Blue Jackets-Red Wings Preview
By MATT BEARDMORE
Despite Saturday’s victory over the Columbus Blue Jackets, the injury-riddled Detroit Red Wings are still struggling to find the back of the net.
Returning to Columbus, where last month they scored their most goals in one game in three seasons, the Red Wings look to get their struggling offense back on track Monday night.
Coming off back-to-back 3-0 losses to Central Division-leading Chicago, Detroit (19-14-5) defeated the visiting Blue Jackets 2-1 on Saturday to snap a three-game slide and hand Columbus its franchise-worst ninth straight loss.
Todd Bertuzzi scored both Red Wings goals, including a power-play tally in the second that snapped Detroit’s scoreless streak at 167 minutes, 38 seconds. He’s scored eight of his 12 goals this season since Dec. 11.
The Red Wings, who have scored three or fewer goals in 12 straight games, are averaging 2.6 goals this season. They led the NHL with 3.5 per game in 2008-09.
In its only visit to Nationwide Arena this season, Detroit handed the Blue Jackets their worst-ever home loss with a 9-1 rout on Nov. 11. It was the Red Wings’ biggest offensive output since a 9-2 win over Phoenix on Oct. 11, 2006.
Justin Abdelkader and Niklas Kronwall each scored twice as reigning Calder Trophy winner Steve Mason surrendered a career-high eight goals.
Kronwall (knee), though, is one of several Red Wings regulars that are out, a list that includes Johan Franzen (knee), Danny Cleary (shoulder) and Jonathan Ericsson (knee).
“Everyone knows where we’re at and this team isn’t very familiar with the position we are in,” Bertuzzi said of Detroit, which is third in the Central after winning the division each of the last eight seasons. “There are only so many excuses. It’s up to us in here to get the job done and get on that playoff ladder and then wait for reinforcements to come.”
One of those key players is team scoring leader Henrik Zetterberg (shoulder), who’s missed the last four games but is expected to be sidelined for about another week. Center Valtteri Filppula returned Saturday after missing 26 games with a broken wrist and defenseman Brian Rafalski picked up an assist after missing Wednesday’s loss to the Blackhawks with the flu.
While Detroit looks for another big night in Columbus, the Blue Jackets (14-18-7) are trying to win their first game since a 3-0 victory over Florida on Dec. 9.
“Obviously, it’s a struggle for us right now,” Fredrik Modin said of Columbus’ 2-12-5 slide since Nov. 19. “We’re trying for anything positive to build on here.”
While the Blue Jackets have scored two or fewer goals in six straight games, they have allowed a Western Conference-high 136 goals.
Mathieu Garon, who made 25 saves Saturday, is 2-0-1 with a 1.54 GAA in three home starts this season. The Red Wings’ Jimmy Howard, meanwhile, is 2-0-0 with a 1.00 GAA against Columbus this season.
Including last season’s four-game sweep in the West quarterfinals, Detroit has won seven straight over Columbus since an 8-2 loss on March 7.
Both clubs will be heavily represented for Sweden at the upcoming Olympics after the roster was announced on Sunday.
Kronwall, Zetterberg and Red Wings teammates Tomas Holmstrom and Nicklas Lidstrom will join Modin and Blue Jackets center Samuel Pahlsson as Sweden tries to win back-to-back gold medals.