Red Wings-Thrashers Preview
The Detroit Red Wings continue to rack up points while taking over the top spot in the Western Conference. A more complete effort, however, would be a welcome development.
The Red Wings, 2-0-1 in their last three games despite having to rally each time, look to continue their outstanding start Wednesday night against the Atlanta Thrashers.
Detroit (13-3-2) got the tying goal from Henrik Zetterberg with 3.2 seconds remaining Sunday against Calgary, and Nicklas Lidstrom scored in overtime for a 5-4 victory. The Red Wings trailed 4-2 midway through the third period.
Zetterberg scored two goals and Pavel Datsyuk had a goal and two assists.
"We had lots of players that did some good things. We were fortunate," coach Mike Babcock said. "You can't play many nights like this and win."
The Red Wings trailed by two against Minnesota on Friday before losing 4-3 in overtime. They scored four third-period goals after being down one late in the second during a 7-3 victory over St. Louis last Wednesday.
"It felt good to come back. We've been behind a few games this year and found a way to turn it around," Zetterberg said after Sunday's win. "It's nice when it happens."
Jimmy Howard has been a big reason for Detroit's success, going 5-0-1 with a 2.63 goals-against average in his last six starts. However, he's struggled in two career starts against the Thrashers, creating the possibility that Chris Osgood could get the nod in net.
Osgood is 9-2-0 with a 2.92 GAA versus Atlanta, which is coming off its second straight victory after a 1-4-1 stretch.
The Thrashers (9-9-3) got an overtime goal from Dustin Byfuglien to beat the New York Islanders 2-1 on Sunday. Byfuglien is tied for the NHL lead with four game-winners and leads all defensemen with seven goals.
Byfuglien has never recorded more than 36 points in a season but has 19 in 2010-11.
"He wants to be a difference-maker all the time,'' coach Craig Ramsay said. "That's the biggest asset a hockey player can have ... is to want to be the difference-maker, to want to be the guy, to be the man. He puts his hand up."
Andrew Ladd, Byfuglien's teammate with the Chicago Blackhawks last season, assisted on both Thrashers goals. Ladd was named team captain Thursday and is on pace for a career season with seven goals and 14 assists.
Ondrej Pavelec is likely to be in net again after stopping 28 shots against New York, following up a 5-0 win over Washington on Friday.
"We had to win it for him," Byfuglien said of the victory over the Islanders. "He kept us in the game."
Pavelec won his only start against Detroit 2-0 on Nov. 25. The Thrashers have taken three of the last five meetings with the Red Wings.