April 26, 2013 at 2:19 pm

Gregg Krupa

Red Wings' will showing up just in time for final playoff push

Detroit — Something got ratcheted up here, about Monday.

The Red Wings confronted the challenge of winning four consecutive games for the first time all season, after mustering only a 1-2-3 record, to avoid falling out of the playoffs for the first time since before the elder Bush was halfway through his presidential term.

They were playing at about their worst, and they had to do their best.

They have, so far, beating the Coyotes, Kings and, on Thursday, the Predators, 5-2.

In the process, they control their fate. They're still one point ahead of the Blue Jackets heading into the final games for both teams Saturday.

The Red Wings are not yet in the playoffs. But they are playing with a competitive edge unmatched by them this season.

We are not quite certain what desire is. Philosophers can not even agree about whether it is good or bad, controllable or unrestrained.

Most folks seem to think it results from emotions. But psychologists say it comes from the body.

Freud had a field day with it. Advertisers abuse it. Authors of the classics gilded it.

Athletes channel it until it becomes the will to win, the warrior's mentality.

Desire to win

The Red Wings this week drew deeply from a reservoir of it, somewhere behind the winged-wheel they wear on their chests. To hear them talk, it seems desire, manufactured at will, is what got it all headed in the right direction exactly when the Red Wings most needed it.

"I think it's fun to be in big games because players get to tell you how hard they compete, how much drive-train they have," coach Mike Babcock said Monday. "And, to me, those things all come in front of skill this time of year."

But it is doubly good when the skill guys put the will to win on their sleeves and the hockey club on their backs, and Henrik Zetterberg, Pavel Datsyuk, Jimmy Howard and Johan Franzen did that.

Scoring and stopping goals defines the game, and the big four played large this week.

But when Datsyuk is second on the team in hits two games in row — as he was against the Coyotes and Kings — and when Franzen scores in all three games, and seven in the past seven, there is more going on.

"Important games, and we're playing with more desperation," Franzen said.

That the big man moves quicker and scores more when desire reigns is the worst-kept secret in town.

On Thursday, when Howard left one side of his net, discarded his stick, dived cross the entire crease and thwarted a sure goal by grabbing at the puck with his blocker hand, it was a lot about channeling desire — especially with the game in the balance and the Red Wings up by a goal.

Justin Abdelkader came out loaded for bear against the Coyotes, hit everything that moved, and topped off the three home victories with his 10th goal of the season against the Predators , to make it 5-2. It is Abdelkader's first 10-goal season, he leads the team in hits, and some citizens of Hockeytown pledged to run him out of town a month ago.

Jordin Tootoo scored the winner against the Kings and assisted on Patrick Eaves' winner against the Predators, while skating perhaps better than he has all year.

'It's do or die'

"This is playoff hockey for us," Tootoo said. "It's do or die."

Discarding all the injuries, retirements, inconsistencies of earlier in the schedule and the doom-and-gloomers on talk radio, they wanted to play for the Stanley Cup that it clicked.

Three dominant home victories, only the third time all year they won three consecutively.

And, now, they must marshal desire, again, Saturday in Dallas.

gkruppa@detroitnews.com

twitter.com/greggkrupa

Red Wings forward Johan Franzen tries to get the puck past Predators goalie Chris Mason in the second period Thursday in Detroit. / David Guralnick/Detroit News