Detroit Red Wings: 6 Statement Games for the Red Wings This Season
Energy is always an important quality in sports.
You need good energy to start out a season and to finish one. Also, the energy needs to rise during the mental and physical grind of playoffs.
Case in point, some teams have come back from the NHL lockout with more jump and poise, while others have come out lethargic and out of sync.
After an embarrassing 6-0 defeat by the St. Louis Blues on opening night and losing 2-1 to the Dallas Stars in their first home game, questions are swirling and panic is starting to set in for the Detroit Red Wings.
Three games into the season, here are six statement games that will make or break Detroit's shaky start to the season.
January 25 vs. Minnesota
This will be the first time the Red Wings will see the Minnesota Wild with free-agent stars Zach Parise and Ryan Suter.
Parise and Suter were heavily pursued by Detroit to fill their needs. Yet, both wanted to play closer to home.
It will be interesting to see how the Red Wings will fare with the new-look Wild. While Parise and Suter are nice additions, the Wild's defense doesn't have many highly-touted players.
But their offense will be a true test for the Red Wings' banged-up defensive core. Rookie Mikael Granlund has fit in well with linemates Devin Setoguchi and Matt Cullen. Mikko Koivu is also a great complimentary piece to set up Parise.
Friday's game will show if the Red Wings can contend with a team they may potentially play in the postseason.
February 9 vs. Edmonton
Possessing the top draft pick for three years in a row has left the Oilers in a peculiar spot.
They passed on Ryan Murray in the NHL Draft and instead went with slick forward, Nail Yakupov, to bolster an already dangerous offense.
Red Wings fans will be able to get their first look at Yakupov and also rookie defenseman Justin Schultz, who was also rumored to sign with Detroit in the offseason.
This will also mark the first time that assistant coach Tom Renney will be facing his former team.
Leading the Oilers attack on offense is Jordan Eberle and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, while Ryan Whitney and Schultz anchor the defense.
Hopefully the Red Wings will be back at full strength for this game against an up-and-coming team.
February 10 vs. Los Angeles
Red Wings fans will be fortunate to see the defending Stanley Cup champion Los Angeles Kings twice this season.
The February 10th contest will be the first time that the Kings will come into Hockeytown.
Led by Captain Dustin Brown and Conn Smythe winner Jonathan Quick, the Kings retain many of the pieces from their championship roster.
However, Michigan native Matt Greene will miss the remainder of this season with a middle body injury (via the Kings' official website).
The Kings are hoping that they will have Anze Kopitar back after he sustained an injury over in Europe during the lockout.
Getting an early lead in this game will be the impetus for the Red Wings to win against a poised team vying to repeat as Stanley Cup Champs.
Road Trip to the West Coast: March 22-28
One of the disadvantages of having the Red Wings in the Western Conference is an annual trek to play the NHL teams along the West Coast.
This kind of trip usually drains a team when considering the time changes and several games over a 10-day or less period.
Being late in the season, these games will put the Wings' youth and energy in full force. They will be expected to carry much of the momentum through a stretch of opponents that the team can easily beat.
What happens between now and March remains to be seen.
April 12 @ Chicago
In a Central Division matchup, this final meeting between the two rival squads will likely have playoff implications.
Chicago still retains much of its core from the 2010 Stanley Cup championship squad. Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews is a dynamic duo that can carry the team at any point during a game, and the Blackhawks' defense is also among the best in the League with Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook.
One area of concern however, is the goaltending, with a rotating tandem in Corey Crawford and Ray Emery.
As Detroit will be inching closer towards their 22nd consecutive playoff appearance, this final game between an Original Six opponent could be a preview of a potential postseason series.
During this time, however, I wonder how many Detroit fans will be thinking hockey and not focusing on the new baseball season.
April 27 @ Dallas
Concluding this marathon NHL season will be a contest in Big D with the Dallas Stars.
The Stars spoiled the Red Wings' home opener on Tuesday and look to make a trip to the postseason under coach Glen Gulutzan.
Currently the Stars are missing All-Star forward Jamie Benn. When he returns to the lineup after he agrees to a new contract, the Stars will have the make-up of a a competitive playoff team.
Owner Tom Gaglardi was aggressive in the offseason and landed 40-year-old Jaromir Jagr on a one-year pact. In addition, the Stars were able to add Ray Whitney, another 40-year-old star, to a two-year deal (capgeek.com).
If Tuesday's game was an indication of how the Stars and Red Wings will play this season, fans can be awaiting some close hockey games with continuous action and spectacular goalie play.