Red Wings-Senators Preview
The Detroit Red Wings nearly shut out the Ottawa Senators earlier this month during a fruitful homestand but have fallen well short of matching that performance in recent games.
The Red Wings' poor defensive efforts have pushed them to the verge of their longest road losing streak in four seasons, and they seek to avoid that by adding to their recent success in Ottawa on Saturday night.
With Petr Mrazek in net, Detroit (29-20-9) came within 2:25 of blanking the Senators in a 3-1 victory Feb. 10. The Red Wings outscored their opponents 19-9 in a 4-0-1 homestand but started to show cracks in their defense in a 6-5 win over Boston in Sunday's finale.
They've given up a combined 10 goals in back-to-back losses to start a four-game trip and have been outscored 19-8 in their four consecutive road defeats. Mrazek was pulled in the third period Thursday against Pittsburgh after giving up his fifth goal in a 6-3 defeat.
"I didn't think we were good enough defensively. I didn't think as a five-man unit we weren't even close," coach Jeff Blashill said. "We cannot play that way and have long-term success. I thought we were way too loose. We gave up way too many chances. ... I thought it was our weakest five-man unit defensively we've had in a while."
Detroit hasn't dropped five straight on the road since an 0-5-2 skid in March 2012, but is heading to a place where it has won three straight and seven of eight. The Red Wings have earned two victories in Ottawa this season but needed overtime for a 4-3 win in the latest trip Nov. 16.
They've taken three consecutive overall meetings but will face a team that's won four of five at home after a 4-2 victory over Carolina on Thursday. Cody Ceci scored the tiebreaking goal in the third period, and Craig Anderson made 30 saves in his fourth straight home win.
"Two (wins) in a row for us, it's big. We haven't been able to string many (wins) together here for the last little while," forward Zack Smith said. "They're two big wins, especially tonight. It was a nice character win, down to the end there with guys blocking shots and (Anderson) coming up big. It's a big confidence boost."
Anderson has a 1.23 goals-against average in his last four home starts but is 0-1-1 with a 4.45 GAA in his two against Detroit this season.
Ottawa (27-26-6) will try for a better defensive effort while seeking its first three-game win streak since taking a season-high four straight Nov. 19-25. Bobby Ryan will try to help by adding to his three goals against Detroit this season, his most versus any opponent, but he has one goal in his last six games.
Mrazek, who has allowed five goals in each of his last two starts, is 2-0-1 with a 1.62 GAA in three career starts against Ottawa.
Gustav Nyquist has five goals and four assists in a seven-game point streak versus the Senators. He has two goals and four assists in the four matchups this season.
Dylan Larkin, who has a team-high 19 goals, has found the net in each of his first two visits to Ottawa. He's trying to become the first Red Wings rookie to score 20 in a season since Henrik Zetterberg had 22 in 2002-03 and 15th in franchise history.