Oilers-Red Wings Preview
The Detroit Red Wings have broken out of a scoring slump with back-to-back huge efforts. Now they'll try to keep that going against the NHL's hottest goaltender.
Detroit (7-5-1) totaled six goals during a six-game slide Oct. 22-Nov. 3 before scoring five in consecutive victories. Johan Franzen was held without a point during that slide before amassing four goals and two assists the last two contests.
"He's a huge, gifted man," coach Mike Babcock said.
Franzen will look to beat Khabibulin, who will be back in goal after backup Devan Dubnyk made 22 saves in Thursday's 6-3 loss at Boston.
Coach Tom Renney indicated that he gave Dubnyk that start because it was not against a Western Conference team, with the plan to start Khabibulin on Friday and probably Sunday at Chicago.
"This is a part of the schedule that we looked in September and suggested to ourselves that we would make sure that we would have to split," Renney said. "But it also gives us a chance to come back with Khabi tomorrow night, and should we hope to, the same thing against Chicago."
Khabibulin is 7-0-2 with a league-best 0.98 goals-against average. He's won six straight starts for the first time since an eight-game run Feb. 23-March 6, 2004, with Tampa Bay.
That streak ended with a 1-1 tie at Joe Louis Arena, where Khabibulin is 8-17-0 with two ties in 27 career starts including seven in the postseason. He's lost five straight in Detroit with a 4.14 GAA.
The Oilers (9-4-2) fell to 2-2-0 on this six-game trip by conceding a season high in goals Thursday. Ryan Smyth was a lone bright spot with two goals, and he now has 11 points during a six-game run.
"There were times when we kind of got together and played the way we had been playing this whole season," left wing Taylor Hall said. "And then, a turnover here, an overskate of the puck there kind of turned it around for them."
Renney blamed a poor start in which his team was outshot 10-3 as well as his club's numerous turnovers.
"We didn't want to stay with it," Renney said. "That's an immature look, that's an immature team and it's not just that we got young players doing that. We have veteran players turning pucks over."
Franzen has recorded all of his eight goals and 13 points in Detroit's seven wins. He had a hat trick in Tuesday's 5-2 win over Colorado after assisting on the Red Wings' first two goals in last Saturday's 5-0 win over Anaheim.
"We've been more relaxed since scoring the first two goals against Anaheim," Franzen said. "It seemed like the whole team got a load off our shoulders and we started to play better. We have the skill, but we had a lack of confidence."
Red Wings top goaltender Jimmy Howard is not far behind Khabibulin with a 1.79 GAA. Howard has a 1.97 GAA in winning his last four starts against Edmonton.