Just as the Detroit Red Wings are finally beginning to gain some traction in the NHL season, the New Jersey Devils look to have lost their way.
These two teams currently headed in opposite directions will clash on the ice Thursday at Little Caesars Arena.
The Wings, 1-7-2 in their first 10 games, have won two straight. They beat the Dallas Stars 4-2 on Sunday at home and posted a 5-3 road triumph Tuesday over the Columbus Blue Jackets, rallying after frittering away a 3-0 third-period lead.
"I think against Dallas was probably our most complete game," Detroit goalie Jimmy Howard told Detroitredwings.com. "We got off to a great start in a building lately that hasn't been that friendly to us. But we've still got to figure out a way, when we're up 3-0, to not be letting teams creep back in."
The Devils arrive in Detroit for the second game of a seven-game road trip off a dreadful opening act. They squandered a 2-0 lead and were drubbed 8-3 by the Tampa Bay Lightning.
"We're not a team that can play 90 percent or 80 percent," Devils center Nico Hischier told NJ.com. "We have to be at our best to beat teams. Everyone in this room knows his role and has to play that way."
New Jersey is 1-3-1 in the last five games and has allowed 24 goals over that span. Cory Schneider spelled Keith Kincaid in goal during the third period, seeing his first game action since undergoing knee surgery in May.
"Hopefully again I can come in and play well and earn the right to play more and we can have two reliable options in net," Schneider said. "We have 15 games (in November), and December's pretty busy, so it only gets harder from here on out."
The Wings scored nine goals in their last two games after netting just 20 goals through their first 10 games. Much of the recent production has been provided by their younger players. Dylan Larkin scored twice in Tuesday's win, and Tyler Bertuzzi netted the game winner off a feed from rookie defenseman Dennis Cholowski.
Anthony Mantha, Detroit's goal-scoring leader last season with 24, has scored in consecutive games after netting one goal in the first 10 games. Rookie Michael Rasmussen scored his first NHL goal in Tuesday's win.
"It's great," Howard said. "We need the younger guys to drive the bus here for us and the last couple of games they've done that."
It wasn't all roses for Detroit. In the last two games, they've lost all three members of their second forward line to injury. Frans Nielsen and Andreas Athanasiou didn't play Tuesday, and Thomas Vanek was hurt early in the game.
"I would say Vani's out," Detroit coach Jeff Blashill said. "If I were to give an estimate, it would be 2-3 weeks. Is it longer or shorter? We'll find out when he gets examined."
Nielsen won't play Thursday, while Athanasiou is a game-time decision.
"I think we'll call two forwards up," Blashill said. "If AA (Athanasiou) can play, then we'll call one. We'll know more on AA tomorrow but I think there's a good chance we'll call two forwards up."