Can traveling Red Wings avoid post-holiday blues?
Detroit – The NHL schedule maker didn't do the Red Wings any favors this winter.
When the Wings return to action Saturday night in Nashville, it will begin a stretch in which they play three games in four nights on the road. Overall, the Wings play nine of their next 10 on the road, including three of the final four games in the Pacific Time Zone.
The only game at Joe Louis Arena? The traditional New Year's Eve home game, this season against Pittsburgh.
With the standings as bunched as they are in the Atlantic Division – six teams within six points of each other – the Red Wings can't afford to fall behind.
"Every game in this league is a huge challenge," coach Jeff Blashill said. "If you're at home or on the road, it's a huge challenge. We have lots of confidence that we can go on the road and win.
"We've done it already this year."
The Red Wings are about to pay for a favorable early-season schedule. So far they've played 22 home games, with an 11-7-4 record, and just 12 on the road (6-3-3).
The road schedule is a small sample size compared to the home-heavy slate, but it's an indication they're able to earn points away from Joe Louis Arena.
"It comes down to playing good hockey," Blashill said. "Obviously there's some buildings that are tough and we're going to go into some buildings that are tough buildings.
"But it still comes down to who executes at a higher level. Lots of teams in the league have proven they can win on the road and we've proven it, but we better go prove it here in this next stretch."
The Red Wings so see some benefits from going on the road. Players often say being on the road, especially for extended periods, is an excellent way to bond, and winning on the road often takes a more disciplined approach that can strengthen a team.
The Red Wings are looking forward to this particular challenge.
"Sometimes the road can be a grind but at the same time, you get to spend time with the guys," forward Riley Sheahan said. "You get a lot of down time in the hotel and some time to rest. It'll be fun. We're looking forward to it."
Said captain Henrik Zetterberg: "We've been home a lot, so we're looking forward to spending some time together on the road."
The first game back, in Nashville, will be a true test. It'll be the first game after three days away from the rink, against a Predators team that's trying to hold on to the final playoff spot in the Western Conference.
The Red Wings defeated Nashville 5-4 in overtime Dec. 5, overcoming three power-play goals by Predators defenseman Shea Weber.
Blashill said he gained insight from former coach and player Adam Oates last weekend when Oates visited the Wings as a consultant.
"I didn't know him at all, we didn't come up through the same ranks," Blashill said. "Me and Mike (former coach Mike Babcock) think a lot alike. Oates is way different; he's an offensive mind. It was good to get those ideas."
Red Wings at Predators
Faceoff: 8 p.m. Saturday, Bridgestone Arena, Nashville
TV / radio: FSD+ / 97.1 FM, 1270 AM
Outlook: The Predators (17-11-6, 40 points) have won their last two games and have been dominant at home (11-4-3). ... D Roman Josi (nine goals, 26 points) is emerging as a star on a talented Nashville defense corps.
Next 10 games
Dec. 26: at Nashville, 8 p.m.
Dec. 28: at Minnesota, 8 p.m.
Dec. 29: at Winnipeg, 8 p.m.
Dec. 31: Pittsburgh, 6 p.m.
Jan. 2: at Buffalo, 1 p.m.
Jan. 4: at New Jersey, 7 p.m.
Jan. 7: at San Jose, 10:30 p.m.
Jan. 10: at Anaheim, 8 p.m.
Jan. 11: at Los Angeles, 10:30 p.m.
Jan. 14: at Arizona, 9 p.m.