Red Wings-Flyers Preview
Detroit Red Wings coach Mike Babcock managed to find some positives despite a lackluster finish to his team's longest homestand of the season.
Philadelphia Flyers counterpart Craig Berube has likely had a little more trouble doing the same during his club's recent struggles.
With goaltender Jimmy Howard possibly returning, the Red Wings will seek to build on their successful homestand Tuesday night by ending a seven-game skid in Philadelphia and sending the Flyers to their longest losing streak in three seasons.
There are likely some who might forgive Babcock if his mood hasn't been the cheeriest during an injury-plagued and inconsistent season. Detroit (23-18-11) is fighting to keep its streak of 22 consecutive playoff appearances going.
The Red Wings aided their cause with a 3-1-1 homestand. That finish might have been even better if they didn't blow a two-goal lead in the final six minutes of regulation Sunday in a 5-4 shootout loss to Florida.
While he expressed his disappointment, Babcock also said that the strong performances of some of his inexperienced players could provide something to build on.
"The positive thing for us is we had young guys who were outstanding today. I thought we did a lot of good things," he said. "I think our group is making progress. I like what I see from our guys. I like our competition level and work ethic. Our execution could have been better, but that's part of being young."
The Red Wings might have another reason to feel optimistic with Howard reportedly set to return from an ailing left knee. The U.S. Olympian missed around three weeks in December because of a sprained ligament and had to sit out the last three games after fluid was drained from the knee.
Detroit has gotten back Daniel Alfredsson, Johan Franzen, Jonathan Ericsson and Darren Helm from injuries in the last four games. The Red Wings, however, had to scratch captain and leading scorer Henrik Zetterberg before Sunday's game after he re-aggravated a back injury.
Zetterberg, who missed 11 games with a herniated disc in December, and Pavel Datsyuk (lower body) are not expected to make the trip to Philadelphia. Joakim Andersson might return from a lower-body injury Tuesday.
The Flyers (25-22-6) don't have many injuries but might have some wounded pride after dropping their past four games and the last two by an 11-3 margin. They didn't score in a 6-1 drubbing to visiting Boston on Saturday until nearly midway through the third period.
Philadelphia will attempt to avoid its first five-game skid since March 31-April 8, 2011, and a season high-tying third consecutive home defeat.
"We need to be a consistent team and that's what we strive to be," Berube said. "If you want to be a good team, a playoff team, a team that does something in the playoffs, you have to be consistent. You lose a few games and you're fragile. That's what I see."
Philadelphia hasn't lost at home to Detroit since a 4-1 defeat Jan. 25, 1997. The Flyers are hosting the Red Wings for the first time since March 6, 2012, after splitting the first two meetings this season.
The Flyers went 3 for 3 on the power play in a 6-3 win Dec. 4. They're 3 for 10 with a man advantage during their last three losses but have allowed eight goals the last 28 times they've been short-handed.
Philadelphia has allowed 37 goals during a 2-5-2 stretch, and Steve Mason has been pulled twice in three appearances since signing a three-year contract extension Jan. 18.