Ales Hemsky (83) of the Edmonton Oilers exchanges words with Jakub Kindl (4) of the Detroit Red Wings Friday. (Andy Devlin/Getty Images)
Edmonton, Alberta — Mike Babcock said the Red Wings were going with the same defensive unit against the Oilers on Friday night as he used Wednesday against the Flames, but he would make game-time decisions on his forwards.
Meanwhile, Jimmy Howard was back in net about 36 hours after kicking a 24-hour bug.
Veteran defenseman Ian White remained out of the lineup as a healthy scratch, but Babcock said this is not so much about what White is doing as it is about the success this season of his young defensemen, including Brian Lashoff and Brendan Smith.
Asked about White's performance, Babcock said before the game, "Well, I don't think it's about that as much as the guys in front of him.
"We wanted Lash in because the Oilers have a good power play and Lash is a good penalty killer. We wanted Smith in because we think Smith is a competitive guy and really skates.
"So, I don't know if that's the question at all," he said, concerning White's performance.
"What we try to do each and every day as a coaching staff is we try to make the right decisions that give us the best chance to win — that's what we did."
White, a healthy scratch in seven out of the last eight, said he is disappointed with the situation, and that he has talked to Babcock twice about it.
"I'm not sure if I can do anything differently," White said.
"Some years you get more points, not necessarily because you play any different but you get the bounces. Obviously, I could contribute a little bit better offensively, but in terms of changing my style of play, I'm not sure exactly what I could do to do that.
"But, yeah. It's disappointing. It doesn't get any easier."
White said he is mindful the abbreviated season is a few games past the halfway point, and his opportunities to re-enter the lineup are fewer.
"You've just got to keep a positive head, and get back when you can. You don't want to have an injury or something like that to get back in the lineup. Hopefully when you play, you play well and your play speaks for itself and that keeps you in the lineup."
Acquired before last season and paired for most of the year with Nicklas Lidstrom, he was cast as a replacement for the offensive defenseman Brian Rafalski, who retired. But White's effectiveness declined when Lidstrom broke a bone in his foot.
An injury slowed his return this year, even though his right-hand shot is valued on the power play.
But Babcock has been impressed enough with the play of his three big, young defensemen, including Jakub Kindl, who has offensive skills.
Brawn not so necessary
The lack of a decision on the forward lines means Jordin Tootoo did not yet know if he was returning to the lineup, after being a healthy scratch for the first time with the Red Wings, against the Flames.
"Game-time decision," Tootoo said, smiling. "Talk to Coach."
It did seem the Flames attempted to take a few liberties with the Red Wings Wednesday, with Curtis Glencross , in particular, intent on running a couple of Wings and finishing checks up high on their bodies.
The Oilers tend to rely on speed and skill, far more than brawn.
Out to break skid
Losers of three in a row, including an overtime loss, the Red Wings made clear after the optional morning skate in Rexall Place that they needed to beat the young, speedy Oilers.
If participation in the optional skate was any guide, they were into it. A nearly full retinue of Wings skated, and it appeared that all of those who did not were busy under the stands, with strength and conditioning coach Peter Renzetti .
"It's really important," captain Henrik Zetterberg said of the need to end the losing streak, especially in a short season.
"We've been here before, this season, and we found a way to get out of it. You just got to do the same thing again, you know. You've got to get out and play a good game."
When a reporter asked about "a little bit of a losing streak," Babcock said, "Well, not a little bit. I would say, we've got to win.
"You know, I think the biggest challenge for us, just like any team in the league is that with the exception of two teams in the Western Conference, everybody seems to be up and down a little bit.
"We haven't been as good in our last three games. We actually didn't think we gave up much two games ago. Our last game, I thought we self-destructed. We had the puck a ton and found a way to turn it over enough to give them clear-cut chances.
"We're just a team like everybody else. We're trying to get better each and every day."