage as Zetterberg's shot from the left side of the crease caromed off the skate of Blue Jackets defenseman Jack Johnson and got past York.
The Red Wings managed only five shots in the first period, far too few against an inexperienced goalie.
''We didn't put any pressure on him,'' Babcock said. ''I was shocked. I was really shocked.''
NOTES: Johnson played a club record 32 minutes, 16 seconds, topping the 31:25 of ice time he logged Monday. ... Mason's injury prompted Columbus to sign 22-year-old goalie Shawn Hunwick, who just completed his senior season at Michigan,to an amateur tryout contract. ... The Blue Jackets also signed center Boone Jenner to an entry level contract. Jenner was selected by Columbus in the second round of last year's draft. ... Johan Franzen (back spasms) and defenseman Jonathan Ericsson (left wrist) returned to the Red Wings lineup. ... The Red Wings are 49-12-1-6 against the Blue Jackets, including 22-8-1-4 in Columbus. Detroit won the season series 4-2.