DETROIT — The Winnipeg Jets are streaking upward. The Detroit Red Wings are sinking rapidly.
The Jets, who come to Little Caesars Arena on Tuesday to face the Red Wings, have won two straight and four of six. They lead the Western Conference with a 17-6-4 record. They’ve outscored their opponents 21-9 over the past four games.
“When one guy is feeling it, you can see it go through the locker room,” Jets goalie Connor Hellebuyck told CBC.ca. “That’s what we have in here now.”
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The Wings, on the other hand, are feeling mighty low. They are in the midst of a seven-game (0-4-3) losing streak and are threatening to skid right off the proverbial cliff. Detroit has lost its last three games by a combined margin of 20-5. In their most recent outing on Saturday, the Wings suffered their worst setback in nearly four years, a 10-1 drubbing handed them by the Montreal Canadiens.
“I would say maybe we deserved it,” Detroit left winger Tomas Tatar said. “We didn’t play good enough. We didn’t play structured, so that was just the result of the bad game.
“Once it’s going like that, it’s hard to stop. This organization deserves much better and we know what we did wrong.”
Finding things wrong with the Red Wings doesn’t take much effort. Captain Henrik Zetterberg has gone 20 games without a goal, a career-high drought. Defenseman Danny DeKeyser has been a minus player in all seven games of the losing streak. Defensemen Mike Green and Trevor Daley and right-winger Anthony Mantha were all minus-four in Saturday’s embarrassing loss at Montreal.
The Wings, who also endured an 0-5-1 skid from Oct. 16-26, look like a team on the brink of letting their season get away from them. They are playing tentatively, especially when they give up a goal.
“We’re stopping playing after they’ve scored a couple,” Detroit defenseman Jonathan Ericsson said. “We’ve got to be stronger mentally and not let it get to us when they get some goals on us.”
While the Wings stumble, the Jets are sky high. Forwards Blake Wheeler (35 points) and Mark Scheifele (34) rated 4-5 in NHL scoring entering play Monday, and Wheeler’s 28 assists led the league. Hellebuyck, who comes to Detroit off a 5-0 shutout of the Ottawa Senators, is 15-2-3.
“Maybe one of the most dominating performances I’ve been part of in this league, to be honest,” Jets forward Mathieu Perreault told CBC.ca. “From the first minute, we took over the game. We were in their end the whole game.”
The Wings recognize that if they don’t bring their best to the ice on Tuesday, it could be another long night for them.
“If we don’t come out ready to play, they’re a very dangerous hockey team down the lineup,” said Detroit goalie Jimmy Howard, who will get the start Tuesday. “They’ve got guys who can put the puck in the net.
“They have a lot of confidence it seems like coming in here.”
Tuesday launches a five-game homestand for the Wings, who are a disappointing 4-5-4 on home ice, and a three-game road trip for the Jets, who have lost two of their last three away games.