Red Wings-Wild Preview
The signings of two high-profile free agents haven't led the Minnesota Wild to more consistent performances. The Detroit Red Wings, meanwhile, are also having trouble staying in a groove because of injuries, and perhaps the absence of a future Hall of Famer.
Both teams will seek to avoid a third straight loss when they meet Sunday night at the Xcel Energy Center.
The Wild (6-6-2) were hoping to end a franchise-worst four-season playoff drought and join the NHL's elite after inking forward Zach Parise and defenseman Ryan Suter to 13-year deals, both worth $98 million.
Minnesota, though, hasn't won more than two games in a row and is 2-4-1 this month. The Wild couldn't protect a one-goal lead in the third period Thursday against visiting Colorado, and ended up suffering a 4-3 shootout loss.
"It was there to be taken, if you do the things to take it. There was a lack of urgency, I would say, in a lot of areas," coach Mike Yeo said. "I don't think we were prepared to play the right way. ... We need more consistency. We need some people to really step up."
If there were any promising signs, it perhaps came from Minnesota's reunited top line of Parise, Mikko Koivu and Dany Heatley, which produced a pair of goals. The Wild hadn't scored more than two in any of their first six games this month and are near the bottom in the league on the season at 2.0 per game.
The Wild scored three times in Detroit on Jan. 25, including two goals from Parise, but couldn't keep the Red Wings out of the net in a 5-3 defeat.
Detroit is 8-1-2 in its last 11 games against Minnesota and has outscored the Wild 11-3 in back-to-back wins, but has experienced its own defensive struggles lately.
The Red Wings (7-5-2) have given up a combined nine goals in consecutive defeats after allowing four during a season-high three-game winning streak. They let Anaheim score twice early in the third period to break a tie score in Friday's 5-2 loss.
"We felt good going out for the third (period) but unfortunately those two quick ones kind of killed the game," captain Henrik Zetterberg said.
Former captain and star defenseman Nicklas Lidstrom was in attendance while visiting Detroit from his native Sweden. The Red Wings are probably wishing the seven-time Norris Trophy winner was playing a 21st season as they've surrendered at least four goals in five of 14 games (35.7 percent). They gave up four scores 24.4 percent of the time (20 of 82 games) in 2011-12.
Detroit has been outscored 41-37 in 2012-13 and a rash of injuries haven't helped. Pavel Datsyuk is day-to-day with a sore shoulder while Johan Franzen (hip) and Todd Bertuzzi (back) are among seven players on injured reserve.
"Whoever we've got, we're going to get them to play as hard as we possibly can," coach Mike Babcock said.
Bertuzzi scored his only two goals of the season against the Wild while Datsyuk and Valtteri Filppula had three points apiece in that victory.
While hoping to get Datsyuk back, Detroit will try to improve on an 11-3-1 record in its last 15 visits to Minnesota. The Red Wings, though, lost 1-0 in their most recent game there Oct. 29, 2011.
Detroit hasn't dropped three straight since an 0-4-2 skid March 10-21 while the Wild have already experienced a pair of three-game losing streaks.