Season Series: The Red Wings won the first two meetings this season easily, opening the season with a 3-0 victory on Oct. 8 at Pepsi Center, then following it up a month later with a 5-2 victory at Joe Louis Arena - the second victory in what would become a NHL record 23-game home winning streak. The Avalanche, however, struck back on Dec. 4 in Denver with a 4-2 win in which Ryan O'Reilly scored a pair of goals. Johan Franzen has scored in all three games for five of his team-high 23 markers, including a hat trick in the first game in Detroit.
Big Story: The streak is over for the Red Wings, whose NHL-record 23-game home winning streak at Joe Louis Arena came to an end in a shootout on Thursday night against the Vancouver Canucks. Now the question shifts to the Red Wings' ability to get things righted after dropping two straight games overall and having coach Mike Babcock lament a poor "skating" performance in each one. Playing without star center Pavel Datsyuk for two to three weeks is going to test Detroit's depth - and just two games into it there are already concerns. Now comes a game against the Avalanche, who are built around a solid defense corps and a young, athletic, group of forwards. While the Wings are trying to maintain the top position in the Western Conference standings, the Avs are in a battle with a handful of other teams trying to secure a playoff spot.
Avalanche: You can't come in much higher than Colorado must feel after blasting the Columbus Blue Jackets 5-0 on Friday night at Nationwide Arena, a game in which David Jones scored a pair of goals and goalie Semyon Varlamov stopped all 28 shots he faced. The Avs have won two straight and three of their last four to move within two points of the last playoff spot in the ultra-competitive Western Conference. Newly acquired forward Steve Downie had a goal and an assist in his Colorado debut, while rookie Gabriel Landeskog also chipped in with a goal and a helper of his own. It's the first time the Avs have won two games in a row since New Year's Eve.
"It's a tough situation with four teams fighting for the last spots in the playoffs," said Varlamov, who earned his third shutout of the season. "Every game is huge for us. Every point is huge."
Red Wings: Detroit came within 15.4 seconds of making its amazing home victory streak 24 games and counting against the Canucks on Thursday night. Clinging to a 3-2 lead with time running out in regulation, the Wings allowed a goal by Daniel Sedin - his second of the game - to tie it up and send the contest to OT and then the shootout. Of late, Detroit is having trouble offensively. The Wings haven't scored more than three goals in five straight games and their usually-dominant puck-possession game is noticeably lagging.
"We've been able to win some games without maximum energy," Babcock said after Friday's practice. "That doesn't mean your guys don't work. What I'm saying is we don't seem to have the kind of energy or the emotion in us right now. Unfortunate when I was driving in this morning I saw no gas station where you could go in and there's a whole bunch of that energy and emotion pumping in the guys. So, we need to skate in practice and get ourselves going and get energized … so we can get back on another roll.''
Who's Hot: Detroit's Darren Helm has goals in two of the last three games and added a pair of assists for a three-point game against Vancouver, while Howard has stopped 67 of 72 shots in two starts since returning from a fractured index finger.
Injury Report:Ryan O'Byrne (knee) is out two to three weeks and Peter Mueller (torso) is day-to-day for Colorado. … Patrick Eaves (concussion) is out indefinitely and Datsyuk (knee surgery) is expected to miss two to three weeks for the Red Wings.
Stat Pack: Detroit went 0-for-5 on the power play in its last game and has just six goals in the last 40 times with the man advantage in its last 10 games.
Puck Drop: Howard couldn't look up at the scoreboard as the waning moments of regulation ticked away on Thursday night at Joe Louis Arena with his Red Wings clinging to the one-goal lead. He was too busy trying to keep the puck out of the net.
"I was just trying to hear the buzzer," Howard said on Friday. "I was hoping the thing was going to go off. Then all of a sudden you hear our [goal siren]. It's definitely unfortunate."